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K. Marx_Contribution_to_the_Critique_of_Political_Economy

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aPpeared as the direct forerunners of the famous Report ot the Bullion
Committee of 1810, which adopted Ricardo's ideas. [10] The odd fact that Ricardo and his supporters,
who maintained that money was merely a token of value, were called bullionists was due not only to the
name of the Committee but also to the content of Ricardo's theory. Ricardo restated and further
elaborated the same ideas in his work on political economy, but he has nowhere examined money as such
in the way in which he has analysed exchange-value, profit, rent, etc.
To begin with, Ricardo determines the value of gold and silver, like the value of all other commodities,
by the quantity of labour-time materialised in them. [11] The value of other commodities is measured in
terms of the precious metals, which are commodities of a determinate value. The quantity of means of
circulation employed in a country is thus determined by the value of the standard of money on the one
hand, and by the aggregate of the exchange-values of commodities on the other. This quantity is
modified by the economy with which payments are effected. [12] Since, therefore, the quantity in which
money of a given value can be circulated is determined, and within the framework of circulation its value
manifests itself only in its quantity, money within the sphere of circulation can be replaced by simple
value-tokens, provided that these are issued in the amount determined by the value of money. Moreover
"a currency is in its most perfect state when it consists wholly of paper money, but of paper money of an
equal value with the gold which it professes to represent." [13]
So far, therefore, Ricardo has assumed that the value of money is given, and has determined the amount
of means of circulation by the prices of commodities: for him money as a token of value is a token which
stands for a determinate quantity of gold and is not a valueless symbol representing commodities, as it
was for Hume.
When Ricardo suddenly interrupts the smooth progress of his exposition and adopts the opposite view, he
does so in order to deal with the international movement of precious metals and thus complicates the
problem by introducing extraneous aspects. Following his own train of thought, let us first of all leave
aside all artificial and incidental aspects and accordingly locate the gold and silver mines within the
countries in which the precious metals circulate as money. The only proposition which follows from
Ricardo's analysis up to now is that if the value of gold is given, the amount of money in circulation is
determined by the prices of commodities. The volume of gold circulating in a country therefore is simply
determined by the exchange-value of the commodities in circulation at the given time. Now supposing
that the aggregate amount of these exchange-values decreases, because either a smaller amount of
commodities is produced at the old exchange-values, or the same amount of commodities is produced but
the commodities represent less exchange-value as a result of an increase in the productivity of labour. Or
let us assume by contrast that the aggregate exchange-value has increased, because a larger volume of
commodities has been produced while production costs's remain constant, or because either the same or a
smaller volume of commodities has a larger value as a result of a decline in the productivity of labour.
What happens to the existing quantity of metal in circulation in these two cases? If gold is money only
Theories of the Medium of Circulation and of Money 
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because it circulates as a medium of circulation, if it is forced to stay in the sphere of circulation, like
paper money with forced currency issued by the State (and Ricardo implies this), then the quantity of
money in circulation will, in the first case, be excessive in relation to the exchange-value of the metal,
and it will stand below its normal level in the second case. Although endowed with a specific value, gold
thus becomes a token which, in the first case, represents a metal with a lower exchange-value than its
own, and in the second case represents a metal which has a higher value. Gold as a token of value will
fall below its real value in the first case, and rise above it in the second case (once more a deduction
made from paper money with forced currency). The effect would be the same as if, in the first case, all
commodities were evaluated in metal of lower value than gold, and in the second case as if they were
evaluated in metal of a higher value. Commodity-prices would therefore rise in the first case, and fall in
the second. The movement of commodity-prices, their rise or fall, in either case would be due to the
relative expansion or contraction in the amount of gold in circulation occasioning a rise above or a fall
below the level corresponding to its own value, i.e., the normal quantity determined by the relation
between its own value and the value of the commodities which are to be circulated.
The same process would take place if the aggregate price of the commodities in circulation remained
constant, but the amount of gold in circulation either fell below or rose above the proper level; the former
might occur if gold coin worn out in circulation were not replaced by sufficient new output from the
mines, the latter if the new supply from the mines surpassed the requirements of circulation. In both
cases it is assumed that the production cost of gold, or its value, remains unchanged.
To recapitulate: if the exchange-values of the commodities are given, the money in circulation is at its
proper level when its quantity is determined by its own metallic value. It exceeds this level, gold falls
below its own metallic value and the prices of commodities rise, whenever the aggregate exchange-value
of commodities decreases or the supply of gold from the mines increases. The quantity of money sinks
below its appropriate level, gold rises above its own metallic value and commodity-prices fall, whenever
the aggregate exchange-value of commodities increases or the supply of gold from the mines is
insufficient to replace worn-out gold. In these two cases the gold in circulation is a token of value
representing either a larger or a smaller value than it actually possesses. It can become an appreciated or
depreciated token of itself. When commodities are generally evaluated in conformity with the new value
of money, and commodity-prices in general have risen or fallen accordingly, the amount of gold in
circulation will once more be commensurate with the needs of circulation (a result which Ricardo
emphasises with special satisfaction), but it will be at variance with the production costs of precious
metals, and hence with the relations of precious metals as commodities to other commodities. According
to Ricardo's general theory of exchange-value, the rise of gold above its exchange-value, in other words
above the value which is determined by the labour-time it contains, would lead to an enlarged output of
gold until the increased supply reduced it again to its proper value. Conversely, a fall of gold below its
value would lead to a decline in the output of gold until its value rose again to its proper level. These
opposite movements would resolve the contradiction between the metallic value of gold and its value as a
medium of circulation; the amount of gold in circulation would reach its proper level and
commodity-prices would once more be in accordance with the standard of value. These fluctuations in
the value of gold would in equal measure affect gold bullion, since according to the assumption all gold
that is not used as luxury articles is in circulation. Seeing that even gold in the form of coin or bullion can
become a value-token representing a larger or smaller value than its own, it is obvious that any
convertible bank-notes that are in circulation must share the same fate. Although