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|Principles of Economics; Marshall, Alfred|
240 paragraphs found.
Again, though there is a sharp line of division between man himself and the appliances which he uses; and though the supply of, and the demand for, human efforts and sacrifices have peculiarities of their own, which do not attach to the supply of, and the demand for, material goods; yet, after all, these material goods are themselves generally the result of human efforts and sacrifices. The theories of the values of labour, and of the things made by it, cannot be separated: they are parts of one great whole; and what differences there are between them even in matters of detail, turn out on inquiry to be, for the most part, differences of degree rather than of kind. As, in spite of the great differences in form between birds and quadrupeds, there is one Fundamental Idea running through all their frames, so the general theory of the equilibrium of demand and supply is a Fundamental Idea running through the frames of all the various parts of the central problem of Distribution and Exchange
The forces to be dealt with are however so numerous, that it is best to take a few at a time; and to work out a number of partial solutions as auxiliaries to our main study. Thus we begin by isolating the primary relations of supply, demand and price in regard to a particular commodity. We reduce to inaction all other forces by the phrase "other things being equal": we do not suppose that they are inert, but for the time we ignore their activity. This scientific device is a great deal older than science: it is the method by which, consciously or unconsciously, sensible men have dealt from time immemorial with every difficult problem of ordinary life.
In the second stage more forces are released from the hypothetical slumber that had been imposed on them: changes in the conditions of demand for and supply of particular groups of commodities come into play; and their complex mutual interactions begin to be observed. Gradually the area of the dynamical problem becomes larger; the area covered by provisional statical assumptions becomes smaller; and at last is reached the great central problem of the Distribution of the National Dividend among a vast number of different agents of production. Meanwhile the dynamical principle of "Substitution" is seen ever at work, causing the demand for, and the supply of, any one set of agents of production to be influenced through indirect channels by the movements of demand and supply in relation to other agents, even though situated in far remote fields of industry.
Economics of Industry published by my wife and myself in 1879 an endeavour was made to show the nature of this fundamental unity. A short provisional account of the relations of demand and supply was given before the theory of Distribution; and then this one scheme of general reasoning was applied in succession to the earnings of labour, the interest on capital and the Earnings of Management. But the drift of this arrangement was not made sufficiently clear; and on Professor Nicholson's suggestion, more prominence has been given to it in the present volume.
It is then not the want of will but the want of power, that prevents economists from reckoning in the action of motives such as these; and they welcome the fact that some kinds of philanthropic action can be described in statistical returns, and can to a certain extent be reduced to law, if sufficiently broad averages are taken. For indeed there is scarcely any motive so fitful and irregular, but that some law with regard to it can be detected by the aid of wide and patient observation. It would perhaps be possible even now to predict with tolerable closeness the subscriptions that a population of a hundred thousand Englishmen of average wealth will give to support hospitals and chapels and missions; and, in so far as this can be done, there is a basis for an economic discussion of supply and demand with reference to the services of hospital nurses, missionaries and other religious ministers. It will however probably be always true that the greater part of those actions, which are due to a feeling of duty and love of one's neighbour, cannot be classed, reduced to law and measured; and it is for this reason, and not because they are not based on self-interest, that the machinery of economics cannot be brought to bear on them.
§ 8. In purely abstract, and especially in mathematical, reasoning the terms Capital and Wealth are used as synonymous almost perforce, except that "land" proper may for some purposes be omitted from Capital. But there is a clear tradition that we should speak of Capital when considering things as agents of production; and that we should speak of Wealth when considering them as results of production, as subjects of consumption and as yielding pleasures of possession. Thus the chief
demand for capital arises from its productiveness, from the services which it renders, for instance, in enabling wool to be spun and woven more easily than by the unaided hand, or in causing water to flow freely wherever it is wanted instead of being carried laboriously in pails; (though there are other uses of capital, as for instance when it is lent to a spendthrift, which cannot easily be brought under this head). On the other hand the
supply of capital is controlled by the fact that, in order to accumulate it, men must act prospectively: they must "wait" and "save," they must sacrifice the present to the future.
§ 1. The older definitions of economics described it as the science which is concerned with the production, the distribution, the exchange, and the consumption of wealth. Later experience has shown that the problems of distribution and exchange are so closely connected, that it is doubtful whether anything is to be gained by the attempt to keep them separate. There is however a good deal of general reasoning with regard to the relation of demand and supply which is required as a basis for the practical problems of value, and which acts as an underlying backbone, giving unity and consistency to the main body of economic reasoning. Its very breadth and generality mark it off from the more concrete problems of distribution and exchange to which it is subservient; and therefore it is put together in Book V. on "The General Theory of Demand and Supply" which prepares the way for "Distribution and Exchange, or Value."
But first comes the present Book III., a study of Wants and their satisfaction,
i.e. of demand and consumption: and then Book IV., a study of the agents of production, that is, the agents by whose means wants are satisfied, including man himself, the chief agent and the sole aim of production. Book IV. corresponds in general character to that discussion of production to which a large place has been given in nearly all English treatises on general economics during the last two generations; although its relation to the problems of demand and supply has not been made sufficiently clear.
The first of these is the growing belief that harm was done by Ricardo's habit of laying disproportionate stress on the side of cost of production, when analysing the causes that determine exchange value. For although he and his chief followers were aware that the conditions of demand played as important a part as those of supply in determining value, yet they did not express their meaning with sufficient clearness, and they have been misunderstood by all but the most careful readers.
For indeed the desire for excellence for its own sake, is almost as wide in its range as the lower desire for distinction. Just as the desire for distinction graduates down from the ambition of those who may hope that their names will be in men's mouths in distant lands and in distant times, to the hope of the country lass that the new ribbon she puts on for Easter may not pass unnoticed by her neighbours; so the desire for excellence for its own sake graduates down from that of a Newton, or a Stradivarius, to that of the fisherman who, even when no one is looking and he is not in a hurry, delights in handling his craft well, and in the fact that she is well built and responds promptly to his guidance. Desires of this kind exert a great influence on the supply of the highest faculties and the greatest inventions; and they are not unimportant on the side of demand. For a large part of the demand for the most highly skilled professional services and the best work of the mechanical artisan, arises from the delight that people have in the training of their own faculties, and in exercising them by aid of the most delicately adjusted and responsive implements.
§ 6. The demand prices in our list are those at which various quantities of a thing can be sold in a market
during a given time and under given conditions. If the conditions vary in any respect the prices will probably require to be changed; and this has constantly to be done when the desire for anything is materially altered by a variation of custom, or by a cheapening of the supply of a rival commodity, or by the invention of a new one. For instance, the list of demand prices for tea is drawn out on the assumption that the price of coffee is known; but a failure of the coffee harvest would raise the prices for tea. The demand for gas is liable to be reduced by an improvement in electric lighting; and in the same way a fall in the price of a particular kind of tea may cause it to be substituted for an inferior but cheaper variety
Thus Mill says that we must "mean by the word demand, the quantity demanded, and remember that this is not a fixed quantity, but in general varies according to the value." (
Principles, III. II. 4.) This account is scientific in substance; but it is not clearly expressed and it has been much misunderstood. Cairnes prefers to represent "demand as the desire for commodities and services, seeking its end by an offer of general purchasing power, and supply as the desire for general purchasing power, seeking its end by an offer of specific commodities or services." He does this in order that he may be able to speak of a ratio, or equality, of demand and supply. But the quantities of two desires on the part of two different persons cannot be compared directly; their measures may be compared, but not they themselves. And in fact Cairnes is himself driven to speak of supply as "limited by the quantity of specific commodities offered for sale, and demand by the quantity of purchasing power offered for their purchase." But sellers have not a fixed quantity of commodities which they offer for sale unconditionally at whatever price they can get: buyers have not a fixed quantity of purchasing power which they are ready to spend on the specific commodities, however much they pay for them. Account must then be taken in either case of the relation between quantity and price, in order to complete Cairnes' account, and when this is done it is brought back to the lines followed by Mill. He says, indeed, that "Demand, as defined by Mill, is to be understood as measured, not, as my definition would require, by the quantity of purchasing power offered in support of the desire for commodities, but by the quantity of commodities for which such purchasing power is offered." It is true that there is a great difference between the statements, "I will buy twelve eggs," and "I will buy a shilling's worth of eggs." But there is no substantive difference between the statement, "I will buy twelve eggs at a penny each, but only six at three halfpence each," and the statement, "I will spend a shilling on eggs at a penny each, but if they cost three halfpence each I will spend ninepence on them." But while Cairnes' account when completed becomes substantially the same as Mill's its present form is even more misleading. (See an article by the present writer on
Mill's Theory of Value in the
Fortnightly Review for April, 1876.)
It is even conceivable, though not probable, that a simultaneous and proportionate fall in the price of all teas may diminish the demand
for some particular kind of it; if it happens that those whom the increased cheapness of tea leads to substitute a superior kind for it are more numerous than those who are led to take it in the place of an inferior kind. The question where the lines of division between different commodities should be drawn must be settled by convenience of the particular discussion. For some purposes it may be best to regard Chinese and Indian teas, or even Souchong and Pekoe teas, as different commodities; and to have a separate demand
schedule for each of them. While for other purposes it may be best to group together commodities as distinct as beef and mutton, or even as tea and coffee, and to have a single list to represent the demand
for the two combined; but in such a case of course some convention must be made as to the number of ounces of tea which are taken as equivalent to a pound of coffee.
Again, a commodity may be simultaneously demanded for several uses (for instance there may be a "composite demand" for leather for making shoes and portmanteaus); the demand for a thing may be conditional on there being a supply of some other thing without which it would not be of much service (thus there may be a "joint demand" for raw cotton and cotton-spinners' labour). Again, the demand for a commodity on the part of dealers who buy it only with the purpose of selling it again, though governed by the demand of the ultimate consumers in the background, has some peculiarities of its own. But all such points may best be discussed at a later stage.
§ 1. We have seen that the only universal law as to a person's desire for a commodity is that it diminishes, other things being equal, with every increase in his supply of that commodity. But this diminution may be slow or rapid. If it is slow the price that he will give for the commodity will not fall much in consequence of a considerable increase in his supply of it; and a small fall in price will cause a comparatively large increase in his purchases. But if it is rapid, a small fall in price will cause only a very small increase in his purchases. In the former case his willingness to purchase the thing stretches itself out a great deal under the action of a small inducement: the elasticity of his wants, we may say, is great. In the latter case the extra inducement given by the fall in price causes hardly any extension of his desire to purchase: the elasticity of his demand is small. If a fall in price from say 16
d. to 15
d. per lb. of tea would much increase his purchases, then a rise in price from 15
d. to 16
d. would much diminish them. That is, when the demand is elastic for a fall in price, it is elastic also for a rise.
§ 4. The case of necessaries is exceptional. When the price of wheat is very high, and again when it is very low, the demand has very little elasticity: at all events if we assume that wheat, even when scarce, is the cheapest food for man; and that, even when most plentiful, it is not consumed in any other way. We know that a fall in the price of the quartern loaf from 6
d. to 4
d. has scarcely any effect in increasing the consumption of bread. With regard to the other end of the scale it is more difficult to speak with certainty, because there has been no approach to a scarcity in England since the repeal of the corn laws. But, availing ourselves of the experience of a less happy time, we may suppose that deficits in the supply of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 tenths would cause a rise in price of 3, 8, 16, 28, or 45 tenths respectively
. Much greater variations in prices indeed than this have not been uncommon. Thus wheat sold in London for ten shillings a bushel in 1335, but in the following year it sold for ten pence
Generally speaking those things have the most elastic demand, which are capable of being applied to many different uses. Water for instance is needed first as food, then for cooking, then for washing of various kinds and so on. When there is no special drought, but water is sold by the pailful, the price may be low enough to enable even the poorer classes to drink as much of it as they are inclined, while for cooking they sometimes use the same water twice over, and they apply it very scantily in washing. The middle classes will perhaps not use any of it twice for cooking; but they will make a pail of water go a good deal further for washing purposes than if they had an unlimited supply at command. When water is supplied by pipes, and charged at a very low rate by meter, many people use as much of it even for washing as they feel at all inclined to do; and when the water is supplied not by meter but at a fixed annual charge, and is laid on in every place where it is wanted, the use of it for every purpose is carried to the full satiety limit
Our illustration belongs indeed properly to domestic production rather than to domestic consumption. But that was almost inevitable; for there are very few things ready for immediate consumption which are available for many different uses. And the doctrine of the distribution of means between different uses has less important and less interesting applications in the science of demand than in that of supply. See
e.g. V. III. 3.
It is important to remember that, except on these assumptions there is no direct connection between the rate of discount on the loan of money, and the rate at which future pleasures are discounted. A man may be so impatient of delay that a certain promise of a pleasure ten years hence will not induce him to give up one close at hand which he regards as a quarter as great. And yet if he should fear that ten years hence money may be so scarce with him (and its marginal utility therefore so high) that half-a-crown then may give him more pleasure or save him more pain than a pound now, he will save something for the future even though he have to hoard it, on the same principle that he might store eggs for the winter. But we are here straying into questions that are more closely connected with Supply
than with Demand
. We shall have to consider them again from different points of view in connection with the Accumulation of Wealth, and later again in connection with the causes that determine the Rate of Interest.
We may however consider here how to measure numerically the present value of a future pleasure, on the supposition that we know, (i) its amount, (ii) the date at which it will come, if it comes at all, (iii) the chance that it will come, and (iv) the rate at which the person in question discounts future pleasures.
If the probability that a pleasure will be enjoyed is three to one, so that three chances out of four are in its favour, the value of its expectation is three-fourths of what it would be if it were certain: if the probability that it will be enjoyed were only seven to five, so that only seven chances out of twelve are in its favour, the value of its expectation is only seven-twelfths of what it would be if the event were certain, and so on. [This is its actuarial value: but further allowance may have to be made for the fact that the true value to anyone of an uncertain gain is generally less than its actuarial value (see the note on p. 209).] If the anticipated pleasure is both uncertain and distant, we have a twofold deduction to make from its full value. We will suppose, for instance, that a person would give 10
s. for a gratification if it were present and certain, but that it is due a year hence, and the probability of its happening then is three to one. Suppose also that he discounts the future at the rate of twenty per cent. per annum. Then the value to him of the anticipation of it is 3/4 × 80/100 × 10
s. i.e. 6
s. Compare the Introductory chapter of Jevons'
Theory of Political Economy.
This term is a familiar one in German economics, and meets a need which is much felt in English economics. For "opportunity" and "environment," the only available substitutes for it, are sometimes rather misleading. By
Conjunctur, says Wagner (
Grundegung, Ed. III. p. 387), "we understand the sum total of the technical, economic, social and legal conditions; which, in a mode of national life (
Volkswirthschaft) resting upon division of labour and private property,—especially private property in land and other material means of production—determine the demand for and supply of goods, and therefore their exchange value: this determination being as a rule, or at least in the main,
independent of the will of the owner, of his activity and his remissness."
The notion of consumers' surplus may help us a little now; and, when our statistical knowledge is further advanced, it may help us a great deal to decide how much injury would be done to the public by an additional tax of 6
a pound on tea, or by an addition of ten per cent. to the freight charges of a railway: and the value of the notion is but little diminished by the fact that it would not help us much to estimate the loss that would be caused by a tax of 30
a pound on tea, or a tenfold rise in freight charges.
Reverting to our last diagram, we may express this by saying that, if
A is the point on the curve corresponding to the amount that is wont to be sold in the market, data can be obtained sufficient for drawing the curve with tolerable correctness for some distance on either side of
A; though the curve can seldom be drawn with any approach to accuracy right up to
D. But this is practically unimportant, because in the chief practical applications of the theory of value we should seldom make any use of a knowledge of the whole shape of the demand curve if we had it. We need just what we can get, that is, a fairly correct knowledge of its shape in the neighbourhood of
A. We seldom require to ascertain the total area
DCA; it is sufficient for most of our purposes to know the changes in this area that would be occasioned by moving
A through small distances along the curve in either direction. Nevertheless it will save trouble to assume provisionally, as in pure theory we are at liberty to do, that the curve is completely drawn.
There is however a special difficulty in estimating the whole of the utility of commodities some supply of which is necessary for life. If any attempt is made to do it, the best plan is perhaps to take that necessary supply for granted, and estimate the total utility only of that part of the commodity which is in excess of this amount. But we must recollect that the desire for anything is much dependent on the difficulty of getting substitutes for it. (See Note VI. in the Mathematical Appendix.)
§ 2. It is not possible at this stage to do more than indicate very slightly the general relations between demand and supply, between consumption and production. But it may be well, while the discussion of utility and value is fresh in our minds, to take a short glance at the relations between value and the disutility or discommodity that has to be overcome in order to obtain those goods which have value because they are at once desirable and difficult of attainment. All that can be said now must be provisional; and may even seem rather to raise difficulties than to solve them: and there will be an advantage in having before us a map, in however slight and broken outline, of the ground to be covered.
While demand is based on the desire to obtain commodities, supply depends mainly on the overcoming of the unwillingness to undergo "discommodities." These fall generally under two heads:—labour, and the sacrifice involved in putting off consumption. It must suffice here to give a sketch of the part played by ordinary labour in supply. It will be seen hereafter that remarks similar, though not quite the same, might have been made about the work of management and the sacrifice which is involved (sometimes, but not always) in that waiting which is involved in accumulating the means of production.
Subject to these and some other qualifications, it is broadly true that the exertions which any set of workers will make, rise or fall with a rise or fall in the remuneration which is offered to them. As the price required to attract purchasers for any given amount of a commodity, was called the demand price for that amount during a year or any other given time; so the price required to call forth the exertion necessary for producing any given amount of a commodity, may be called the
supply price for that amount during the same time. And if for the moment we assumed that production depended solely upon the exertions of a certain number of workers, already in existence and trained for their work, we should get a list of supply prices corresponding to the list of demand prices which we have already considered. This list would set forth theoretically in one column of figures various amounts of exertion and therefore of production; and in a parallel column the prices which must be paid to induce the available workers to put forth these amounts of exertion
But the distribution of the population between different trades is more subject to the influence of economic causes. In the long run the supply of labour in any trade is adapted more or less closely to the demand for it: thoughtful parents bring up their children to the most advantageous occupations to which they have access; that is to those that offer the best reward, in wages and other advantages, in return for labour that is not too severe in quantity or character, and for skill that is not too hard to be acquired. This adjustment between demand and supply can however never be perfect; fluctuations of demand may make it much greater or much less for a while, even for many years, than would have been just sufficient to induce parents to select for their children that trade rather than some other of the same class. Although therefore the reward to be had for any kind of work at any time does stand in some relation to the difficulty of acquiring the necessary skill combined with the exertion, the disagreeableness, the waste of leisure, etc. involved in the work itself; yet this correspondence is liable to great disturbances. The study of these disturbances is a difficult task; and it will occupy us much in later stages of our work. But the present Book is mainly descriptive and raises few difficult problems.
§ 1. The requisites of production are commonly spoken of as land, labour and capital: those material things which owe their usefulness to human labour being classed under capital, and those which owe nothing to it being classed as land. The distinction is obviously a loose one: for bricks are but pieces of earth slightly worked up; and the soil of old settled countries has for the greater part been worked over many times by man, and owes to him its present form. There is however a scientific principle underlying the distinction. While man has no power of creating matter, he creates utilities by putting things into a useful form
; and the utilities made by him can be increased in supply if there is an increased demand for them: they have a supply price. But there are other utilities over the supply of which he has no control; they are given as a fixed quantity by nature and have therefore no supply price. The term "land" has been extended by economists so as to include the permanent sources of these utilities
; whether they are found in land, as the term is commonly used, or in seas and rivers, in sunshine and rain, in winds and waterfalls.
When we have inquired what it is that marks off land from those material things which we regard as products of the land, we shall find that the fundamental attribute of land is its extension. The right to use a piece of land gives command over a certain space—a certain part of the earth's surface. The area of the earth is fixed: the geometric relations in which any particular part of it stands to other parts are fixed. Man has no control over them; they are wholly unaffected by demand; they have no cost of production, there is no supply price at which they can be produced.
His second position relates to the demand for labour. Like the first it is supported by facts, but by a different set of facts. He shows that up to the time at which he wrote no country (as distinguished from a city, such as Rome or Venice) had been able to obtain an abundant supply of the necessaries of life after its territory had become very thickly peopled. The produce which Nature returns to the work of man is her effective demand for population: and he shows that up to this time a rapid increase in population when already thick had not led to a proportionate increase in this demand
In the latter half of the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth century the central government exerted itself to hinder the adjustment of the supply of population in different parts of the country to the demand for it by Settlement laws, which made any one chargeable to a parish who had resided there forty days, but ordered that he might be sent home by force at any time within that period
. Landlords and farmers were so eager to prevent people from getting a "settlement" in their parish that they put great difficulties in the way of building cottages, and sometimes even razed them to the ground. In consequence the agricultural population of England was stationary during the hundred years ending with 1760; while the manufactures were not yet sufficiently developed to absorb large numbers. This retardation in the growth of numbers was partly caused by, and partly a cause of, a rise in the standard of living; a chief element of which was an increased use of wheat in the place of inferior grains as the food of the common people
It must however be admitted that he would have great difficulties in doing this. The shortness of the time which we allow ourselves for changes in the arts of decoration is scarcely a greater evil than the width of the area of the world over which they are spread; for that causes a further distraction of the hasty and hurried efforts of the designer, by compelling him to be always watching the world movements of the supply of and demand for art products. This is a task for which the artisan, who works with his own hands, is not well fitted; and in consequence now-a-days the ordinary artisan finds it best to follow and not to lead. Even the supreme skill of the Lyons weaver shows itself now almost exclusively in an inherited power of delicate manipulation, and fine perception of colour, that enable him to carry out perfectly the ideas of professional designers.
§ 8. Parents generally bring up their children to occupations in their own grade, and therefore the total supply of labour in any grade in one generation is in a great measure determined by the numbers in that grade in the preceding generation, yet within the grade itself there is greater mobility. If the advantages of any one occupation in it rise above the average, there is a quick influx of youth from other occupations within the grade. The vertical movement from one grade to another is seldom very rapid or on a very large scale; but, when the advantages of a grade have risen relatively to the difficulty of the work required of it, many small streams of labour, both youthful and adult, will begin to flow towards it; and though none of them may be very large, they will together have a sufficient volume to satisfy before long the increased demand for labour in that grade.
We must defer to a later stage a fuller discussion of the obstacles which the conditions of any place and time oppose to the free mobility of labour, and also of the inducements which they offer to anyone to change his occupation or to bring up his son to an occupation different from his own. But we have seen enough to conclude that, other things being equal, an increase in the earnings that are to be got by labour increases its rate of growth; or, in other words, a rise in its demand price increases the supply of it. If the state of knowledge, and of ethical, social and domestic habits be given; then the vigour of the people as a whole if not their numbers, and both the numbers and vigour of any trade in particular, may be said to have a supply price in this sense, that there is a certain level of the demand price which will keep them stationary; that a higher price would cause them to increase, and that a lower price would cause them to decrease. Thus economic causes play a part in governing the growth of population as a whole as well as the supply of labour in any particular grade. But their influence on the numbers of the population as a whole is largely indirect; and is exerted by way of the ethical, social and domestic habits of life. For these habits are themselves influenced by economic causes deeply, though slowly, and in ways some of which are difficult to trace, and impossible to predict
§ 10. The causes which govern the accumulation of wealth and its relation to the rate of interest have so many points of contact with various parts of economic science, that the study of them cannot easily be brought together in one part of our inquiry. And although in the present Book we are concerned mainly with the side of supply; it has seemed necessary to indicate provisionally here something of the general relations between the demand for and the supply of capital. And we have seen that:—
Conversely, the struggle for survival may fail to bring into existence organisms that would be highly beneficial: and in the economic world the demand for any industrial arrangement is not certain to call forth a supply, unless it is something more than a mere desire for the arrangement, or a need for it. It must be an efficient demand; that is, it must take effect by offering adequate payment or some other benefit to those who supply it
. A mere desire on the part of employees for a share in the management and the profits of the factory in which they work, or the need on the part of clever youths for a good technical education, is not a demand in the sense in which the term is used when it is said that supply naturally and surely follows demand. This seems a hard truth: but some of its harshest features are softened down by the fact that those races, whose members render services to one another without exacting direct recompense are not only the most likely to flourish for the time, but most likely to rear a large number of descendants who inherit their beneficial habits.
A district which is dependent chiefly on one industry is liable to extreme depression, in case of a falling-off in the demand for its produce, or of a failure in the supply of the raw material which it uses. This evil again is in a great measure avoided by those large towns or large industrial districts in which several distinct industries are strongly developed. If one of them fails for a time, the others are likely to support it indirectly; and they enable local shopkeepers to continue their assistance to workpeople in it.
In agriculture there is not much division of labour, and there is no production on a very large scale; for a so-called "large farm" does not employ a tenth part of the labour which is collected in a factory of moderate dimensions. This is partly due to natural causes, to the changes of the seasons and to the difficulty of concentrating a great deal of labour in any one place; but it is partly also due to causes connected with varieties of land tenure. And it will be best to postpone discussion of all of them till we come to study demand and supply in relation to land in the sixth Book.
The division of labour is often carried still further when houses are built not at the expense of those who are to live in them, but as a building speculation. When this is done on a large scale, as for instance in opening out a new suburb, the stakes at issue are so large as to offer an attractive field to powerful capitalists with a very high order of general business ability, but perhaps with not much technical knowledge of the building trade. They rely on their own judgment for the decision as to what are likely to be the coming relations of demand and supply for different kinds of houses; but they entrust to others the management of details. They employ architects and surveyors to make plans in accordance with their general directions; and then enter into contracts with professional builders for carrying them out. But they themselves undertake the chief risks of the business, and control its general direction.
Since then business ability in command of capital moves with great ease horizontally from a trade which is overcrowded to one which offers good openings for it: and since it moves with great ease vertically, the abler men rising to the higher posts in their own trade, we see, even at this early stage of our inquiry, some good reasons for believing that in modern England the supply of business ability in command of capital accommodates itself, as a general rule, to the demand for it; and thus has a fairly defined supply price.
§ 1. A BUSINESS firm grows and attains great strength, and afterwards perhaps stagnates and decays; and at the turning point there is a balancing or equilibrium of the forces of life and decay: the latter part of Book IV. has been chiefly occupied with such balancing of forces in the life and decay of a people, or of a method of industry or trading. And as we reach to the higher stages of our work, we shall need ever more and more to think of economic forces as resembling those which make a young man grow in strength, till he reaches his prime; after which he gradually becomes stiff and inactive, till at last he sinks to make room for other and more vigorous life. But to prepare the way for this advanced study we want first to look at a simpler balancing of forces which corresponds rather to the mechanical equilibrium of a stone hanging by an elastic string, or of a number of balls resting against one another in a basin.
We have now to examine the general relations of demand and supply; especially those which are connected with that adjustment of price, by which they are maintained in "equilibrium." This term is in common use and may be used for the present without special explanation. But there are many difficulties connected with it, which can only be handled gradually: and indeed they will occupy our attention during a great part of this Book.
§ 2. When demand and supply are spoken of in relation to one another, it is of course necessary that the markets to which they refer should be the same. As Cournot says, "Economists understand by the term
Market, not any particular market place in which things are bought and sold, but the whole of any region in which buyers and sellers are in such free intercourse with one another that the prices of the same goods tend to equality easily and quickly
." Or again as Jevons says:—"Originally a market was a public place in a town where provisions and other objects were exposed for sale; but the word has been generalized, so as to mean any body of persons who are in intimate business relations and carry on extensive transactions in any commodity. A great city may contain as many markets as there are important branches of trade, and these markets may or may not be localized. The central point of a market is the public exchange, mart or auction rooms, where the traders agree to meet and transact business. In London the Stock Market, the Corn Market, the Coal Market, the Sugar Market, and many others are distinctly localized; in Manchester the Cotton Market, the Cotton Waste Market, and others. But this distinction of locality is not necessary. The traders may be spread over a whole town, or region of country, and yet make a market, if they are, by means of fairs, meetings, published price lists, the post-office or otherwise, in close communication with each other
§ 3. In applying economic reasonings in practice it is often difficult to ascertain how far the movements of supply and demand in any one place are influenced by those in another. It is clear that the general tendency of the telegraph, the printing-press and steam traffic is to extend the area over which such influences act and to increase their force. The whole Western World may, in a sense, be regarded as one market for many kinds of stock exchange securities, for the more valuable metals, and to a less extent for wool and cotton and even wheat; proper allowance being made for expenses of transport, in which may be included taxes levied by any customs houses through which the goods have to pass. For in all these cases the expenses of transport, including customs duties, are not sufficient to prevent buyers from all parts of the Western World from competing with one another for the same supplies.
§ 6. Again, markets vary with regard to the period of time which is allowed to the forces of demand and supply to bring themselves into equilibrium with one another, as well as with regard to the area over which they extend. And this element of Time requires more careful attention just now than does that of Space. For the nature of the equilibrium itself, and that of the causes by which it is determined, depend on the length of the period over which the market is taken to extend. We shall find that if the period is short, the supply is limited to the stores which happen to be at hand: if the period is longer, the supply will be influenced, more or less, by the cost of producing the commodity in question; and if the period is very long, this cost will in its turn be influenced, more or less, by the cost of producing the labour and the material things required for producing the commodity. These three classes of course merge into one another by imperceptible degrees. We will begin with the first class; and consider in the next chapter those temporary equilibria of demand and supply, in which "supply" means in effect merely the stock available at the time for sale in the market; so that it cannot be directly influenced by the cost of production.
§ 1. The simplest case of balance or equilibrium between desire and effort is found when a person satisfies one of his wants by his own direct work. When a boy picks blackberries for his own eating, the action of picking is probably itself pleasurable for a while; and for some time longer the pleasure of eating is more than enough to repay the trouble of picking. But after he has eaten a good deal, the desire for more diminishes; while the task of picking begins to cause weariness, which may indeed be a feeling of monotony rather than of fatigue. Equilibrium is reached when at last his eagerness to play and his disinclination for the work of picking counterbalance the desire for eating. The satisfaction which he can get from picking fruit has arrived at its
maximum: for up to that time every fresh picking has added more to his pleasure than it has taken away; and after that time any further picking would take away from his pleasure more than it would add
In a casual bargain that one person makes with another, as for instance when two backwoodsmen barter a rifle for a canoe, there is seldom anything that can properly be called an equilibrium of supply and demand: there is probably a margin of satisfaction on either side; for probably the one would be willing to give something besides the rifle for the canoe, if he could not get the canoe otherwise; while the other would in case of necessity give something besides the canoe for the rifle.
Buyers on their part will make similar calculations; and if at any time the price should rise considerably above 36
s. they will argue that the supply will be much greater than the demand at that price: therefore even those of them who would rather pay that price than go unserved, wait; and by waiting they help to bring the price down. On the other hand, when the price is much below 36
s., even those sellers who would rather take the price than leave the market with their corn unsold, will argue that at that price the demand will be in excess of the supply: so they will wait, and by waiting help to bring the price up.
The price of 36
s. has thus some claim to be called the true equilibrium price: because if it were fixed on at the beginning, and adhered to throughout, it would exactly equate demand and supply (
i.e. the amount which buyers were willing to purchase at that price would be just equal to that for which sellers were willing to take that price); and because every dealer who has a perfect knowledge of the circumstances of the market expects that price to be established. If he sees the price differing much from 36
s. he expects that a change will come before long, and by anticipating it he helps it to come quickly.
§ 1. We have next to inquire what causes govern supply prices, that is prices which dealers are willing to accept for different amounts. In the last chapter we looked at the affairs of only a single day; and supposed the stocks offered for sale to be already in existence. But of course these stocks are dependent on the amount of wheat sown in the preceding year; and that, in its turn, was largely influenced by the farmers' guesses as to the price which they would get for it in this year. This is the point at which we have to work in the present chapter.
But in this and the following chapters we are specially concerned with movements of price ranging over still longer periods than those for which the most far-sighted dealers in futures generally make their reckoning: we have to consider the volume of production adjusting itself to the conditions of the market, and the normal price being thus determined at the position of stable equilibrium of normal demand and normal supply.
We may revert to the analogy between the supply price and the demand price of a commodity. Assuming for the moment that the efficiency of production depends solely upon the exertions of the workers, we saw that "the price required to call forth the exertion necessary for producing any given amount of a commodity may be called the supply price for that amount, with reference of course to a given unit of time
." But now we have to take account of the fact that the production of a commodity generally requires many different kinds of labour and the use of capital in many forms. The exertions of all the different kinds of labour that are directly or indirectly involved in making it; together with the abstinences or rather the waitings required for saving the capital used in making it: all these efforts and sacrifices together will be called the
real cost of production of the commodity. The sums of money that have to be paid for these efforts and sacrifices will be called either its
money cost of production, or, for shortness, its
expenses of production; they are the prices which have to be paid in order to call forth an adequate supply of the efforts and waitings that are required for making it; or, in other words, they are its supply price
§ 3. The typical modern market is often regarded as that in which manufacturers sell goods to wholesale dealers at prices into which but few trading expenses enter. But taking a broader view, we may consider that the supply price of a commodity is the price at which it will be delivered for sale to that group of persons whose demand for it we are considering; or, in other words, in the market which we have in view. On the character of that market will depend how many trading expenses have to be reckoned to make up the supply price
. For instance, the supply price of wood in the neighbourhood of Canadian forests often consists almost exclusively of the price of the labour of lumber men: but the supply price of the same wood in the wholesale London market consists in a large measure of freights; while its supply price to a small retail buyer in an English country town is more than half made up of the charges of the railways and middlemen who have brought what he wants to his doors, and keep a stock of it ready for him. Again, the supply price of a certain kind of labour may for some purposes be divided up into the expenses of rearing, of general education and of special trade education. The possible combinations are numberless; and though each may have incidents of its own which will require separate treatment in the complete solution of any problem connected with it, yet all such incidents may be ignored, so far as the general reasonings of this Book are concerned.
§ 4. The position then is this: we are investigating the equilibrium of normal demand and normal supply in their most general form; we are neglecting those features which are special to particular parts of economic science, and are confining our attention to those broad relations which are common to nearly the whole of it. Thus we assume that the forces of demand and supply have free play; that there is no close combination among dealers on either side, but each acts for himself, and there is much free competition; that is, buyers generally compete freely with buyers, and sellers compete freely with sellers. But though everyone acts for himself, his knowledge of what others are doing is supposed to be generally sufficient to prevent him from taking a lower or paying a higher price than others are doing. This is assumed provisionally to be true both of finished goods and of their factors of production, of the hire of labour and of the borrowing of capital. We have already inquired to some extent, and we shall have to inquire further, how far these assumptions are in accordance with the actual facts of life. But meanwhile this is the supposition on which we proceed; we assume that there is only one price in the market at one and the same time; it being understood that separate allowance is made, when necessary, for differences in the expense of delivering goods to dealers in different parts of the market; including allowance for the special expenses of retailing, if it is a retail market.
The unit of time may be chosen according to the circumstances of each particular problem: it may be a day, a month, a year, or even a generation: but in every case it must be short relatively to the period of the market under discussion. It is to be assumed that the general circumstances of the market remain unchanged throughout this period; that there is, for instance, no change in fashion or taste, no new substitute which might affect the demand, no new invention to disturb the supply.
Let us suppose a list of supply prices (or a supply schedule) made on a similar plan to that of our list of demand prices
: the supply price of each amount of the commodity in a year, or any other unit of time, being written against that amount
. As the flow, or (annual) amount of the commodity increases, the supply price may either increase or diminish; or it may even alternately increase and diminish
. For if nature is offering a sturdy resistance to man's efforts to wring from her a larger supply of raw material, while at that particular stage there is no great room for introducing important new economies into the manufacture, the supply price will rise; but if the volume of production were greater, it would perhaps be profitable to substitute largely machine work for hand work and steam power for muscular force; and the increase in the volume of production would have diminished the expenses of production of the commodity of our representative firm. But those cases in which the supply price falls as the amount increases involve special difficulties of their own; and they are postponed to chapter XII. of this Book.
§ 6. When therefore the amount produced (in a unit of time) is such that the demand price is greater than the supply price, then sellers receive more than is sufficient to make it worth their while to bring goods to market to that amount; and there is at work an active force tending to increase the amount brought forward for sale. On the other hand, when the amount produced is such that the demand price is less than the supply price, sellers receive less than is sufficient to make it worth their while to bring goods to market on that scale; so that those who were just on the margin of doubt as to whether to go on producing are decided not to do so, and there is an active force at work tending to diminish the amount brought forward for sale. When the demand price is equal to the supply price, the amount produced has no tendency either to be increased or to be diminished; it is in equilibrium.
When demand and supply are in equilibrium, the amount of the commodity which is being produced in a unit of time may be called the
equilibrium-amount, and the price at which it is being sold may be called the
Such an equilibrium is
stable; that is, the price, if displaced a little from it, will tend to return, as a pendulum oscillates about its lowest point; and it will be found to be a characteristic of stable equilibria that in them the demand price is greater than the supply price for amounts just less than the equilibrium amount, and
vice versâ. For when the demand price is greater than the supply price, the amount produced tends to increase. Therefore, if the demand price is greater than the supply price for amounts just less than an equilibrium amount; then, if the scale of production is temporarily diminished somewhat below that equilibrium amount, it will tend to return; thus the equilibrium is stable for displacements in that direction. If the demand price is greater than the supply price for amounts just less than the equilibrium amount, it is sure to be less than the supply price for amounts just greater: and therefore, if the scale of production is somewhat increased beyond the equilibrium position, it will tend to return; and the equilibrium will be stable for displacements in that direction also.
When demand and supply are in stable equilibrium, if any accident should move the scale of production from its equilibrium position, there will be instantly brought into play forces tending to push it back to that position; just as, if a stone hanging by a string is displaced from its equilibrium position, the force of gravity will at once tend to bring it back to its equilibrium position. The movements of the scale of production about its position of equilibrium will be of a somewhat similar kind
But in real life such oscillations are seldom as rhythmical as those of a stone hanging freely from a string; the comparison would be more exact if the string were supposed to hang in the troubled waters of a mill-race, whose stream was at one time allowed to flow freely, and at another partially cut off. Nor are these complexities sufficient to illustrate all the disturbances with which the economist and the merchant alike are forced to concern themselves. If the person holding the string swings his hand with movements partly rhythmical and partly arbitrary, the illustration will not outrun the difficulties of some very real and practical problems of value. For indeed the demand and supply schedules do not in practice remain unchanged for a long time together, but are constantly being changed; and every change in them alters the equilibrium amount and the equilibrium price, and thus gives new positions to the centres about which the amount and the price tend to oscillate.
These considerations point to the great importance of the element of time in relation to demand and supply, to the study of which we now proceed. We shall gradually discover a great many different limitations of the doctrine that the price at which a thing can be produced represents its real cost of production, that is, the efforts and sacrifices which have been directly and indirectly devoted to its production. For, in an age of rapid change such as this, the equilibrium of normal demand and supply does not thus correspond to any distinct relation of a certain aggregate of pleasures got from the consumption of the commodity and an aggregate of efforts and sacrifices involved in producing it: the correspondence would not be exact, even if normal earnings and interest were exact measures of the efforts and sacrifices for which they are the money payments. This is the real drift of that much quoted, and much-misunderstood doctrine of Adam Smith and other economists that the normal, or "natural," value of a commodity is that which economic forces tend to bring about
in the long run. It is the average value which economic forces would bring about if the general conditions of life were stationary for a run of time long enough to enable them all to work out their full effect
In the same way, when a thing already made has to be sold, the price which people will be willing to pay for it will be governed by their desire to have it, together with the amount they can afford to spend on it. Their desire to have it depends partly on the chance that, if they do not buy it, they will be able to get another thing like it at as low a price: this depends on the causes that govern the supply of it, and this again upon cost of production. But it may so happen that the stock to be sold is practically fixed. This, for instance, is the case with a fish market, in which the value of fish for the day is governed almost exclusively by the stock on the slabs in relation to the demand: and if a person chooses to take the stock for granted, and say that the price is governed by demand, his brevity may perhaps be excused so long as he does not claim strict accuracy. So again it may be pardonable, but it is not strictly accurate to say that the varying prices which the same rare book fetches, when sold and resold at Christie's auction room, are governed exclusively by demand.
Measuring, as in the case of the demand
curve, amounts of the commodity along
and prices parallel to
we get for each point
drawn at right angles to it measuring the supply
price for the amount
the extremity of which,
may be called a
being made up of the supply
prices of the several factors of production for the amount
The locus of
may be called the
Suppose, for instance, that we classify the expenses of production of our representative firm, when an amount
OM of cloth is being produced under the heads of (i)
Mp1, the supply price of the wool and other circulating capital which would be consumed in making it, (ii)
p1p2 the corresponding wear-and-tear and depreciation on buildings, machinery and other fixed capital; (iii)
p2p3 the interest and insurance on all the capital, (iv)
p3p4 the wages of those who work in the factory, and (v)
p4P the gross earnings of management, etc. of those who undertake the risks and direct the work. Thus as
M moves from
O towards the right
p4 will each trace out a curve, and the ultimate supply curve traced out by
P will be thus shown as obtained by superimposing the supply curves for the several factors of production of the cloth.
It must be remembered that these supply prices are the prices not of units of the several factors but of those amounts of the several factors which are required for producing a yard of the cloth. Thus, for instance,
p3p4 is the supply price not of any fixed amount of labour but of that amount of labour which is employed in making a yard where there is an aggregate production of
OM yards. (See above, § 3.) We need not trouble ourselves to consider just here whether the ground-rent of the factory must be put into a class by itself: this belongs to a group of questions which will be discussed later. We are taking no notice of rates and taxes, for which he would of course have to make his account.
Compare V. I. 1. To represent the equilibrium of demand
geometrically we may draw the demand
curves together as in Fig. 19. If then
represents the rate at which production is being actually carried on, and
price is greater than
price, the production is exceptionally profitable, and will be increased.
as we may call it, will move to the right. On the other hand, if
is less than
will move to the left. If
is equal to
that is, if
is vertically under a point of intersection of the curves, demand
are in equilibrium.
This may be taken as the typical diagram for stable equilibrium for a commodity that obeys the law of diminishing return. But if we had made
SS' a horizontal straight line, we should have represented the case of "constant return," in which the supply price is the same for all amounts of the commodity. And if we had made
SS' inclined negatively, but less steeply than
DD' (the necessity for this condition will appear more fully later on), we should have got a case of stable equilibrium for a commodity which obeys the law of increasing return. In either case the above reasoning remains unchanged without the alteration of a word or a letter; but the last case introduces difficulties which we have arranged to postpone.
§ 1. The variations in the scope of the term
Normal, according as the periods of time under discussion are long or short, were indicated in Chapter III. We are now ready to study them more closely.
This state obtains its name from the fact that in it the general conditions of production and consumption, of distribution and exchange remain motionless; but yet it is full of movement; for it is a mode of life. The average age of the population may be stationary; though each individual is growing up from youth towards his prime, or downwards to old age. And the same amount of things per head of the population will have been produced in the same ways by the same classes of people for many generations together; and therefore this supply of the appliances for production will have had full time to be adjusted to the steady demand.
In a stationary state then the plain rule would be that cost of production governs value. Each effect would be attributable mainly to one cause; there would not be much complex action and reaction between cause and effect. Each element of cost would be governed by "natural" laws, subject to some control from fixed custom. There would be no reflex influence of demand; no fundamental difference between the immediate and the later effects of economic causes. There would be no distinction between long-period and short-period normal value, at all events if we supposed that in that monotonous world the harvests themselves were uniform: for the representative firm being always of the same size, and always doing the same class of business to the same extent and in the same way, with no slack times, and no specially busy times, its normal expenses by which the normal supply price is governed would be always the same. The demand lists of prices would always be the same, and so would the supply lists; and normal price would never vary.
Let us then pass on; and suppose a great increase in the general demand for fish, such for instance as might arise from a disease affecting farm stock, by which meat was made a dear and dangerous food for several years together. We now impound fluctuations due to the weather in
cœteris paribus, and neglect them provisionally: they are so quick that they speedily obliterate one another, and are therefore not important for problems of this class. And for the opposite reason we neglect variations in the numbers of those who are brought up as seafaring men: for these variations are too slow to produce much effect in the year or two during which the scarcity of meat lasts. Having impounded these two sets for the time, we give our full attention to such influences as the inducements which good fishing wages will offer to sailors to stay in their fishing homes for a year or two, instead of applying for work on a ship. We consider what old fishing boats, and even vessels that were not specially made for fishing, can be adapted and sent to fish for a year or two. The normal price for any given daily supply of fish, which we are now seeking, is the price which will
quickly call into the fishing trade capital and labour enough to obtain that supply in a day's fishing of average good fortune; the influence which the price of fish will have upon capital and labour available in the fishing trade being governed by rather narrow causes such as these. This new level about which the price oscillates during these years of exceptionally great demand, will obviously be higher than before. Here we see an illustration of the almost universal law that the term Normal being taken to refer to a short period of time
an increase in the amount demanded raises the normal supply price. This law is almost universal even as regards industries which in long periods follow the tendency to increasing return
But if we turn to consider the normal supply price with reference to a
long period of time, we shall find that it is governed by a different set of causes, and with different results. For suppose that the disuse of meat causes a permanent distaste for it, and that an increased demand for fish continues long enough to enable the forces by which its supply is governed to work out their action fully (of course oscillation from day to day and from year to year would continue: but we may leave them on one side). The source of supply in the sea might perhaps show signs of exhaustion, and the fishermen might have to resort to more distant coasts and to deeper waters, Nature giving a Diminishing Return to the increased application of capital and labour of a given order of efficiency. On the other hand, those might turn out to be right who think that man is responsible for but a very small part of the destruction of fish that is constantly going on; and in that case a boat starting with equally good appliances and an equally efficient crew would be likely to get nearly as good a haul after the increase in the total volume of the fishing trade as before. In any case the normal cost of equipping a good boat with an efficient crew would certainly not be higher, and probably be a little lower after the trade had settled down to its now increased dimensions than before. For since fishermen require only trained aptitudes, and not any exceptional natural qualities, their number could be increased in less than a generation to almost any extent that was necessary to meet the demand; while the industries connected with building boats, making nets, etc. being now on a larger scale would be organized more thoroughly and economically. If therefore the waters of the sea showed no signs of depletion of fish, an increased supply could be produced at a lower price after a time sufficiently long to enable the normal action of economic causes to work itself out: and, the term Normal being taken to refer to a long period of time, the normal price of fish would decrease with an increase in demand
But the current supply is in itself partly due to the action of producers in the past; and this action has been determined on as the result of a comparison of the prices which they expect to get for their goods with the expenses to which they will be put in producing them. The range of expenses of which they take account depends on whether they are merely considering the extra expenses of certain extra production with their existing plant, or are considering whether to lay down new plant for the purpose. In the case, for instance, of an order for a single locomotive, which was discussed a little while ago
, the question of readjusting the plant to demand would hardly arise: the main question would be whether more work could conveniently be got out of the existing plant. But in view of an order for a large number of locomotives to be delivered gradually over a series of years, some extension of plant "specially" made for the purpose, and therefore truly to be regarded as prime marginal costs would almost certainly be carefully considered.
The general drift of the term normal supply price is always the same whether the period to which it refers is short or long; but there are great differences in detail. In every case reference is made to a certain given rate of aggregate production; that is, to the production of a certain aggregate amount daily or annually. In every case the price is that the expectation of which is sufficient and only just sufficient to make it worth while for people to set themselves to produce that aggregate amount; in every case the cost of production is marginal; that is, it is the cost of production of those goods which are on the margin of not being produced at all, and which would not be produced if the price to be got for them were expected to be lower. But the causes which determine this margin vary with the length of the period under consideration. For short periods people take the stock of appliances for production as practically fixed; and they are governed by their expectations of demand in considering how actively they shall set themselves to work those appliances. In long periods they set themselves to adjust the flow of these appliances to their expectations of demand for the goods which the appliances help to produce. Let us examine this difference closely.
In a trade which uses very expensive plant, the prime cost of goods is but a small part of their total cost; and an order at much less than their normal price may leave a large surplus above their prime cost. But if producers accept such orders in their anxiety to prevent their plant from being idle, they glut the market and tend to prevent prices from reviving. In fact however they seldom pursue this policy constantly and without moderation. If they did, they might ruin many of those in the trade, themselves perhaps among the number; and in that case a revival of demand would find little response in supply, and would raise violently the prices of the goods produced by the trade. Extreme variations of this kind are in the long run beneficial neither to producers nor to consumers; and general opinion is not altogether hostile to that code of trade morality which condemns the action of anyone who "spoils the market" by being too ready to accept a price that does little more than cover the prime cost of his goods, and allows but little on account of his general expenses
To sum up then as regards short periods. The supply of specialized skill and ability, of suitable machinery and other material capital, and of the appropriate industrial organization has not time to be fully adapted to demand; but the producers have to adjust their supply to the demand as best they can with the appliances already at their disposal. On the one hand there is not time materially to increase those appliances if the supply of them is deficient; and on the other, if the supply is excessive, some of them must remain imperfectly employed, since there is not time for the supply to be much reduced by gradual decay, and by conversion to other uses. Variations in the particular income derived from them do not
for the time affect perceptibly the supply; and do not directly affect the price of the commodities produced by them. The income is a surplus of total receipts over prime cost; [that is, it has something of the nature of a rent as will be seen more clearly in chapter VIII.]. But unless it is sufficient to cover in the long run a fair share of the general costs of the business, production will gradually fall off. In this way a controlling influence over the relatively quick movements of supply price during short periods is exercised by causes in the background which range over a long period; and the fear of "spoiling the market" often makes those causes act more promptly than they otherwise would.
Four classes stand out. In each, price is governed by the relations between demand and supply. As regards
market prices, Supply is taken to mean the stock of the commodity in question which is on hand, or at all events "in sight." As regards
normal prices, when the term Normal is taken to relate to
short periods of a few months or a year, Supply means broadly what can be produced for the price in question with the existing stock of plant, personal and impersonal, in the given time. As regards
normal prices, when the term Normal is to refer to
long periods of several years, Supply means what can be produced by plant, which itself can be remuneratively produced and applied within the given time; while lastly, there are very gradual or
Secular movements of normal price, caused by the gradual growth of knowledge, of population and of capital, and the changing conditions of demand and supply from one generation to another
History of Prices, Vol. I. p. 104) tells us: "There are particular articles of which the demand for naval and military purposes forms so large a proportion to the total supply, that no diminution of consumption by individuals can keep pace with the immediate increase of demand by government; and consequently, the breaking out of a war tends to raise the price of such articles to a great relative height. But even of such articles, if the consumption were not on a progressive scale of increase so rapid that the supply, with all the encouragement of a relatively high price, could not keep pace with the demand, the tendency is (supposing no impediment, natural or artificial, to production or importation) to occasion such an increase of quantity, as to reduce the price to nearly the same level as that from which it had advanced. And accordingly it will be observed, by reference to the table of prices, that salt-petre, hemp, iron, etc., after advancing very considerably under the influence of a greatly extended demand for military and naval purposes, tended downwards again whenever that demand was not progressively and rapidly increasing." Thus a continuously progressive increase in demand may raise the supply price of a thing even for several years together; though a steady increase of demand for that thing, at a rate not too great for supply to keep pace with it, would lower price.
Compare the first section of this chapter. Of course the periods required to adapt the several factors of production to the demand
may be very different; the number of skilled compositors, for instance, cannot be increased nearly as fast as the supply
of type and printing-presses. And this cause alone would prevent any rigid division being made between long and short periods. But in fact a theoretically perfect long period must give time enough to enable not only the factors of production of the commodity to be adjusted to the demand
, but also the factors of production of those factors of production to be adjusted and so on; and this, when carried to its logical consequences, will be found to involve the supposition of a stationary state of industry, in which the requirements of a future age can be anticipated an indefinite time beforehand. Some such assumption is indeed unconsciously implied in many popular renderings of Ricardo's theory of value, if not in his own versions of it; and it is to this cause more than any other that we must attribute that simplicity and sharpness of outline, from which the economic doctrines in fashion in the first half of this century derived some of their seductive charm, as well as most of whatever tendency they may have to lead to false practical conclusions.
Relatively short and long period problems go generally on similar lines. In both use is made of that paramount device, the partial or total isolation for special study of some set of relations. In both opportunity is gained for analysing and comparing similar episodes, and making them throw light upon one another; and for ordering and co-ordinating facts which are suggestive in their similarities, and are still more suggestive in the differences that peer out through their similarities. But there is a broad distinction between the two cases. In the relatively short-period problem no great violence is needed for the assumption that the forces not specially under consideration may be taken for the time to be inactive. But violence is required for keeping broad forces in the pound of
Cateris Paribus during, say, a whole generation, on the ground that they have only an indirect bearing on the question in hand. For even indirect influences may produce great effects in the course of a generation, if they happen to act cumulatively; and it is not safe to ignore them even provisionally in a practical problem without special study. Thus the uses of the statical method in problems relating to very long periods are dangerous; care and forethought and self-restraint are needed at every step. The difficulties and risks of the task reach their highest point in connection with industries which conform to the law of Increasing Return; and it is just in connection with those industries that the most alluring applications of the method are to be found. We must postpone these questions to chapter XII. and Appendix H.
But an answer may be given here to the objection that since "the economic world is subject to continual changes, and is becoming more complex, ... the longer the run the more hopeless the rectification": so that to speak of that position which value tends to reach in the long run is to treat "variables as constants." (Devas,
Political Economy, Book IV. ch. V.) It is true that we do treat variables
provisionally as constants. But it is also true that this is the only method by which science has ever made any great progress in dealing with complex and changeful matter, whether in the physical or moral world. See above V. V. 2.
§ 1. Bread satisfies man's wants directly: and the demand for it is said to be direct. But a flour mill and an oven satisfy wants only indirectly, by helping to make bread, etc., and the demand for them is said to be indirect. More generally:—
Let us pursue this last illustration with reference to a class of events that are of frequent occurrence in the labour market; the period over which the disturbance extends being short, and the causes of which we have to take account as readjusting demand and supply being only such as are able to operate within that short period.
Let us then suppose that the supply and demand for building being in equilibrium, there is a strike on the part of one group of workers, say the plasterers, or that there is some other disturbance to the supply of plasterers' labour. In order to isolate and make a separate study of the demand for that factor, we suppose firstly that the general conditions of the demand for new houses remain unchanged (that is, that the demand schedule for new houses remains valid); and secondly we assume that there is no change in the general conditions of supply of the other factors, two of which are of course the business faculties and the business organizations of the master builders; (that is, we assume that their lists of supply prices also remain valid). Then a temporary check to the supply of plasterers' labour will cause a proportionate check to the amount of building: the demand price for the diminished number of houses will be a little higher than before; and the supply prices for the other factors of production will not be greater than before
. Thus new houses can now be sold at prices which exceed by a good margin the sum of the prices at which these other requisites for the production of houses can be bought; and that margin gives the limit to the possible rise of the price that will be offered for plasterers' labour, on the supposition that plasterers' labour is indispensable. The different amounts of this margin, corresponding to different checks to the supply of plasterers' labour, are governed by the general rule that:— The price that will be offered for any thing used in producing a commodity is, for each separate amount for the commodity, limited by the excess of the price at which that amount of the commodity can find purchasers, over the sum of the prices at which the corresponding supplies of the other things needed for making it will be forthcoming.
To use technical terms, the demand schedule for any factor of production of a commodity can be
derived from that for the commodity by subtracting from the demand price of each separate amount of the commodity the sum of the supply prices for corresponding amounts of the other factors
The second condition is that the commodity in the production of which it is a necessary factor, should be one for which the demand is stiff and inelastic; so that a check to its supply will cause consumers to offer a much increased price for it rather than go without it; and this of course includes the condition that no good substitutes for the commodity are available at a price but little higher than its equilibrium price. If the check to house building raises the price of houses very much, builders, anxious to secure the exceptional profits, will bid against one another for such plasterers' labour as there is in the market
The relations between plasterers, bricklayers, etc., are representative of much that is both instructive and romantic in the history of alliances and conflicts between trades-unions in allied trades. But the most numerous instances of joint demand are those of the demand for a raw material and the operatives who work it up; as for instance cotton or jute or iron or copper, and those who work up these several materials. Again, the relative prices of different articles of food vary a good deal with the supply of skilled cooks' labour: thus for instance many kinds of meat and many parts of vegetables which are almost valueless in America, where skilled cooks are rare and expensive, have a good value in France, where the art of cooking is widely diffused.
Nearly every raw material and nearly every kind of labour is applied in many different branches of industry, and contributes to the production of a great variety of commodities. Each of these commodities has its own direct demand; and from that the derived demand for any of the things used in making it can be found, and the thing is "distributed between its various uses" in the manner which we have already discussed
. The various uses are rivals, or competitors with one another; and the corresponding derived demands are
competitive demands relatively to one another. But in relation to the supply of the product, they co-operate with one another; being "compounded" into the total demand that carries off the supply: in just the same way as the partial demands of several classes of society for a finished commodity are aggregated, or compounded together into the total demand for it
§ 4. We may now pass to consider the case of
joint products: i.e. of things which cannot easily be produced separately; but are joined in a common origin, and may therefore be said to have a
joint supply, such as beef and hides, or wheat and straw
. This case corresponds to that of things which have a joint demand, and it may be discussed almost in the same words, by merely substituting "demand" for "supply," and
vice versâ. As there is a joint demand for things joined in a common destination: so there is a joint supply of things which have a common origin. The single supply of the common origin is split up into so many derived supplies of the things that proceed from it
There are very few cases of joint products the cost of production of both of which together is exactly the same as that of one of them alone. So long as any product of a business has a market value, it is almost sure to have devoted to it some special care and expense, which would be diminished, or dispensed with if the demand for that product were to fall very much. Thus, for instance, if straw were valueless, farmers would exert themselves more than they do to make the ear bear as large a proportion as possible to the stalk. Again, the importation of foreign wool has caused English sheep to be adapted by judicious crossing and selection so as to develop heavy weights of good meat at an early age, even at the expense of some deterioration of their wool. It is only when one of two things produced by the same process is valueless, unsaleable, and yet does not involve any expense for its removal, that there is no inducement to attempt to alter its amount; and, it is only in these exceptional cases that we have no means of assigning its separate supply price to each of the joint products. For when it is possible to modify the proportions of these products, we can ascertain what part of the whole expense of the process of production would be saved, by so modifying these proportions as slightly to diminish the amount of one of the joint products without affecting the amounts of the others. That part of the expense is the expense of production of the marginal element of that product; it is the supply price of which we are in search
§ 5. We may pass to the problem of
composite supply which is analogous to that of composite demand. A demand can often be satisfied by any one of several routes, according to the principle of substitution. These various routes are rivals or competitors with one another; and the corresponding supplies of commodities are
competitive supplies relatively to one another. But in relation to the demand they co-operate with one another; being "compounded" into the total supply that meets the demand
If the causes which govern their production are nearly the same, they may for many purposes be treated as one commodity
. For instance, beef and mutton may be treated as varieties of one commodity for many purposes; but they must be treated as separate for others, as for instance for those in which the question of the supply of wool enters. Rival things are however often not finished commodities, but factors of production: for instance, there are many rival fibres which are used in making ordinary printing paper. We have just noticed how the fierce action of derived demand for one of several complementary supplies, as
e.g. for the supply of plasterers' labour, was liable to be moderated, when the demand was met by the competitive supply of a rival thing, which could be substituted for it
Thus when charcoal was generally used in making iron, the price of leather depended in some measure on that of iron; and the tanners petitioned for the exclusion of foreign iron in order that the demand on the part of English iron smelters for oak charcoal might cause the production of English oak to be kept up, and thus prevent oak bark from becoming dear
. This instance may serve to remind us of the way in which an excessive demand for a thing may cause its sources of supply to be destroyed, and thus render scarce any joint products that it may have: for the demand for wood on the part of the ironmakers led to a relentless destruction of many forests in England. Again, an excessive demand for lamb was assigned as a cause of the prevailing scarcity of sheep some years ago; while some argued on the contrary that the better the price to be got for spring lamb sold to the rich, the more profitable would be the production of sheep, and the cheaper would mutton be for the people. The fact is that an increase of demand may have opposite effects according as it does or does not act so suddenly as to prevent producers from adapting their action to it.
The broad account given in the text may suffice for most purposes; and the general reader should perhaps omit the remaining footnotes to this chapter.
It must be remembered that this Derived schedule has no validity except on the suppositions that we are isolating this one factor for separate study; that its own conditions of supply are disturbed; that there is at the time no independent disturbance affecting any other element in the problem; and that therefore in the case of each of the other factors of production the selling price may be taken to coincide always with the supply price.
In illustrating this by a diagram, it will be well, for the sake of shortness of wording, to divide the expenses of production of a commodity into the supply prices of two things of which it is made; let us then regard the supply price of a knife as the sum of the supply prices of its blade and handle, and neglect the expense of putting the two together.
ss' be the supply curve for handles and
SS' that for knives; so that
M being any point on
MqQ being drawn vertically to cut
Q, Mq is the supply price for
qQ is the supply price for
OM blades and
MQ the supply price for
OM knives. Let
DD' the demand curve for knives cut
AaB be drawn vertically as in the figure. Then in equilibrium
OB knives are sold at a price
BA of which
Ba goes for the handle and
aA for the blade.
(In this illustration we may suppose that sufficient time is allowed to enable the forces which govern supply price to work themselves out fully; and we are at liberty therefore to make our supply curves inclined negatively. This change will not affect the argument; but on the whole it is best to take our typical instance with the supply curve inclined positively.)
Now let us suppose that we want to isolate for separate study the demand for knife handles. Accordingly we suppose that the demand for knives and the supply of blades conform to the laws indicated by their respective curves: also that the supply curve for handles still remains in force and represents the circumstances of normal supply of handles, although the supply of handles is temporarily disturbed. Let
MP is the demand price for
OM knives and
Qq is the supply price for
OM blades. Take a point
MP such that
Pp is equal to
Qq, and therefore
Mp is the excess of
Mp is the demand price for
OM handles. Let
dd' be the locus of
p obtained by giving
M successive positions along
Ox and finding the corresponding positions of
dd' is the derived demand curve for handles. Of course it passes through
a. We may now neglect all the rest of the figure except the curves
ss'; and regard them as representing the relations of demand for and supply of handles, other things being equal, that is to say, in the absence of any disturbing cause which affects the law of supply of blades and the law of demand for knives.
Ba is then the equilibrium price of handles, about which the market price oscillates, in the manner investigated in the preceding chapter, under the influence of demand and supply, of which the schedules are represented by
ss'. It has already been remarked that the ordinary demand and supply curves have no practical value except in the immediate neighbourhood of the point of equilibrium. And the same remark applies with even greater force to the equation of derived demand.
A being a point of stable equilibrium, the equilibrium at
a also is stable. But this statement needs to be somewhat qualified if the supply curves are negatively inclined: see Appendix H.]
In the illustration that has just been worked out the unit of each of the factors remains unchanged whatever be the amount of the commodity produced; for one blade and one handle are always required for each knife; but when a change in the amount of the commodity produced occasions a change in the amount of each factor that is required for the production of a unit of the commodity, the demand and supply curves for the factor got by the above process are not expressed in terms of fixed units of the factor. They must be translated back into fixed units before they are available for general use. (See Mathematical Note XIV
We have to inquire under what conditions the ratio
aB will be the greatest,
pM being the demand price for the factor in question corresponding to a supply reduced from
OM, that is reduced by the given amount
BM. The second condition is that
PM should be large; and since the elasticity of demand is measured by the ratio which
BM bears to the excess of
AB, the greater
PM is, the smaller other things being equal, is the elasticity of demand.
It is shown in Böhm-Bawerk's excellent
Grundzüge der Theorie des wirtschaftlichen Güterwerts (
Jahrbuch für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, vol. XIII. p. 59) that if all but one of the factors of production of a commodity have available substitutes in unlimited supply, by which their own price is rigidly fixed, the derived demand price for the remaining factor will be the excess of the demand price for the finished product over the sum of the supply prices thus fixed for the remaining factors. This is an interesting special case of the law given in the text.
If it is desired to isolate the relations of demand
for a joint product, the derived supply
price is found in just the same way as the derived demand
price for a factor of production was found in the parallel case of demand
. Other things must be assumed to be equal (that is, the supply
schedule for the whole process of production must be assumed to remain in force and so must the demand
schedule for each of the joint products except that to be isolated). The derived supply
price is then found by the rule that it must equal the excess of the supply
price for the whole process of production over the sum of the demand
prices of all the other joint products; the prices being taken throughout with reference to corresponding amounts.
We may again illustrate by a simple example in which it is assumed that the relative amounts of the two joint products are unalterable. Let
SS' be the supply curve for bullocks which yield meat and leather in fixed quantities;
dd' the demand curve for their carcases, that is, for the meat derived from them.
M being any point on
Mp vertically to cut
p, and produce it to
P so that
pP represents the demand price for
OM hides. Then
MP is the demand price for
OM bullocks, and
DD' the locus of
P is the demand curve for bullocks: it may be called the total demand curve. Let
A; and draw
AaB as in the figure. Then in equilibrium
OB bullocks are produced and sold at the price
BA of which
Ba goes for the carcase and
aA for the hide.
QM cut off
Qq equal to
q is a point on the derived supply curve for carcases. For if we assume that the selling price of
OM hides is always equal to the corresponding demand price
Pp, it follows that since it costs
QM to produce each of
OM bullocks there remains a price
Pp, that is
qM, to be borne by each of the
OM carcases. Then
ss' the locus of
dd' are the supply and demand curves for carcases. (See Mathematical Note XVIII.)
All difficulties of this kind are much increased by that instability of supply price, which results whenever the tendency to increasing return is acting strongly. We have seen that in seeking the normal supply price in such cases we must select as representative a business which is managed with normal ability and so as to get its fair share of the economies, both internal and external, resulting from industrial organization: also that these economies, though they fluctuate with the fortunes of particular businesses, yet increase generally when the aggregate production increases. Now it is obvious that if a manufacturer makes a commodity the increased production of which would put largely increased internal economies within his reach, it is worth his while to sacrifice a great deal in order to push its sales in a new market. If he has a large capital, and the commodity is one in much demand, his expenditure for this purpose may be very great, even exceeding that which he devotes directly to the manufacture: and if, as is likely, he is pushing at the same time several other commodities, nothing more than a very rough guess can be made as to what share of this expenditure should be charged to the sales of each of them in the current year, and what share should be charged to the connection which he is endeavouring to build up for them in the future.
It was indicated at the end of Chapter VI. that no one part of the problem can be isolated from the rest. There are comparatively few things the demand for which is not greatly affected by the demand for other things to the usefulness of which they contribute; and it may even be said that the demand for the majority of articles of commerce is not direct but is derived from the demand for those commodities to the making of which they contribute, as materials or as implements. And again this demand, because it is so derived, is largely dependent on the supply of other things which will work with them in making those commodities. And again the supply of anything available for use in making any commodity is apt to be greatly influenced by the demand for that thing derived from its uses in making other commodities: and so on. These inter-relations can be and must be ignored in rapid and popular discussions on the business affairs of the world. But no study that makes any claim to thoroughness can escape from a close investigation of them. This requires many things to be borne in mind at the same time: and for that reason economics can never become a simple science
Similarly, with regard to machinery and other appliances of production made by man, there is a margin through which additional supplies come in after overcoming the resistance of a spring, called "cost of production." For when the supply of those appliances is so small relatively to the demand that the earnings expected from new supplies are more than sufficient to yield normal interest (or profits, if earnings of management are reckoned in) on their cost of production, besides allowing for depreciation, etc., then the valve opens, and the new supplies come in. When the earnings are less than this, the valve remains shut: and as anyhow the existing supply is always in process of slow destruction by use and the lapse of time, the supply is always shrinking when the valve is closed. The valve is that part of the machinery by which the general relations of demand and supply govern value. But marginal uses do not govern value; because they, together with value, are themselves governed by those general relations.
But if he invests in land, or in a durable building or machine, the return which he gets from his investment may vary widely from his expectation. It will be governed by the market for his products, which may change its character largely through new inventions, changes in fashion, etc., during the life of a machine, to say nothing of the perpetual life of land. The incomes which he thus may derive from investments in land and in machinery differ from his individual point of view mainly in the longer life of the land. But in regard to production in general, a dominant difference between the two lies in the fact that the supply of land is fixed (though in a new country, the supply of land utilized in man's service may be increased); while the supply of machines may be increased without limit. And this difference reacts on the individual producer. For if no great new invention renders his machines obsolete, while there is a steady demand for the things made by them, they will be constantly on sale at about their cost of production; and his machines will generally yield him normal profits on that cost of production, with deductions corresponding to their wear and tear.
§ 2. Let us suppose that a meteoric shower of a few thousand large stones harder than diamonds fell all in one place; so that they were all picked up at once, and no amount of search could find any more. These stones, able to cut every material, would revolutionize many branches of industry; and the owners of them would have a differential advantage in production, that would afford a large producer's surplus. This surplus would be governed wholly by the urgency and volume of the demand for their services on the one hand and the number of the stones on the other hand: it could not be affected by the cost of obtaining a further supply, because none could be had at any price. A cost of production might indeed influence their value indirectly: but it would be the cost of tools made of hard steel and other materials of which the supply can be increased to keep pace with demand. So long as any of the stones were habitually used by intelligent producers for work which could be done equally well by such tools, the value of a stone could not much exceed the cost of producing tools (allowance being made for wear and tear) equally efficient with it in these inferior uses.
But when he had once bought the stones, changes in the processes of production or of demand for the things made by their aid, might cause the income yielded by them to become twice as great or only half as great as he had expected. In the latter case it would resemble the income derived from a machine, which had not the latest improvements and could earn only half as much as a new machine of equal cost. The values of the stone and of the machine alike would be reached by capitalizing the income which they were capable of earning, and that income would be governed by the net value of the services rendered by them. The income earning power and therefore the value of each would be independent of its own costs of production, but would be governed by the general demand for its products in relation to the general supply of those products. But in the case of the machine that supply would be controlled by the cost of supply of new machines equally efficient with it; and in the case of the stone there would be no such limit, so long as all the stones in existence were employed on work that could not be done by anything else.
This argument may be put in another way. Since any one, who bought stones, would take them from other producers, his purchase would not materially affect the general relations of demand for the services of the stones to the supply of those services. It would not therefore affect the price of the stones; which would still be the capitalized value of the services which they rendered in those uses, in which the need for them was the least urgent: and to say that the purchaser expected normal interest on the price which represented the capitalized value of the services, would be a circular statement that the value of the services rendered by stones is governed by the value of those very services
Next let us suppose that the stones were not all found at once but were scattered over the surface of the earth on public ground, and that a laborious search might expect to be rewarded by finding one here and there. Then people would hunt for the stones only up to that point, or margin, at which the probable gain of so doing would in the long run just reward the outlay of labour and capital involved; and in the long run, the normal value of the stones would be such as to maintain equilibrium between demand and supply, the number of the stones gathered annually being in the long run just that for which the normal demand price was equal to the normal supply price.
Taking an intermediate hypothesis as to the length of life of the stones and the rapidity with which new supplies could be obtained; we find that the charges which the borrower of stones must expect to pay, and the revenue which the owner of the stones could reckon on deriving from them at any time, might temporarily diverge some way from interest (or profits) on their cost. For changes in the urgency and volume of the uses to which they could be applied, might have caused the value of the services rendered by them in their marginal uses to rise or fall a great deal, even though there had been no considerable change in the difficulty of obtaining them. And if this rise or fall, arising from variations in demand, and not from variations in the cost of the stones, is likely to be great during the period of any particular enterprise, or any particular problem of value that is under discussion; then for that discussion the income yielded by the stones is to be regarded as more nearly akin to a rent than to interest on the cost of producing the stones. A tax upon the stones in such a case would tend to diminish the rental which people would pay for their use, and therefore to diminish the inducements towards investing capital and effort in obtaining additional supplies. It would therefore check the supply, and compel those who needed the stones to pay gradually increasing rentals for their use, up to the point at which the rentals fully covered the costs of producing the stones. But the time needed for this readjustment might be long: and in the interval a great part of the tax would fall upon the owners of the stones.
We may conclude then:—(1) The amount of produce raised, and therefore the position of the margin of cultivation (
i.e. the margin of the profitable application of capital and labour to good and bad land alike) are both governed by the general conditions of demand and supply. They are governed on the one hand by demand; that is, by the numbers of the population who consume the produce, the intensity of their need for it, and their means of paying for it; and on the other hand by supply; that is, by the extent and fertility of the available land, and the numbers and resources of those ready to cultivate it. Thus cost of production, eagerness of demand, margin of production, and price of the produce mutually govern one another: and no circular reasoning is involved in speaking of any one as in part governed by the others. (2) That part of the produce which goes as rent is of course thrown on the market, and acts on prices, in just the same way as any other part. But the general conditions of demand and supply, or their relations to one another, are not affected by the division of the produce into the share of rent and the share needed to render the farmer's expenditure profitable. The amount of that rent is not a governing cause; but is itself governed by the fertility of land, the price of the produce, and the position of the margin: it is the excess of the value of the total returns which capital and labour applied to land do obtain, over those which they would have obtained under circumstances as unfavourable as those on the margin of cultivation. (3) If the cost of production were estimated for parts of the produce which do not come from the margin, a charge on account of rent would of course need to be entered in this estimate; and if this estimate were used in an account of the causes which govern the price of the produce; then the reasoning would be circular. For that, which is wholly an effect, would be reckoned up as part of the cause of those things of which it is an effect. (4) The cost of production of the marginal produce can be ascertained without reasoning in a circle. The cost of production of other parts of the produce cannot. The cost of production on the margin of the profitable application of capital and labour is that to which the price of the whole produce tends, under the control of the general conditions of demand and supply: it does not govern price, but it focusses the causes which do govern price.
If only a little corn had been raised near the margin, a moderate fall in the net price received by the farmer would not cause a great check to the supply of corn. There would therefore be no great rise in the price paid for it by the consumer; and the consumer would bear very little of the tax. But the surplus value of the corn over its expenses of production would fall considerably. The farmer, if cultivating his own land, would bear the greater part of the tax. And, if he were renting the land, he could demand a great reduction of his rent.
Meanwhile the tendency towards a general restriction in the supply of hops would tend to raise their price. If the demand for them were very rigid, and hops of adequate quality could not easily be imported from beyond the range of this special tax, the price might rise by nearly the full amount of the tax. In that case the tendency would be checked, and very nearly as much hops would be grown as before the tax had been levied. And here, as in the case of a tax on printing, recently discussed, the effect of a local tax is in strong contrast to that of a general tax. For unless the local tax covered most of the ground in the country on which good hops could be grown, its effect would be to drive them beyond its boundary: very little revenue would be got from it, local farmers would suffer a good deal, and the public would pay a rather higher price for their hops.
§ 6. The argument of the last section applies, so far as short periods are concerned, to the earning power of farm-buildings and to other quasi-rents. When existing farm-buildings, or other appliances which could be used in producing one commodity are diverted to producing another because the demand for that is such as to enable them to earn a higher income by producing it, then
for the time the supply of the first will be less, and its price higher than if the appliances had not been able to earn a higher income by another use. Thus, when appliances are capable of being used in more than one branch of agriculture, the marginal cost in each branch will be affected by the extent to which these appliances are called off for work in other branches. Other agents of production will be pushed to more intensive uses in the first branch, in spite of a diminishing return; and the value of its product will rise, because only at a higher value will the price be in equilibrium. The increased earning power of the appliances due to the external demand will appear to be the cause of this increase in value: for it will cause a relative scarcity of the appliances in that branch of production, and therefore raise marginal costs. And from this statement it appears superficially to be a simple transition to the statement that the increased earning power of the appliances enter into those costs which govern value. But the transition is illegitimate. There will be no direct or numerical relation between the increase in the price of the first commodity and the income that the appliances can earn when they have been transferred to the second industry and adapted for service in it.
By erecting this floor, instead of spreading the building over more ground, a saving in the cost of land is effected, which just compensates for the extra expense and inconvenience of the plan. The accommodation given by this floor, when allowance has been made for its incidental disadvantages, is only just enough to be worth what it costs without allowing anything for the rent of land; and the expenses of production of the things raised on this floor, if it is part of a factory, are just covered by their price; there is no surplus for the rent of land. The expenses of production of manufactures may then be reckoned as those of the goods which are made on the margin of building, so as to pay no rent for land. That is to say the rent of the land does not enter into that set of expenses at the margin at which the action of the forces of demand and supply in governing value may be most clearly seen.
But we have to go behind that fact. The general relations of demand and supply cause production to be carried up to a margin at which the expenses of production (nothing being entered for rent) are so high that people are willing to pay a high value for additional land in order to avoid the inconvenience and expense of crowding their work on to a narrow site. These causes govern site value; and site value is therefore not properly regarded as governing marginal costs.
In each case the rising demand for land alters the margin to which it is profitable to carry the intensive use of land: the costs at this margin indicate the action of those fundamental causes which govern the value of the land. And at the same time they are themselves those costs to which the general conditions of demand and supply compel value to conform: and therefore it is right for our purpose to go straight to them; though any such inquiry would be irrelevant to the purposes of a private balance sheet.
It is however true that, if without any increase in traffic such as brings extra custom, a situation becomes more valuable for purposes other than shopkeeping; then only those shopkeepers will be able to pay their way who can manage to secure a large custom relatively to the prices which they charge and the class of business which they do. There will therefore be a smaller supply of shopkeepers in all trades for which the demand has not increased: and those who remain, will be able to charge a higher price than before, without offering any greater conveniences and attractions to their customers. The rise of ground values in the district will thus be an indication of a scarcity of space which, other things being equal, will raise the prices of retail goods; just in the same way as the rise of agricultural rents in any district will indicate a scarcity of land which will raise the marginal expenses of production, and therefore the price of any particular crop.
§ 1. We may now continue the study begun in chapters III. and V.; and examine some difficulties connected with the relations of demand and supply as regards commodities the production of which tends to increasing return.
Here there is to be noted an important difference between demand and supply. A fall in the price, at which a commodity is offered, acts on demand always in one direction. The amount of the commodity demanded may increase much or little according as the demand is elastic or inelastic: and a long or short time may be required for developing the new and extended uses of the commodity, which are rendered possible by the fall in price
. But—at all events if exceptional cases in which a thing is driven out of fashion by a fall in its price be neglected—the influence of price on demand is similar in character for all commodities: and, further, those demands which show high elasticity in the long run, show a high elasticity almost at once; so that, subject to a few exceptions, we may speak of the demand for a commodity as being of high or low elasticity without specifying how far we are looking ahead.
But there are no such simple rules with regard to supply. An increase in the price offered by purchasers does indeed always increase supply: and thus it is true that, if we have regard to short periods only, and especially to the transactions of a dealer's market, there is an "elasticity of supply" which corresponds closely to elasticity of demand. That is to say, a given rise in price will cause a great or a small increase in the offers which sellers accept, according as they have large or small reserves in the background, and as they have formed low or high estimates of the level of prices at the next market: and this rule applies nearly in the same way to things which in the long run have a tendency to diminishing return as to those which have a tendency to increasing return. In fact if the large plant needed in a branch of manufacture is fully occupied, and cannot be rapidly increased, an increase in the price offered for its products may have no perceptible effect in increasing the output for some considerable time: while a similar increase in the demand for a hand-made commodity might call forth quickly a great increase in supply, though in the long run its supply conformed to that of constant return or even of diminishing return.
In the more fundamental questions which relate to long periods, the matter is even more complex. For the ultimate output corresponding to an unconditional demand at even current prices would be theoretically infinite; and therefore the elasticity of supply of a commodity which conforms to the law of Increasing Return, or even to that of Constant Return, is theoretically infinite for long periods
This then is the marginal cost on which we fix our eyes. We do not expect it to fall immediately in consequence of a sudden increase of demand. On the contrary we expect the short-period supply price to increase with increasing output. But we also expect a gradual increase in demand to increase gradually the size and the efficiency of this representative firm; and to increase the economies both internal and external which are at its disposal.
That is to say, when making lists of supply prices (supply schedules) for long periods in these industries, we set down a diminished supply price against an increased amount of the flow of the goods; meaning thereby that a flow of that increased amount will in the course of time be supplied profitably at that lower price, to meet a fairly steady corresponding demand. We exclude from view any economies that may result from substantive new inventions; but we include those which may be expected to arise naturally out of adaptations of existing ideas; and we look towards a position of balance or equilibrium between the forces of progress and decay, which would be attained if the conditions under view were supposed to act uniformly for a long time. But such notions must be taken broadly. The attempt to make them precise over-reaches our strength. If we include in our account nearly all the conditions of real life, the problem is too heavy to be handled; if we select a few, then long-drawn-out and subtle reasonings with regard to them become scientific toys rather than engines for practical work.
The theory of stable equilibrium of normal demand and supply helps indeed to give definiteness to our ideas; and in its elementary stages it does not diverge from the actual facts of life, so far as to prevent its giving a fairly trustworthy picture of the chief methods of action of the strongest and most persistent group of economic forces. But when pushed to its more remote and intricate logical consequences, it slips away from the conditions of real life. In fact we are here verging on the high theme of economic progress; and here therefore it is especially needful to remember that economic problems are imperfectly presented when they are treated as problems of statical equilibrium, and not of organic growth. For though the statical treatment alone can give us definiteness and precision of thought, and is therefore a necessary introduction to a more philosophic treatment of society as an organism; it is yet only an introduction.
This may be expressed by saying that when we are considering an individual producer, we must couple his supply curve—not with the general demand curve for his commodity in a wide market, but—with the particular demand curve of his own special market. And this particular demand curve will generally be very steep; perhaps as steep as his own supply curve is likely to be, even when an increased output will give him an important increase of internal economies.
§ 1. In earlier chapters of this Book, and especially in chapter XII., we have considered gradual changes in the adjustment of demand and supply. But any great and lasting change in fashion; any substantive new invention; any diminution of population by war or pestilence; or the development or dwindling away of a source of supply of the commodity in question, or of a raw material used in it, or of another commodity which is a rival and possible substitute for it:—such a change as any of these may cause the prices set against any given annual (or daily) consumption and production of the commodity to cease to be its normal demand and supply prices for that volume of consumption and production; or, in other words, they may render it necessary to make out a new demand schedule or a new supply schedule, or both of them. We proceed to study the problems thus suggested.
An increase of normal demand for a commodity involves an increase in the price at which each several amount can find purchasers; or, which is the same thing, an increase of the quantity which can find purchasers at any price. This increase of demand may be caused by the commodity's coming more into fashion, by the opening out of a new use for it or of new markets for it, by the permanent falling off in the supply of some commodity for which it can be used as a substitute, by a permanent increase in the wealth and general purchasing power of the community, and so on. Changes in the opposite direction will cause a falling off in demand and a sinking of the demand prices. Similarly an increase of normal supply means an increase of the amounts that can be supplied at each several price, and a diminution of the price at which each separate amount can be supplied
. This change may be caused by the opening up of a new source of supply, whether by improved means of transport or in any other way, by an advance in the arts of production, such as the invention of a new process or of new machinery, or again, by the granting of a bounty on production. Conversely, a diminution of normal supply (or a raising of the supply schedule) may be caused by the closing up of a new source of supply or by the imposition of a tax.
§ 2. We have, then, to regard the effects of an increase of normal demand from three points of view, according as the commodity in question obeys the law of constant or of diminishing or of increasing return: that is, its supply price is practically constant for all amounts, or increases or diminishes with an increase in the amount produced.
On the other hand, if the commodity obeys the law of increasing return, an increase of demand causes much more of it to be produced,—more than if the commodity obeyed the law of constant return,—and at the same time lowers its price. If, for instance, a thousand things of a certain kind have been produced and sold weekly at a price of 10
s., while the supply price for two thousand weekly would be only 9
s., a small rate of increase in normal demand may gradually cause this to become the normal price; since we are considering periods long enough for the full normal action of the causes that determine supply to work itself out. The converse holds in each case should normal demand fall off instead of increasing
§ 3. We have seen that an increase in normal demand, while leading in every case to an increased production, will in some cases raise and in others lower prices. But now we are to see that increased facilities for supply (causing the supply schedule to be lowered) will always lower the normal price at the same time that it leads to an increase in the amount produced. For so long as the normal demand remains unchanged an increased supply can be sold only at a diminished price; but the fall of price consequent on a given increase of supply will be much greater in some cases than in others. It will be small if the commodity obeys the law of diminishing return; because then the difficulties attendant on an increased production will tend to counteract the new facilities of supply. On the other hand, if the commodity obeys the law of increasing return, the increased production will bring with it increased facilities, which will co-operate with those arising from the change in the general conditions of supply; and the two together will enable a great increase in production and consequent fall in price to be attained before the fall of the supply price is overtaken by the fall of the demand price. If it happens that the demand is very elastic, then a small increase in the facilities of normal supply, such as a new invention, a new application of machinery, the opening up of new and cheaper sources of supply, the taking off a tax or granting a bounty, may cause an enormous increase of production and fall of price
If we take account of the circumstances of composite and joint supply and demand discussed in chapter VI., we have suggested to us an almost endless variety of problems which can be worked out by the methods adopted in these two chapters.
These results are suggestive of some principles of taxation which require careful attention in any study of financial policy; when it will be necessary to take account of the expenses of collecting a tax and of administering a bounty, and of the many indirect effects, some economic and some moral, which a tax or a bounty is likely to produce. But these partial results are well adapted for our immediate purpose of examining a little more closely than we have done hitherto the general doctrine that a position of (stable) equilibrium of demand and supply is a position also of
maximum satisfaction: and there is one abstract and trenchant form of that doctrine which has had much vogue, especially since the time of Bastiat's
Economic Harmonics, and which falls within the narrow range of the present discussion.
§ 5. There is indeed one interpretation of the doctrine according to which every position of equilibrium of demand and supply may fairly be regarded as a position of maximum satisfaction
. For it is true that so long as the demand price is in excess of the supply price, exchanges can be effected at prices which give a surplus of satisfaction to buyer or to seller or to both. The marginal utility of what he receives is greater than that of what he gives up, to at least one of the two parties; while the other, if he does not gain by the exchange, yet does not lose by it. So far then every step in the exchange increases the aggregate satisfaction of the two parties. But when equilibrium has been reached, demand price being now equal to supply price, there is no room for any such surplus: the marginal utility of what each receives no longer exceeds that of what he gives up in exchange: and when the production increases beyond the equilibrium amount, the demand price being now less than the supply price, no terms can be arranged which will be acceptable to the buyer, and will not involve a loss to the seller.
It is true then that a position of equilibrium of demand and supply is a position of maximum satisfaction in this limited sense, that the aggregate satisfaction of the two parties concerned increases until that position is reached; and that any production beyond the equilibrium amount could not be permanently maintained so long as buyers and sellers acted freely as individuals, each in his own interest.
But occasionally it is stated, and very often it is implied, that a position of equilibrium of demand and supply is one of maximum aggregate satisfaction in the full sense of the term: that is, that an increase of production beyond the equilibrium level would directly (
i.e. independently of the difficulties of arranging for it, and of any indirect evils it might cause) diminish the aggregate satisfaction of both parties. The doctrine so interpreted is not universally true.
In the first place it assumes that all differences in wealth between the different parties concerned may be neglected, and that the satisfaction which is rated at a shilling by any one of them, may be taken as equal to one that is rated at a shilling by any other. Now it is obvious that, if the producers were as a class very much poorer than the consumers, the aggregate satisfaction might be increased by a stinting of supply when it would cause a great rise in demand price (
i.e. when the demand is inelastic); and that if the consumers were as a class much poorer than the producers, the aggregate satisfaction might be increased by extending the production beyond the equilibrium amount and selling the commodity at a loss
But in the second place the doctrine of maximum satisfaction assumes that every fall in the price which producers receive for the commodity, involves a corresponding loss to them; and this is not true of a fall in price which results from improvements in industrial organization. When a commodity obeys the law of increasing return, an increase in its production beyond equilibrium point may cause the supply price to fall much; and though the demand price for the increased amount may be reduced even more, so that the production would result in some loss to the producers, yet this loss may be very much less than that money value of the gain to purchasers which is represented by the increase of consumers' surplus.
These conclusions, it will be observed, do not by themselves afford a valid ground for government interference. But they show that much remains to be done, by a careful collection of the statistics of demand and supply, and a scientific interpretation of their results, in order to discover what are the limits of the work that society can with advantage do towards turning the economic actions of individuals into those channels in which they will add the most to the sum total of happiness
A rise or fall of the demand
prices involves of course a rise or fall of the demand
If the change is gradual, the supply curve will assume in succession a series of positions, each of which is a little below the preceding one; and in this way we might have represented the effects of that gradual improvement of industrial organization which arises from an increase in the scale of production, and which we have represented by assigning to it an influence upon the supply price for long-period curves. In an ingenious paper privately printed by Sir H. Cunynghame, a suggestion is made, which seems to come in effect to proposing that a long-period supply curve should be regarded as in some manner representing a series of short-period curves; each of these curves would assume throughout its whole length that development of industrial organization which properly belongs to the scale of production represented by the distance from
Oy of the point in which that curve cuts the long-period supply curve (compare Appendix H, 3) and similarly with regard to demand.
Diagrams are of especial aid in enabling us to comprehend clearly the problems of this chapter.
The three figures 24, 25, 26 represent the three cases of constant, diminishing and increasing return respectively. The return in the last case is a diminishing one in the earlier stages of the increase of production, but an increasing one in those subsequent to the attainment of the original position of equilibrium,
i.e. for amounts of the commodity greater than
OH. In each case
SS' is the supply curve,
DD' the old position of the demand curve, and
dd' its position after there has been increase of normal demand. In each case
a are the old and new positions of equilibrium respectively,
ah are the old and new normal or equilibrium prices, and
Oh the old and new equilibrium amounts.
Oh is in every case greater than
OH, but in fig. 25 it is only a little greater, while in fig. 26 it is much greater. (This analysis may be carried further on the plan adopted later on in discussing the similar but more important problem of the effects of changes in the conditions of normal supply.) In fig. 24
ah is equal to
AH, in fig. 25 it is greater, in fig. 26 it is less.
The effect of a falling-off of normal demand can be traced with the same diagrams,
dd' being now regarded as the old and
DD' as the new position of this demand curve;
ah being the old equilibrium price, and
AH the new one.
All this can be most clearly seen by the aid of diagrams, and indeed there are some parts of the problem which cannot be satisfactorily treated without their aid. The three figures 27, 28, 29 represent the three cases of constant and diminishing and increasing returns, respectively.
In each case
DD' is the demand curve,
SS' the old position, and
ss' the new position of the supply curve.
A is the old, and
a the new position of stable equilibrium.
Oh is greater than
ah is less than
AH in every case: but the changes are small in fig. 28 and great in fig. 29. Of course the demand curve must lie below the old supply curve to the right of
A would be a point not of stable, but of unstable equilibrium. But subject to this condition the more elastic the demand is, that is, the more nearly horizontal the demand curve is at
A the further off will
a be from
A, and the greater therefore will be the increase of production and the fall of price.
The whole result is rather complex. But it may be stated thus. Firstly, given the elasticity of demand at
A, the increase in the quantity produced and the fall in price will both be the greater, the greater be the return got from additional capital and labour applied to the production. That is, they will be the greater, the more nearly horizontal the supply curve is at
A in fig. 28, and the more steeply inclined it is in fig. 29 (subject to the condition mentioned above, that it does not lie below the demand curve to the right of
A, and thus turn
A into a position of unstable equilibrium). Secondly, given the position of the supply curve at
A, the greater the elasticity of demand the greater will be the increase of production in every case; but the smaller will be the fall of price in fig. 28, and the greater the fall of price in fig. 29. Fig. 27 may be regarded as a limiting case of either fig. 28 or 29.
All this reasoning assumes that the commodity either obeys the law of diminishing return or obeys the law of increasing return throughout. If it obeys first one, and then the other, so that the supply curve is at one part inclined positively and at another negatively, no general rule can be laid down as to the effect on price of increased facilities of supply, though in every case this must lead to an increased volume of production. A great variety of curious results may be got by giving the supply curve different shapes, and in particular such as cut the demand curve more than once.
This method of inquiry is not applicable to a tax on wheat in so far as it is consumed by a labouring class which spends a great part of its income on bread; and it is not applicable to a general tax on all commodities: for in neither of these cases can it be assumed that the marginal value of money to the individual remains approximately the same after the tax has been levied as it was before.
This is most clearly seen by aid of a diagram.
', the old constant return supply
' the demand
is the consumers' surplus. Afterwards a tax
being imposed the new equilibrium is found at
and consumers' surplus is
The gross tax is only the rectangle
that is, a tax at the rate of
on an amount
of the commodity. And this falls short of the loss of consumers' surplus by the area
The net loss
is small or great, other things being equal, as
is or is not inclined steeply. Thus it is smallest for those commodities the demand
for which is most inelastic, that is, for necessaries. If therefore a given aggregate taxation has to be levied ruthlessly from any class it will cause less loss of consumers' surplus if levied on necessaries than if levied on comforts; though of course the consumption of luxuries and in a less degree of comforts indicates ability to bear taxation.
§ 1. It has never been supposed that the monopolist in seeking his own advantage is naturally guided in that course which is most conducive to the wellbeing of society regarded as a whole, he himself being reckoned as of no more importance than any other member of it. The doctrine of Maximum Satisfaction has never been applied to the demand for and supply of monopolized commodities. But there is much to be learnt from a study of the relations in which the interests of the monopolist stand to those of the rest of society, and of the general conditions under which it might be possible to make arrangements more beneficial to society as a whole than those which he would adopt if he consulted only his own interests: and with this end in view we are now to seek for a scheme for comparing the relative quantities of the benefits which may accrue to the public and to the monopolist from the adoption of different courses of action by him.
§ 2. The
primâ facie interest of the owner of a monopoly is clearly to adjust the supply to the demand, not in such a way that the price at which he can sell his commodity shall just cover its expenses of production, but in such a way as to afford him the greatest possible total net revenue.
§ 3. The demand schedule for gas remains the same as it would be if gas were a freely-produced commodity; it specifies the price per thousand feet at which consumers in the town will among them use any given number of feet. But the supply schedule must represent the normal expenses of production of each several amount supplied; and these include interest on all its capital, whether belonging to its shareholders or borrowed on debentures, at a fixed normal rate; they include also the salaries of its directors, and permanent officials, adjusted (more or less accurately) to the work required of them, and therefore increasing with an increase in the output of gas. A
monopoly revenue schedule may then be constructed thus:—Having set against each several amount of the commodity its demand price, and its supply price estimated on the plan just described, subtract each supply price from the corresponding demand price and set the residue in the monopoly revenue column against the corresponding amount of the commodity.
§ 5. The monopolist would lose all his monopoly revenue if he produced for sale an amount so great that its supply price, as here defined, was equal to its demand price: the amount which gives the maximum monopoly revenue is always considerably less than that. It may therefore appear as though the amount produced under a monopoly is always less and its price to the consumer always higher than if there were no monopoly. But this is not the case.
This argument does indeed assume the single firm to be managed with ability and enterprise, and to have an unlimited command of capital—an assumption which cannot always be fairly made. But where it can be made, we may generally conclude that the supply schedule for the commodity, if not monopolized, would show higher supply prices than those of our monopoly supply schedule; and therefore the equilibrium amount of the commodity produced under free competition would be less than that for which the demand price is equal to the monopoly supply price
The practical bearings of many of the abstract reasonings in which we have recently been engaged will not be fully apparent till we approach the end of this treatise. But there seemed to be advantages in introducing them thus early, partly because of their close connection with the main theory of equilibrium of demand and supply, and partly because they throw side lights on the character and the purposes of that investigation of the causes which determine distribution on which we are about to enter.
' being the demand
' the curve corresponding to the supply
schedule described in the text, let
be drawn vertically from any point
; and from it cut off
, then the locus of
will be our third curve,
', which we may call the
monopoly revenue curve.
price for a small quantity of gas will of course be very high; and in the neighbourhood of
curve will be above the demand
curve, and therefore the net revenue curve will be below
It will cut
and again in
points which are vertically under
the two points of intersection of the demand
curves. The maximum monopoly revenue will then be obtained by finding a point
' such that
being drawn perpendicular to
is a maximum.
being produced to cut
, the company, if desiring to obtain the greatest immediate monopoly revenue, will fix the price per thousand feet at
, and consequently will sell
thousand feet; the expenses of production will be
per thousand feet, and the aggregate net revenue will be
, or which is the same thing
The dotted lines in the diagram are known to mathematicians as rectangular hyperbolas; but we may call them
constant revenue curves: for they are such that if from a point on any one of them lines be drawn perpendicular to
Oy respectively (the one representing revenue per thousand feet and the other representing the number of thousand feet sold), then the product of these will be a constant quantity for every point on one and the same curve. This product is of course a smaller quantity for the inner curves, those nearer
Oy, than it is for the outer curves. And consequently since
P3 is on a smaller constant revenue curve than
MP3 is less than
Lq3. It will be noticed that
q3 is the point in which
QQ' touches one of these curves. That is,
q3 is on a larger constant revenue curve than is any other point on
QQ'; and therefore
Lq3 is greater than
MP3, not only in the position given to
M in the figure, but also in any position that
M can take along
Ox. That is to say,
q3 has been correctly determined as the point on
QQ' corresponding to the maximum total monopoly revenue. And thus we get the rule:—If through that point in which
QQ' touches one of a series of constant revenue curves, a line be drawn vertically to cut the demand curve, then the distance of that point of intersection from
Ox will be the price at which the commodity should be offered for sale in order that it may afford the maximum monopoly revenue. See Note XXII. in the Mathematical Appendix.
In the text it is supposed that the tax or bounty is directly proportional to the sales: but the argument, when closely examined, will be found to involve no further assumption than that the aggregate tax or bounty increases with every increase in that amount: the argument does not really require that it should increase in exact proportion to that amount.
Much instruction is to be got by drawing diagrams to represent various conditions of demand and of (monopoly) supply, with the resultant shapes of the monopoly revenue curve. A careful study of the shapes thus obtained will give more assistance than any elaborate course of reasoning in the endeavour to realize the multiform action of economic forces in relation to monopolies. A tracing may be made on thin paper of the constant revenue curves in one of the diagrams; and this, when laid over a monopoly revenue curve, will indicate at once the point, or points, of maximum revenue. For it will be found, not only when the demand and supply curves cut one another more than once, but also when they do not, there will often be, as in
fig. 35, several points on a monopoly revenue curve at which it touches a constant revenue curve. Each of these points will show a true maximum monopoly revenue; but one of them will generally stand out pre-eminently as being on a larger constant revenue curve than any of the others and therefore indicating a larger monopoly revenue than they.
If it happens, as in fig. 35, that this chief maximum
3 lies a long way to the right of a smaller maximum
q3, then the imposition of a tax on the commodity, or any other change that raised its supply curve throughout, would lower by an equal amount the monopoly revenue curve. Let the supply curve be raised from
SS' to the position
SS'; and in consequence let the monopoly revenue curve fall from its old position
ZZ'; then the chief point of maximum revenue will move from
z3, representing a great diminution of production, a great rise of price and a great injury to the consumers. The converse effects of any change, such as a bounty on the commodity, which lowers its supply price throughout and raises the monopoly revenue curve, may be seen by regarding
ZZ' as the old and
QQ' as the new position of that curve. It will be obvious on a little consideration (but the fact may with advantage be illustrated by drawing suitable diagrams), that the more nearly the monopoly revenue curve approximates to the shape of a constant revenue curve, the greater will be the change in the position of the maximum revenue point which results from any given alteration in the expenses of production of the commodity generally. This change is great in fig. 35 not because
SS' intersect more than once, but because two parts of
QQ', one a long way to the right of the other, lie in the neighbourhood of the same constant revenue curve.
' represent the demand
, and monopoly revenue curves drawn on the same plan as in
is the consumers' surplus derived from the sale of
thousand feet of gas at the price
take a point
= the area
: then as
will trace out our fourth curve,
which we may call the
consumers' surplus curve.
(Of course it passes through
because when the sale of the commodity is reduced to nothing, the consumers' surplus also vanishes.)
P3P1 cut off
P3P5 equal to
MP4, so that
MP3 is the total monopoly revenue when an amount
OM is being sold at a price
MP4 is the corresponding consumers' surplus. Therefore
MP5 is the sum of the monopoly revenue and the consumers' surplus, that is the (money measure of the) total benefit which the community will derive from the commodity when an amount
OM is produced. The locus of
P5 is our fifth curve,
QT, which we may call the
total benefit curve. It touches one of the constant revenue curves at
t5, and this shows that the (money measure of the) total benefit is a maximum when the amount offered for sale is
OW; or, which is the same thing, when the price of sale is fixed at the demand price for
Fig. 37 may be taken to represent the case of a proposed Government undertaking in India. The supply
curve is above the demand
curve during its whole length, showing that the enterprise to which it refers is unremunerative, in the sense that whatever price the producers fix, they will lose money; their monopoly revenue will be a negative quantity. But
the total benefit curve rises above
and touches a constant revenue curve in
. If then they offer for sale an amount
(or, which is the same thing, fix the price at the demand
), the resultant consumers' surplus, if taken at its full value, will outweigh the loss on working by an amount represented by
. But suppose that, in order to make up the deficiency, Government must levy taxes, and that taking account of all indirect expenses and other evils, these cost the public twice what they bring in to the Government, it will then be necessary to count two rupees of the consumers' surplus as compensating for a Government outlay of only one rupee; and in order to represent the net gain of the undertaking on this supposition, we must draw the compromise benefit curve
, but putting
= ½. Thus
. (Another way of putting the same thing is to say that
is drawn midway between the monopoly revenue (negative) curve
' and the total benefit curve
so drawn in fig. 37 touches a constant revenue curve in
, showing that if the amount
is offered for sale, or, which is the same thing, if the price is fixed at the demand
there will result a net gain to India represented by
§ 1. The present chapter contains no new matter: it is a mere summary of the results of Book V. The second half of it may be of service to anyone who has omitted the later chapters: for it may indicate, though it cannot explain, their general drift.
In Book V. we have studied the theory of the mutual relations of demand and supply in their most general form; taking as little account as possible of the special incidents of particular applications of the theory, and leaving over for the following Book the study of the bearings of the general theory on the special features of the several agents of production, Labour, Capital, and Land.
In a rigidly stationary state in which supply could be perfectly adjusted to demand in every particular, the normal expenses of production, the marginal expenses, and the average expenses (rent being counted in) would be one and the same thing, for long periods and for short. But, as it is, the language both of professed writers on economics and of men of business shows much elasticity in the use of the term Normal when applied to the causes that determine value. And one fairly well marked division needs study.
On the other side of the line of division are periods of time long enough to enable producers to adapt their production to changes in demand, in so far as that can be done with the existing provision of specialized skill, specialized capital, and industrial organization; but not long enough to enable them to make any important changes in the supplies of these factors of production. For such periods the stock of material and personal appliances of production has to be taken in a great measure for granted; and the marginal increment of supply is determined by estimates of producers as to the amount of production it is worth their while to get out of those appliances. If trade is brisk all energies are strained to their utmost, overtime is worked, and then the limit to production is given by want of power rather than by want of will to go further or faster. But if trade is slack every producer has to make up his mind how near to prime cost it is worth his while to take fresh orders. And here there is no definite law, the chief operative force is the fear of spoiling the market; and that acts in different ways and with different strengths on different individuals and different industrial groups. For the chief motive of all open combinations and of all informal silent and "customary" understandings whether among employers or employed is the need for preventing individuals from spoiling the common market by action that may bring them immediate gains, but at the cost of a greater aggregate loss to the trade.
§ 2. We next turned aside to consider the relations of demand and supply with reference to things that need to be combined together for the purposes of satisfying a joint demand; of which the most important instance is that of the specialized material capital, and the specialized personal skill that must work together in any trade. For there is no direct demand on the part of consumers for either alone, but only for the two conjointly; the demand for either separately is a derived demand, which rises, other things being equal, with every increase in the demand for the common products, and with every diminution in the supply price of the joint factors of production. In like manner commodities of which there is a joint supply, such as gas and coke, or beef and hides, can each of them have only a derived supply price, governed by the expenses of the whole process of production on the one hand, and on the other by the demand for the remaining joint products.
The composite demand for a thing, resulting from its being used for several different purposes, and the composite supply of a thing, that has several sources of production, present no great difficulty; for the several amounts demanded for the different purposes, or supplied from different sources, can be added together, on the same plan as was adopted in Book III., for combining the demands of the rich, the middle classes and the poor for the same commodity.
§ 3. Returning to those central difficulties of the equilibrium of normal demand and supply which are connected with the element of time, we investigated more fully the relation between the value of an appliance for production and that of the things produced by it.
If land which had been used for growing hops, is found capable of yielding a higher rent as market-garden land, the area under hops will undoubtedly be diminished; and this will raise their marginal cost of production and therefore their price. The rent which land will yield for one kind of produce, calls attention to the fact that a demand for the land for that kind of produce increases the difficulties of supply of other kinds; though it does not directly enter into those expenses. And similar arguments apply to the relation between the site values of urban land and the costs of things made on it.
§ 4. This leads to the consideration of some difficulties of a technical character connected with the marginal expenses of production of a commodity that obeys the law of increasing return. The difficulties arise from the temptation to represent supply price as dependent on the amount produced, without allowing for the length of time that is necessarily occupied by each individual business in extending its internal, and still more its external organization; and in consequence they have been most conspicuous in mathematical and semi-mathematical discussions of the theory of value. For when changes of supply price and amount produced are regarded as dependent exclusively on one another without any reference to gradual growth, it appears reasonable to argue that the marginal supply price for each individual producer is the addition to his aggregate expenses of production made by producing his last element; that this marginal price is likely in many cases to be diminished by an increase in his output much more than the demand price in the general market would be by the same cause.
The statical theory of equilibrium is therefore not wholly applicable to commodities which obey the law of increasing return. It should however be noted that in many industries each producer has a special market in which he is well known, and which he cannot extend quickly; and that therefore, though it might be physically possible for him to increase his output rapidly, he would run the risk of forcing down very much the demand price in his special market, or else of being driven to sell his surplus production outside on less favourable terms. And though there are industries in which each producer has access to the whole of a large market, yet in these there remain but few internal economies to be got by an increase of output, when the existing plant is already well occupied. No doubt there are industries as to which neither of these statements is true: they are in a transitional state, and it must be conceded that the statical theory of equilibrium of normal demand and supply cannot be profitably applied to them. But such cases are not numerous; and with regard to the great bulk of manufacturing industries, the connection between supply price and amount shows a fundamentally different character for short periods and for long.
§ 5. Some study of the effects of a tax, regarded as a special case of a change in the general conditions of demand and supply suggests that, when proper allowance is made for the interests of consumers, there is on abstract grounds rather less
primâ facie cause than the earlier economists supposed, for the general doctrine of so-called "Maximum Satisfaction";
i.e. for the doctrine that the free pursuit by each individual of his own immediate interest, will lead producers to turn their capital and labour, and consumers to turn their expenditure into such courses as are most conducive to the general interests. We have nothing to do at this stage of our inquiry, limited as it is to analysis of the most general character, with the important question how far, human nature being constituted as it is at present, collective action is likely to be inferior to individualistic action in energy and elasticity, in inventiveness and directness of purpose; and whether it is not therefore likely to waste through practical inefficiency more than it could save by taking account of all the interests affected by any course of action. But even without taking account of the evils arising from the unequal distribution of wealth, there is
primâ facie reason for believing that the aggregate satisfaction, so far from being already a maximum, could be much increased by collective action in promoting the production and consumption of things in regard to which the law of increasing return acts with especial force.
This position is confirmed by the study of the theory of monopolies. It is the immediate interest of the monopolist so to adjust the production and sale of his wares as to obtain for himself the maximum net revenue, and the course which he thus adopts is unlikely to be that which affords the aggregate maximum satisfaction. The divergence between individual and collective interests is
primâ facie less important with regard to those things which obey the law of diminishing return, than with regard to those which obey the law of increasing return: but, in the case of the latter, there is strong
primâ facie reason for believing that it might often be to the interest of the community directly or indirectly to intervene, because a largely increased production would add much more to consumers' surplus than to the aggregate expenses of production of the goods. More exact notions on the relations of demand and supply, particularly when expressed in the form of diagrams, may help us to see what statistics should be collected, and how they should be applied in the attempt to estimate the relative magnitudes of various conflicting economic interests, public and private.
§ 1. The keynote of this Book is in the fact that free human beings are not brought up to their work on the same principles as a machine, a horse, or a slave. If they were, there would be very little difference between the distribution and the exchange side of value; for every agent of production would reap a return adequate to cover its own expenses of production with wear-and-tear, etc.; at all events after allowance had been made for casual failures to adjust supply to demand. But as it is, our growing power over nature makes her yield an ever larger surplus above necessaries; and this is not absorbed by an unlimited increase of the population. There remain therefore the questions:—What are the general causes which govern the distribution of this surplus among the people? What part is played by conventional necessaries,
i.e. the Standard of Comfort? What by the influence which methods of consumption and of living generally exert on efficiency; by wants and activities,
i.e. by the Standard of Life? What by the many-sided action of the principle of substitution, and by the struggle for survival between hand-workers and brain-workers of different classes and grades? What by the power which the use of capital gives to those in whose hands it is? What share of the general flow is turned to remunerate those who work (including here the undertaking of ventures) and "wait," as contrasted with those who work and consume at once the fruits of their endeavours? An attempt is made to give a broad answer to those and some similar questions.
Adam Smith worked out this conclusion more fully than the Physiocrats did; though it was left for Ricardo to make clear that the labour and capital needed for production must be estimated at the margin of cultivation, so as to avoid the element of rent. But Adam Smith saw also that labour and capital were not at the verge of starvation in England, as they were in France. In England the wages of a great part of the working classes were sufficient to allow much more than the mere necessaries of existence; and capital had too rich and safe a field of employment there to be likely to go out of existence, or to emigrate. So when he is carefully weighing his words, his use of the terms "the natural rate of wages," and "the natural rate of profit," has not that sharp definition and fixedness which it had in the mouths of the Physiocrats; and he goes a good way towards explaining how they are determined by the ever-fluctuating conditions of demand and supply. He even insists that the liberal reward of labour "increases the industry of the common people"; that "a plentiful subsistence increases the bodily strength of the labourer; and the comfortable hope of bettering his condition, and of ending his days perhaps in ease and plenty, animates him to exert that strength to the utmost. Where wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the workman more active, diligent and expeditious, than where they are low; in England, for example, than in Scotland; in the neighbourhood of great towns than in remote country places
." And yet he sometimes falls back into the old way of speaking, and thus makes careless readers suppose that he believes the mean level of the wages of labour to be fixed by an iron law at the bare necessaries of life.
In this case the problem of value is very simple. Things exchange for one another in proportion to the labour spent in producing them. If the supply of any one thing runs short, it may for a little time sell for more than its normal price: it may exchange for things the production of which had required more labour than it had: but, if so, people will at once leave other work to produce it, and in a very short time its value will fall to the normal level. There may be slight temporary disturbances, but as a rule anyone's earnings will be equal to those of anyone else. In other words, each will have an equal share in the net sum total of things and services produced; or, as we may say, the
national income or
dividend; which will constitute the demand for labour
The additional product to be got by this shepherd's labour is largely influenced by the number of shepherds whom the farmer already employs. And this again is governed by general conditions of demand and supply, and especially by the number of those from whom the ranks of shepherds could have been recruited during the current generation; by the demand for mutton and wool and by the area from which supplies of them can be obtained; by the effectiveness of the shepherds on all other farms; and so on. And the amount of the marginal product is further largely influenced by the competition of other uses for land: the space available for sheep-farming is curtailed by the demand for land for growing timber or oats, preserving deer, etc.
Thus then the uses of each agent of production are governed by the general conditions of demand in relation to supply: that is, on the one hand, by the urgency of all the uses to which the agent can be put, taken together with the means at the command of those who need it; and, on the other hand, by the available stocks of it. And equality is maintained between its values for each use by the constant tendency to shift it from uses, in which its services are of less value to others in which they are of greater value, in accordance with the principle of substitution.
If less use is made of unskilled labour or any agent, the reason will be that at some point at which people were on the margin of doubt whether it was worth while to use that agent, they have decided that it is not worth their while. That is what is meant by saying that we must watch the
marginal uses, and the
marginal efficiency of each agent. We must do so, simply because it is only at the margin that any of those shiftings can occur by which changed relations of supply and demand manifest themselves.
§ 10. When we speak of the national dividend, or distributable net income of the whole nation, as divided into the shares of land, labour and capital, we must be clear as to what things we are including, and what things we are excluding. It will seldom make very much difference to our argument whether we use all the terms broadly, or all the terms narrowly. But it is essential that our usage should be consistent throughout any one argument; and that, whatever is included on one side of the account of the demand for, and supply of, land, labour, and capital, should be included also on the other.
§ 1. As was indicated at the beginning of last chapter, we are now to supplement the study of the influence of demand on distribution, by a study of the reflex influence of remuneration on the supply of different agents of production. We have to combine the two in a preliminary general view of the parts played by cost of production and by utility or desirability in governing the distribution of the national dividend between different kinds of labour and the owners of capital and land.
Ricardo and the able business men who followed in his wake took the operation of demand too much for granted as a thing which did not need to be explained: they did not emphasize it, nor study it with sufficient care; and this neglect has caused much confusion, and has obscured important truths. In the reaction, too much insistence has been laid on the fact that the earnings of every agent of production come from, and are for the time mainly governed by the value of the product which it takes part in producing; its earnings being so far governed on the same principle as the rent of land; and some have even thought it possible to constitute a complete theory of Distribution out of multifold applications of the law of rent. But they will not reach to that end. Ricardo and his followers seem to have been rightly guided by their intuitions, when they silently determined that the forces of supply were those, the study of which is the more urgent and involves the greater difficulty.
When we inquire what it is that governs the [marginal] efficiency of a factor of production, whether it be any kind of labour or material capital, we find that the immediate solution requires a knowledge of the available supply of that factor; for if the supply is increased, the thing will be applied to uses for which it is less needed, and in which it is less efficient. And the ultimate solution requires a knowledge also of the causes that determine that supply. The nominal value of everything, whether it be a particular kind of labour or capital or anything else, rests, like the keystone of an arch, balanced in equilibrium between the contending pressures of its two opposing sides; the forces of demand press on the one side, and those of supply on the other.
The production of everything, whether an agent of production or a commodity ready for immediate consumption, is carried forward up to that limit or margin at which there is equilibrium between the forces of demand and supply. The amount of the thing and its price, the amounts of the several factors or agents of production used in making it, and their prices—all these elements mutually govern one another, and if an external cause should alter any one of them the effect of the disturbance extends to all the others.
Thus the question how closely the supply of labour responds to the demand for it, is in a great measure resolved into the question how great a part of the present consumption of the people at large consists of necessaries, strictly so called, for the life and efficiency of young and old; how much consists of conventional necessaries which theoretically could be dispensed with, but practically would be preferred by the majority of the people to some of those things that were really necessary for efficiency; and how much is really superfluous regarded as a means towards production, though of course part of it may be of supreme importance regarded as an end in itself.
The earlier French and English economists, as we noted at the beginning of the preceding chapter, classed nearly all the consumption of the working classes under the first head. They did so, partly for simplicity, and partly because those classes were then poor in England and very poor in France; and they inferred that the supply of labour would correspond to changes in the effective demand for it in the same way, though of course not quite as fast as that of machinery would. And an answer not very different from theirs must be given to the question with regard to the less advanced countries even now. For throughout the greater part of the world the working classes can afford but few luxuries and not even many conventional necessaries; and any increase in their earnings would result in so great an increase of their numbers as to bring down their earnings quickly to nearly the old level at their mere expenses of rearing. Over a great part of the world wages are governed, nearly after the so-called iron or brazen law, which ties them close to the cost of rearing and sustaining a rather inefficient class of labourers.
We conclude then that an increase of wages, unless earned under unwholesome conditions, almost always increases the strength, physical, mental and even moral of the coming generation; and that, other things being equal, an increase in the earnings that are to be got by labour increases its rate of growth; or, in other words, a rise in its demand-price increases the supply of it. If the state of knowledge, and of social and domestic habits be given; then the vigour of the people as a whole if not their numbers, and both the numbers and vigour of any trade in particular, may be said to have a supply-price in this sense, that there is a certain level of the demand-price which will keep them stationary; that a higher price would cause them to increase, and that a lower price would cause them to decrease.
Thus again we see that demand and supply exert coordinate influences on wages; neither has a claim to predominance; any more than has either blade of a pair of scissors, or either pier of an arch. Wages tend to equal the net product of labour; its marginal productivity rules the demand-price for it; and, on the other side, wages tend to retain a close though indirect and intricate relation with the cost of rearing, training and sustaining the energy of efficient labour. The various elements of the problem mutually determine (in the sense of governing) one another; and incidentally this secures that supply-price and demand-price tend to equality: wages are not governed by demand-price nor by supply-price, but by the whole set of causes which govern demand and supply
A word should be said as to the common phrase "the general rate of wages," or "the wages of labour in general." Such phrases are convenient in a broad view of distribution, and especially when we are considering the general relations of capital and labour. But in fact there is no such thing in modern civilization as a general rate of wages. Each of a hundred or more groups of workers has its own wage problem, its own set of special causes, natural and artificial, controlling the supply-price, and limiting the number of its members; each has its own demand-price governed by the need that other agents of production have of its services.
Thus then interest, being the price paid for the use of capital in any market, tends towards an equilibrium level such that the aggregate demand for capital in that market, at that rate of interest, is equal to the aggregate stock forthcoming there at that rate. If the market, which we are considering, is a small one—say a single town, or a single trade in a progressive country—an increased demand for capital in it will be promptly met by an increased supply drawn from surrounding districts or trades. But if we are considering the whole world, or even the whole of a large country as one market for capital, we cannot regard the aggregate supply of it as altered quickly and to a considerable extent by a change in the rate of interest. For the general fund of capital is the product of labour and waiting; and the extra work, and the extra waiting, to which a rise in the rate of interest would act as an incentive, would not quickly amount to much as compared with the work and waiting, of which the total existing stock of capital is the result. An extensive increase in the demand for capital in general will therefore be met for a time not so much by an increase of supply, as by a rise in the rate of interest; which will cause capital to withdraw itself partially from those uses in which its marginal utility is lowest. It is only slowly and gradually that the rise in the rate of interest will increase the total stock of capital.
§ 5. Land is on a different footing from man himself and those agents of production which are made by man; among which are included improvements made by him on the land itself
. For while the supplies of all other agents of production respond in various degrees and various ways to the demand for their services, land makes no such response. Thus an exceptional rise in the earnings of any class of labour, tends to increase its numbers, or efficiency, or both; and the increase in the supply of efficient work of that class tends to cheapen the services which it renders to the community. If the increase is in their numbers then the rate of earnings of each will tend downwards towards the old level. But if the increase is in their efficiency; then, though they will probably earn more per head than before, the gain to them will come from an increased national dividend, and will not be at the expense of other agents of production. And the same is true as regards capital: but it is not true as regards land. While therefore the value of land, in common with the values of other agents of production, is subject to those influences which were discussed towards the end of the preceding chapter; it is not subject to those which have been brought into the reckoning in the present discussion.
§ 7. In studying the influence which increased efficiency and increased earnings in one trade exert on the condition of others we may start from the general fact that, other things being equal, the larger the supply of any agent of production, the further will it have to push its way into uses for which it is not specially fitted; the lower will be the demand price with which it will have to be contented in those uses in which its employment is on the verge or margin of not being found profitable; and, in so far as competition equalizes the price which it gets in all uses, this price will be its price for all uses. The extra production resulting from the increase in that agent of production will go to swell the national dividend, and other agents of production will benefit thereby: but that agent itself will have to submit to a lower rate of pay.
For instance, if without any other change, capital increases fast, the rate of interest must fall; if without any other change, the number of those ready to do any particular kind of labour increases, their wages must fall. In either case there will result an increased production, and an increased national dividend: in either case the loss of one agent of production must result in a gain to others; but not necessarily to all others. Thus the opening up of rich quarries of slate or the increase in numbers or efficiency of quarrymen, would tend to improve the houses of all classes; and it would tend to increase the demand for bricklayers' and carpenters' labour, and raise their wages. But it would injure the makers of roofing tiles as producers of building materials, more than it benefited them as consumers. The increase in the supply of this one agent increases the demand for many others by a little, and for some others by much; but for some it lessens the demand.
We know that the wages of any worker, say an operative in a boot and shoe factory, tend to equal the net product of his labour. They are not governed by that net product; for net products, like all other incidents of marginal uses, are governed together with value by the general relations of demand and supply
. But when, (1) the aggregate application of capital and labour to the boot and shoe industry up to that limit, at which the additional products resulting from any further application could barely be made at profitable rates; (2) the distribution of resources between plant, labour, and other agents of production has been appropriately made; (3) we have in view a factory, working with normally good fortune, conducted with normal ability, and where the conditions are such that there is a doubt whether to take on an additional operative of normal ability and energy, who offers himself at the normal wage:—when all these things are done, then we may fairly conclude that the loss of that man's work would be likely to cause a diminution in the net output of that factory, the value of which was about equal to his wages. The inversion of this statement runs that his wages are about equal to that net product: (of course the net product of an individual cannot be separated mechanically from that of others who are working together with him)
In the modern world, private employers and officials of joint-stock companies, many of whom have but little capital of their own, act as the centre of the great industrial wheel. The interests of owners of capital and of workers radiate towards them and from them: and they hold the whole together in a firm grip. They will therefore take a predominant place in those discussions of fluctuations of employment and of wages, which are deferred to the second volume of this treatise; and a prominent, though not predominant, place in those discussions of the secondary features in the mode of action of demand and supply peculiar to labour, capital and land respectively, which will occupy the next eight chapters.
In Appendix J some account will be given of the "Wages-fund" doctrine. Reason will be shown for thinking that it laid excessive stress on the side of demand for labour, to the neglect of the causes which govern its supply; and that it suggested a correlation between the
stock of capital and the
flow of wages, instead of the true correlation between the
flow of the products of labour aided by capital and the flow of wages. But reason will also be given for the opinion that the classical economists themselves—though perhaps not nearly all their followers—if cross examined, would have explained away the misleading suggestions of the doctrine; and thus have brought it into close accord, so far as it went, with modern doctrines. In Appendix K some study will be made of the various kinds of producers' and consumers' surpluses; raising questions of some abstract interest, but of little practical importance.
Recent discussions on the eight hours day have often turned very little on the fatigue of labour; for indeed there is much work in which there is so little exertion, either physical or mental, that what exertion there is counts rather as a relief from ennui than as fatigue. A man is on duty, bound to be ready when wanted, but perhaps not doing an hour's actual work in the day; and yet he will object to very long hours of duty because they deprive his life of variety, of opportunities for domestic and social pleasures, and perhaps of comfortable meals and rest.
If a man is free to cease his work when he likes, he does so when the advantages to be reaped by continuing seem no longer to over-balance the disadvantages. If he has to work with others, the length of his day's work is often fixed for him; and in some trades the number of days' work which he does in the year is practically fixed for him. But there are scarcely any trades, in which the amount of exertion which he puts into his work is rigidly fixed. If he be not able or willing to work up to the minimum standard that prevails where he is, he can generally find employment in another locality where the standard is lower; while the standard in each place is set by the general balancing of the advantages and disadvantages of various intensities of work by the industrial populations settled there. The cases therefore in which a man's individual volition has no part in determining the amount of work he does in a year, are as exceptional as the cases in which a man has to live in a house of a size widely different from that which he prefers, because there is none other available. It is true that a man who would rather work eight hours a day than nine at the same rate of tenpence an hour, but is compelled to work nine hours or none, suffers a loss from the ninth hour: but such cases are rare; and, when they occur, one must take the day as the unit. But the general law of costs is not disturbed by this fact, any more than the general law of utility is disturbed by the fact that a concert or a cup of tea has to be taken as a unit: and that a person who would rather pay five shillings for half a concert than ten for a whole, or twopence for half a cup of tea than fourpence for a whole cup, may incur a loss on the second half. There seems therefore to be no good foundation for the suggestion made by v. Böhm-Bawerk (
The Ultimate Standard of Value, § IV. published in the
Zeitschrift für Volkswirtschaft, vol. II.) that value must be determined generally by demand, without direct reference to cost, because the effective supply of labour is a fixed quantity: for even if the number of hours of work in the year were rigidly fixed, which it is not, the intensity of work would remain elastic.
Differences between the adjustments of demand and supply in the case of commodities and in the case of labour are discussed in the following chapters.
§ 1. When discussing the general theory of equilibrium of demand and supply in the last Book, and the main outlines of the central problem of distribution and exchange in the first two chapters of this Book, we left on one side, as far as might be, all considerations turning on the special qualities and incidents of the agents of production. We did not inquire in detail how far the general theories of the relations between the value of an appliance for production and that of the product, which it helps to make, are applicable to the incomes earned by natural abilities, or by skill and knowledge acquired long ago, whether in the ranks of the employers, the employed, or the professional classes. We avoided difficulties connected with the analysis of Profits, paying no attention to the many different scopes which the usage of the marketplace assigns to this term, and even the more elementary term Interest; and we took no account of the influence of varieties of tenure on the form of demand for land. These and some other deficiencies will be made good by more detailed analysis in the following three groups of chapters on demand and supply in relation to labour, to capital and business power, and to land, respectively.
§ 2. When watching the action of demand and supply with regard to a material commodity, we are constantly met by the difficulty that two things which are being sold under the same name in the same market, are really not of the same quality and not of the same value to the purchasers. Or, if the things are really alike, they may be sold even in the face of the keenest competition at prices which are nominally different, because the conditions of sale are not the same: for instance, a part of the expense or risk of delivery which is borne in the one case by the seller may in the other be transferred to the buyer. But difficulties of this kind are much greater in the case of labour than of material commodities: the true price that is paid for labour often differs widely, and in ways that are not easily traced, from that which is nominally paid.
§ 1. The action of demand and supply with regard to labour was discussed in the last chapter with reference to the difficulties of ascertaining the real as opposed to the nominal price of labour. But some peculiarities in this action remain to be studied, which are of a more vital character. For they affect not merely the form, but also the substance of the action of the forces of demand and supply; and to some extent they limit and hamper the free action of those forces. We shall find that the influence of many of them is not at all to be measured by their first and most obvious effects: and that those effects which are cumulative are generally far more important in the long run than those which are not, however prominent the latter may appear.
And so it is with regard to the action of demand and supply on the earnings of labour. If at any time it presses hardly on any individuals or class, the direct effects of the evils are obvious. But the sufferings that result are of different kinds: those, the effects of which end with the evil by which they were caused, are not generally to be compared in importance with those that have the indirect effect of lowering the character of the workers or of hindering it from becoming stronger. For these last cause further weakness and further suffering, which again in their turn cause yet further weakness and further suffering, and so on cumulatively. On the other hand, high earnings, and a strong character, lead to greater strength and higher earnings, which again lead to still greater strength and still higher earnings, and so on cumulatively.
§ 5. The next of those characteristics of the action of demand and supply peculiar to labour, which we have to study, lies in the fact that when a person sells his services, he has to present himself where they are delivered. It matters nothing to the seller of bricks whether they are to be used in building a palace or a sewer: but it matters a great deal to the seller of labour, who undertakes to perform a task of given difficulty, whether or not the place in which it is to be done is a wholesome and a pleasant one, and whether or not his associates will be such as he cares to have. In those yearly hirings which still remain in some parts of England, the labourer inquires what sort of a temper his new employer has, quite as carefully as what rate of wages he pays.
Since however no one can deliver his labour in a market in which he is not himself present, it follows that the mobility of labour and the mobility of the labourer are convertible terms: and the unwillingness to quit home, and to leave old associations, including perhaps some loved cottage and burial-ground, will often turn the scale against a proposal to seek better wages in a new place. And when the different members of a family are engaged in different trades, and a migration, which would be advantageous to one member would be injurious to others, the inseparability of the worker from his work considerably hinders the adjustment of the supply of labour to the demand for it. But of this more hereafter.
§ 1. The next peculiarity in the action of demand and supply with regard to labour, which we have to consider, is closely connected with some of those we have already discussed. It consists in the length of time that is required to prepare and train labour for its work, and in the slowness of the returns which result from this training.
This discounting of the future, this deliberate adjustment of supply of expensively trained labour to the demand for it, is most clearly seen in the choice made by parents of occupations for their children, and in their efforts to raise their children into a higher grade than their own.
But this statement is to be received only as a broad indication of general tendencies. For independently of the fact that in rearing and educating their children, parents are governed by motives different from those which induce a capitalist undertaker to erect a new machine, the period over which the earning power extends is generally greater in the case of a man than of a machine; and therefore the circumstances by which the earnings are determined are less capable of being foreseen, and the adjustment of supply to demand is both slower and more imperfect. For though factories and houses, the main shafts of a mine and the embankments of a railway, may have much longer lives than those of the men who made them; yet these are exceptions to the general rule.
§ 3. But we must not omit to notice those adjustments of the supply of labour to the demand for it, which are effected by movements of adults from one trade to another, one grade to another, and one place to another. The movements from one grade to another can seldom be on a very large scale; although it is true that exceptional opportunities may sometimes develop rapidly a great deal of latent ability among the lower grades. Thus, for instance, the sudden opening out of a new country, or such an event as the American war, will raise from the lower ranks of labour many men who bear themselves well in difficult and responsible posts.
But the movements of adult labour from trade to trade and from place to place can in some cases be so large and so rapid as to reduce within a very short compass the period which is required to enable the supply of labour to adjust itself to the demand. That general ability which is easily transferable from one trade to another, is every year rising in importance relatively to that manual skill and technical knowledge which are specialized to one branch of industry. And thus economic progress brings with it on the one hand a constantly increasing changefulness in the methods of industry, and therefore a constantly increasing difficulty in predicting the demand for labour of any kind a generation ahead; but on the other hand it brings also an increasing power of remedying such errors of adjustment as have been made
To begin with we must notice that, since labour is slowly produced and slowly worn out, we must take the term "long period" more strictly, and regard it as generally implying a greater duration, when we are considering the relations of normal demand and supply for labour, than when we are considering them for ordinary commodities. There are many problems, the period of which is long enough to enable the supply of ordinary commodities, and even of most of the material appliances required for making them, to be adjusted to the demand; and long enough therefore to justify us in regarding the average prices of those commodities during the period as "normal," and as equal to their normal expenses of production in a fairly broad use of the term; while yet the period would not be long enough to allow the supply of labour to be adjusted at all well to the demand for it. The average earnings of labour during this period therefore would not be at all certain to give about a normal return to those who provided the labour; but they would rather have to be regarded as determined by the available stock of labour on the one hand, and the demand for it on the other. Let us consider this point more closely.
But the incomes which are being earned by all agents of production, human as well as material, and those which appear likely to be earned by them in the future, exercise a ceaseless influence on those persons by whose action the future supplies of these agents are determined. There is a constant tendency towards a position of normal equilibrium, in which the supply of each of these agents shall stand in such a relation to the demand for its services, as to give to those who have provided the supply a sufficient reward for their efforts and sacrifices. If the economic conditions of the country remained stationary sufficiently long, this tendency would realize itself in such an adjustment of supply to demand, that both machines and human beings would earn generally an amount that corresponded fairly with their cost of rearing and training, conventional necessaries as well as those things which are strictly necessary being reckoned for. But conventional necessaries might change under the influence of non-economic causes, even while economic conditions themselves were stationary: and this change would affect the supply of labour, and would lessen the national dividend and slightly alter its distribution. As it is, the economic conditions of the country are constantly changing, and the point of adjustment of normal demand and supply in relation to labour is constantly being shifted.
§ 1. The relations between demand and supply cannot be studied by themselves in the case of capital any more than they could in the case of labour. All the elements of the great central problem of distribution and exchange mutually govern one another: and the first two chapters of this Book, and more especially the parts that relate directly to capital, may be taken as an introduction to this and the next two chapters. But before entering on the detailed analysis with which they will be mainly occupied, something may be said as to the position which the modern study of capital and interest holds in relation to earlier work.
Everyone knows that few, even among the Anglo-Saxon and other steadfast and self-disciplined races, care to save a large part of their incomes; and that many openings have been made for the use of capital in recent times by the progress of discovery and the opening up of new countries: and thus everyone understands generally the causes which have kept the supply of accumulated wealth so small relatively to the demand for its use, that that use is on the balance a source of gain, and can therefore require a payment when loaned. Everyone is aware that the accumulation of wealth is held in check, and the rate of interest so far sustained, by the preference which the great mass of humanity have for present over deferred gratifications, or, in other words, by their unwillingness to "wait." And indeed the true work of economic analysis in this respect is, not to emphasize this familiar truth, but to point out how much more numerous are the exceptions to this general preference than would appear at first sight
That the supply of capital is held back by the
prospectiveness of its uses, men's unreadiness to look forward, while the demand for it comes from its
productiveness, in the broadest sense of the term, is indicated in II. IV.
It must be admitted indeed that the adjustment of supply to demand in the case of business ability is somewhat hindered by the difficulty of ascertaining exactly what is the price that is being paid for it in any trade. It is comparatively easy to find out the wages of bricklayers or puddlers by striking an average between the wages that are earned by men of various degrees of efficiency, and allowing for the inconstancy of their employment. But the gross earnings of management which a man is getting can only be found after making up a careful account of the true profits of his business, and deducting interest on his capital. The exact state of his affairs is often not known by himself; and it can seldom be guessed at all accurately even by those who are in the same trade with himself. It is not true even in a little village at the present day that everyone knows all his neighbour's affairs. As Cliffe Leslie said, "The village inn-keeper, publican or shopkeeper, who is making a small fortune does not invite competition by telling his neighbours of his profits, and the man who is not doing well does not alarm his creditors by exposing the state of his affairs
§ 5. During all this inquiry we have had in view chiefly the ultimate, or long-period or true normal results of economic forces; we have considered the way in which the supply of business ability in command of capital tends in the long run to adjust itself to the demand; we have seen how it seeks constantly every business and every method of conducting every business in which it can render services that are so highly valued by persons who are able to pay good prices for the satisfaction of their wants, that those services will in the long run earn a high reward. The motive force is the competition of undertakers: each one tries every opening, forecasting probable future events, reducing them to their true relative proportions, and considering what surplus is likely to be afforded by the receipts of any undertaking over the outlay required for it. All his prospective gains enter into the profits which draw him towards the undertaking; all the investments of his capital and energies in making the appliances for future production, and in building up the "immaterial" capital of a business connection, have to show themselves to him as likely to be profitable, before he will enter on them: the whole of the profits which he expects from them enter into the reward, which he expects in the long run for his venture. And if he is a man of normal ability (normal that is for that class of work), and is on the margin of doubt whether to make the venture or not, they may be taken as true representatives of the (marginal) normal expenses of production of the services in question. Thus the whole of the normal profits enter into true or long-period supply price.
This solidarity is a special case of the general fact that the demand for the several factors of production of any commodity is a joint demand, and we may refer back to the illustration of this general fact which is given in Book V. chapter VI. We there saw how a change in the supply of (say) plasterers' labour would affect the interests of all other branches of the building trades in the same way, but much more intensely than it would the general public. The fact is that the incomes derived from the specialized capital and the specialized skill belonging to all the various industrial classes engaged in producing houses, or calico, or anything else, depend very much on the general prosperity of the trade. And in so far as this is the case they may be regarded for short periods as shares of a composite or joint income of the whole trade. The share of each class tends to rise when this aggregate income is increased by an increase in their own efficiency or by any external cause. But when the aggregate income is stationary, and any one class gets a better share than before, it must be at the expense of the others. This is true of the whole body of those engaged in any trade; and it is true in a special sense of those who have spent a great part of their lives in working together in the same business establishment.
§ 1. It has been argued in Book V. that the rent of land is no unique fact, but simply the chief species of a large genus of economic phenomena; and that the theory of the rent of land is no isolated economic doctrine, but merely one of the chief applications of a particular corollary from the general theory of demand and supply; that there is a continuous gradation from the true rent of those free gifts which have been appropriated by man, through the income derived from permanent improvements of the soil, to those yielded by farm and factory buildings, steam-engines and less durable goods. In this and the following chapter we are to make a special study of the net income of land. That study has two parts. One part relates to the total quantity of the net income, or producer's surplus from land: the other to the way in which this income is distributed between those who have an interest in the land. The first is general, whatever be the form of land tenure. We will begin with it, and
suppose that the cultivation of the land is undertaken by its owner.
But even in the most stationary districts the amount and quality of the stock which custom requires the landlord to provide are being constantly, though imperceptibly, modified to suit the changing relations of demand and supply. And if the tenant has no fixity of tenure, the landlord can deliberately and freely arrange the amount of capital and labour supplied by the tenant and the amount of capital supplied by himself to suit the exigencies of each special case
The chief merit of the system is that it enables the landlord to keep in his own hands the responsibility for that part and only that part of the property which he can look after with but little trouble to himself, and little vexation to his tenant; and the investment of which, though requiring both enterprise and judgment, does not demand constant supervision of minor details. His part consists of land, buildings and permanent improvements, and averages in England five times that which the farmer has to supply himself; and he is willing to supply his part in the enterprise with this great capital at a net rent which seldom gives interest at as much as three per cent. on its cost. There is no other business in which a man can borrow what capital he wants at so low a rate, or can often borrow so large a part of his capital at any rate at all. The metayer indeed may be said to borrow an even larger share, but at a much higher rate
§ 1. The argument of the preceding ten chapters may now be summarized. It falls far short of a complete solution of the problem before us: for that involves questions relating to foreign trade, to fluctuations of credit and employment, and to the influences of associated and collective action in its many forms. But yet it extends to the broad action of the most fundamental and permanent influences which govern distribution and exchange. In the summary at the end of Book V. we traced a continuous thread running through and connecting the applications of the general theory of equilibrium of demand and supply to different periods of time; from those so short that cost of production could exercise no direct influence on value, to those so long that the supply of the appliances of production could be fairly well adjusted to the indirect demand for them, which is derived from the direct demand for the commodities which they produce. In the present Book we have been concerned with another thread of continuity, which lies transversely to the thread connecting different periods of time. It connects the various agents and appliances for production, material and human; and establishes a fundamental unity between them, in spite of their important differences of outward feature.
Again, since human beings grow up slowly and are slowly worn out, and parents in choosing an occupation for their children must as a rule look forward a whole generation, changes in demand take a longer time to work out their full effects on supply in the case of human agents than of most kinds of material appliances for production; and a specially long period is required in the case of labour to give full play to the economic forces which tend to bring about a normal adjustment between demand and supply. Thus on the whole the
money cost of any kind of labour to the employer corresponds in the long run fairly well to the
real cost of producing that labour
§ 4. Returning to the point of view of the second Chapter of this Book, we may call to mind the double relation in which the various agents of production stand to one another. On the one hand they are often rivals for employment; any one that is more efficient than another in proportion to its cost tending to be substituted for it, and thus limiting the demand price for the other. And on the other hand they all constitute the field of employment for each other: there is no field of employment for any one, except in so far as it is provided by the others: the national dividend which is the joint product of all, and which increases with the supply of each of them, is also the sole source of demand for each of them.
This increase of capital per head tended to diminish its marginal utility; and therefore the rate of interest on new investments fell, though not uniformly. It was reported to be 10 per cent. during a great part of the middle ages; but it fell to 3 per cent. in the earlier half of the eighteenth century. The subsequent vast industrial and political demand for capital raised it again, and it was relatively high during the great war. It fell when the political drain had ceased, the gold supply at the time being very small; but it rose in the third quarter of last century, when new gold abounded, and capital was much needed for railways and the development of new countries. After 1873 an era of peace, combined with a slackening of the gold supply, lowered interest; but now it is rising again, partly in consequence of an increased gold supply
Again, constancy of employment is dependent on the organization of industry and trade, and on the success with which those who arrange supply are able to forecast coming movements of demand and of price, and to adjust their actions accordingly. But this would not be better done with a short day's work than with a long one; and indeed the adoption of a short day, not accompanied by double shifts, would discourage the use of that expensive plant, the presence of which makes employers very unwilling to close their works. Almost every artificial stinting of work involves friction, and therefore tends, not to lessen, but to increase the inconstancy of employment.
It is a fact—and, so far as it goes, an important fact—that some share of the loss resulting from the lessening of output by (say) plasterers or shoemakers, will fall on those who do not belong to the working classes. Part of it will no doubt fall on employers and capitalists, whose personal and material capital is sunk in building or shoemaking; and part on well-to-do users, or consumers, of houses or shoes. And further if there were a general attempt by all of the working classes to obtain high wages by restricting the effective supply of their labour, a considerable part of the burden resulting from the shrinkage of the national dividend would doubtless be thrown on other classes of the nation, and especially on the capitalists, for a time: but only for a time. For a considerable diminution in the net return to investments of capital would speedily drive new supplies of it abroad. In regard to this danger it is indeed sometimes urged that the railways, and factories of the country cannot be exported. But nearly all of the materials, and a large part of the appliances of production are consumed, or worn out, or become obsolete every year; and they need to be replaced. And a reduction in the scale of this replacement, combined with the exportation of some of the capital thus set free, might probably so lessen the effective demand for labour in the country in a few years, that in the reaction wages generally would be reduced much below their present level
This matter cannot be argued here: but a few words may be said in further explanation. Mill well observed that "What constitutes the means of payment for commodities is simply commodities. Each person's means of paying for the productions of other people consist of those which he himself possesses. All sellers are inevitably, and by the meaning of the word, buyers. Could we suddenly double the productive powers of the country, we should double the supply of commodities in every market; but we should, by the same stroke, double the purchasing power. Everybody would bring a double demand as well as supply; everybody would be able to buy twice as much, because everyone would have twice as much to offer in exchange."
The chief cause of the evil is a want of confidence. The greater part of it could be removed almost in an instant if confidence could return, touch all industries with her magic wand, and make them continue their production and their demand for the wares of others. If all trades which make goods for direct consumption agreed to work on, and to buy each other's goods as in ordinary times, they would supply one another with the means of earning a moderate rate of profits and of wages. The trades which make fixed capital might have to wait a little longer: but they too would get employment when confidence had revived so far that those who had capital to invest had made up their minds how to invest it. Confidence by growing would cause itself to grow; credit would give increased means of purchase, and thus prices would recover. Those in trade already would make good profits, new companies would be started, old businesses would be extended; and soon there would be a good demand even for the work of those who make fixed capital. There is of course no formal agreement between the different trades to begin again to work full time, and so make a market for each other's wares. But the revival of industry comes about through the gradual and often simultaneous growth of confidence among many various trades; it begins as soon as traders think that prices will not continue to fall: and with a revival of industry prices rise
§ 15. In discussing the difficulty of adjusting the supply of industrial skill of various kinds to the demand for it, attention was called to the fact that the adjustment could not be nearly accurate, because the methods of industry change rapidly, and the skill of a worker needs to be used for some forty or even fifty years after he has set himself to acquire it
. The difficulties which we have just discussed turn largely on the long life of inherited habits and tones of thought and feeling. If the organization of our joint-stock companies, of our railways or our canals is bad, we can set it right in a decade or two. But those elements of human nature which have been developed during centuries of war and violence, and of sordid and gross pleasures, cannot be greatly changed in the course of a single generation.
§ 14. The new movement, both in its earlier and later forms, has tended constantly to relax the bonds that used to bind nearly everyone to live in the parish in which he was born; and it developed free markets for labour, which invited people to come and take their chance of finding employment. And in consequence of this change the causes that determine the value of labour began to take a new character. Up to the eighteenth century manufacturing labour had been hired, as a rule, retail; though a large and fluid labour class, which could be hired wholesale, had played a considerable part in the industrial history of particular places on the Continent and in England before then. In that century the rule was reversed, at least for England; and the price of labour ceased to be dominated by custom, or by bargaining in small markets. During the last hundred years it has ever more and more been determined by the circumstances of supply and demand over a large area—a town, a country, or the whole world.
Meanwhile misfortune had reduced the total net income of the people of England. In 1820 a tenth of it was absorbed in paying the mere interest on the National Debt. The goods that were cheapened by the new inventions were chiefly manufactured commodities of which the working man was but a small consumer. As England had then almost a monopoly of manufactures, he might indeed have got his food cheaply if manufacturers had been allowed to change their wares freely for corn grown abroad; but this was prohibited by the landlords who ruled in Parliament. The labourer's wages, so far as they were spent on ordinary food, were the equivalent of what his labour would produce on the very poor soil which was forced into cultivation to eke out the insufficient supplies raised from the richer grounds. He had to sell his labour in a market in which the forces of supply and demand would have given him a poor pittance even if they had worked freely. But he had not the full advantage of economic freedom; he had no efficient union with his fellows; he had neither the knowledge of the market, nor the power of holding out for a reserve price, which the seller of commodities has, and he was urged on to work and to let his family work during long hours, and under unhealthy conditions. This reacted on the efficiency of the working population, and therefore on the net value of their work, and therefore it kept down their wages. The employment of very young children for long hours was no new thing: it had been common in Norwich and elsewhere even in the seventeenth century. But the moral and physical misery and disease caused by excessive work under bad conditions reached their highest point among the factory population in the first quarter of the century. They diminished slowly during the second quarter, and more rapidly since then.
They were aware that the inhabitants of other countries had peculiarities of their own that deserved study; but they seemed to regard such differences as superficial and sure to be removed, as soon as other nations had got to know that better way which Englishmen were ready to teach them. The same bent of mind that led our lawyers to impose English civil law on the Hindoos, led our economists to work out their theories on the tacit supposition that the world was made up of city men. And though this did little harm so long as they were treating of money and foreign trade, it led them astray as to the relations between the different industrial classes. It caused them to speak of labour as a commodity without staying to throw themselves into the point of view of the workman; and without dwelling upon the allowances to be made for his human passions, his instincts and habits, his sympathies and antipathies, his class jealousies and class adhesiveness, his want of knowledge and of the opportunities for free and vigorous action. They therefore attributed to the forces of supply and demand a much more mechanical and regular action than is to be found in real life: and they laid down laws with regard to profits and wages that did not really hold even for England in their own time
See II. IV. 1, 5. The connection of the productiveness of capital with the demand for it, and of its prospectiveness with the supply of it has long been latent in men's minds; though it has been much overlaid by other considerations, many of which appear now to be based on misconceptions. Some writers have laid more stress on the supply side and others on the demand side: but the difference between them has often been little more than a difference of emphasis. Those who have laid stress on the productivity of capital, have not been ignorant of man's unwillingness to save and sacrifice the present for the future. And on the other hand, those who have given their thought mainly to the nature and extent of the sacrifice involved in this postponement, have regarded as obvious such facts as that a store of the implements of production gives mankind a largely increased power of satisfying their wants. In short there is no reason to believe that the accounts which Prof. Böhm-Bawerk has given of the "naive productivity theories," the "use theories" etc. of capital and interest would have been accepted by the older writers themselves as well-balanced and complete presentations of their several positions. Nor does he seem to have succeeded in finding a definition that is clear and consistent. He says that "Social capital is a group of products destined to serve towards further production; or briefly a group of Intermediate products." He formally excludes (Book I. ch. VI.) "dwelling houses and other kinds of buildings such as serve immediately for any purpose of enjoyment or education or culture." To be consistent, he must exclude hotels, tramways, passenger ships and trains, etc.; and perhaps even plant for supplying the electric light for private dwellings; but that would seem to deprive the notion of capital of all practical interest. There seems no good ground for excluding the public theatre while including the tramcar, which would not justify the inclusion of mills engaged in making home-spun and the exclusion of those engaged in making lace. In answer to this objection he urges, with perfect reason, that every economic classification must allow for the existence of border lines between any two classes, to contain things which belong in part to each of the two. But the objections submitted to his definition are that its border lines are too broad relatively to the area which they inclose; that it conflicts violently with the uses of the market-place; and that yet it does not embody, as the French definition does, a perfectly consistent and coherent abstract idea.
The trader, especially if a shopkeeper, is often able to throw some part of the burden of his rates on his customers, at all events if he deals in things which cannot be easily got from a distance. But the shopkeeper's rates are very large relatively to his income; and some of that expenditure from the rates, which is remunerative from the point of view of well-to-do residents, appears onerous to him. His work belongs to that group in which economic progress is raising supply relatively to demand. A little while ago his remuneration was artificially high, at the expense of society: but now it is falling to a lower and perhaps more equitable level, and he is slow to recognize the new conditions. His mind fastens on the real injustice which he suffers when rates are suddenly raised much; and he attributes to that some of the pressure on him which is really due to deeper causes. His sense of injustice is sharpened by the fact that he does not always bargain on quite even terms with his landlord; for, to say nothing of the cost of fixtures and the general expense of a change, he might lose a great part of his custom by moving to equally good premises even a little way off. It must however be remembered that the shopkeeper does migrate sometimes, that his mind is alert, and he takes full account of the rates; and thus, after a few years, he shifts the burden of onerous rates on to the owners and customers more fully than a man of almost any other class does. (The hotel and lodging-house keeper may rank here with the shopkeeper.)
§ 2. Let us return to the instance of an increased demand for aneroid barometers, caused by a movement of fashion, which after a while had led to improved organization and to a lower supply price
. When at last the force of fashion died away, and the demand for aneroids was again based solely on their real utility; this price might be either greater or less than the normal demand price for the corresponding scale of production. In the former case capital and labour would avoid that trade. Of the firms already started some might pursue their course, though with less net gains than they had hoped; but others would try to edge their way into some nearly related branch of production that was more prosperous: and as old firms dwindled, there would be few new ones to take their place. The scale of production would dwindle again; and the old position of equilibrium would have shown itself fairly stable against assaults.
But now let us turn to the other case, in which the long-period supply price for the increased output fell so far that the demand price remained above it. In that case undertakers, looking forward to the life of a firm started in that trade, considering its chances of prosperity and decay, discounting its future outlays and its future incomings, would conclude that the latter showed a good balance over the former. Capital and labour would stream rapidly into the trade; and the production might perhaps be increased tenfold before the fall in the demand price became as great as the fall in the long-period supply price, and a position of stable equilibrium had been found.
For indeed, though in the account of the oscillations of demand and supply about a position of stable equilibrium, which was given in the third chapter, it was tacitly implied, as is commonly done, that there could be only one position of stable equilibrium in a market: yet in fact under certain conceivable, though rare, conditions there can be two or more positions of real equilibrium of demand and supply, any one of which is equally consistent with the general circumstances of the market, and any one of which if once reached would be stable, until some great disturbance occurred
§ 3. It must however be admitted that this theory is out of touch with real conditions of life, in so far as it assumes that, if the normal production of a commodity increases and afterwards again diminishes to its old amount, the demand price and the supply price will return to their old positions for that amount
Whether a commodity conforms to the law of diminishing or increasing return, the increase in consumption arising from a fall in price is gradual
: and, further, habits which have once grown up around the use of a commodity while its price is low, are not quickly abandoned when its price rises again. If therefore after the supply has gradually increased, some of the sources from which it is derived should be closed, or any other cause should occur to make the commodity scarce, many consumers will be reluctant to depart from their wonted ways. For instance, the price of cotton during the American war was higher than it would have been if the previous low price had not brought cotton into common use to meet wants, many of which had been created by the low price. Thus then the list of demand prices which holds for the forward movement of the production of a commodity will seldom hold for the return movement, but will in general require to be raised
Again, the list of supply prices may have fairly represented the actual fall in the supply price of the thing that takes place when the supply is being increased; but if the demand should fall off, or if for any other reason, the supply should have to be diminished, the supply price would not move back by the course by which it had come, but would take a lower course. The list of supply prices which had held for the forward movement would not hold for the backward movement, but would have to be replaced by a lower schedule. This is true whether the production of the commodity obeys the law of diminishing or increasing return; but it is of special importance in the latter case, because the fact that the production does obey this law, proves that its increase leads to great improvements in organization.
Partly for this reason, there are not many cases in which two positions of stable equilibrium would stand out as possible alternatives at one and the same moment, even if all the facts of the market could be ascertained by the dealers concerned. But when the conditions of a branch of manufacture are such that the supply price would fall very rapidly, if there should be any great increase in the scale of production; then a passing disturbance, by which the demand for the commodity was increased, might cause a very great fall in the stable equilibrium price; a very much larger amount than before being henceforward produced for sale at a very much lower price. This is always possible when, if we could trace the lists of demand and supply prices far ahead, we should find them keeping close together
. For if the supply prices for largely increased amounts are but very little above the corresponding demand prices, a moderate increase in demand, or a comparatively slight new invention or other cheapening of production may bring supply and demand prices together and make a new equilibrium. Such a change resembles in some respects a movement from one alternative position of stable equilibrium to another, but differs from the latter in that it cannot occur except when there is some change in the conditions of normal demand or normal supply.
The unsatisfactory character of these results is partly due to the imperfections of our analytical methods, and may conceivably be much diminished in a later age by the gradual improvement of our scientific machinery. We should have made a great advance if we could represent the normal demand price and supply price as functions both of the amount normally produced and of the time at which that amount became normal
But in the world in which we live, the term "average" expenses of production is somewhat misleading. For most of the appliances of production, material and personal, by which a commodity was made, came into existence long before. Their values are therefore not likely to be just what the producers expected them to be originally; but some of their values will be greater, and others less. Thus present incomes earned by them will be governed by the general relations between the demand for, and the supply of, their products; and their values will be arrived at by capitalizing these incomes. And therefore, when making out a list of normal supply prices, which, in conjunction with the list of normal demand prices, is to determine the equilibrium position of normal value, we cannot take for granted the values of these appliances for production without reasoning in a circle.
This caution, which is of special importance with regard to industries that tend to increasing return, may be emphasized by a diagrammatic presentation of the relations of demand and supply which are possible in a stationary state, but only there. There every particular thing bears its proper share of supplementary costs; and it would not ever be worth while for a producer to accept a particular order at a price other than the total cost, in which is to be reckoned a charge for the task of building up the trade connection and external organization of a representative firm. The illustration has no positive value: it merely guards against a possible error in abstract reasoning
Besides positions of stable equilibrium, there are theoretically at least positions of unstable equilibrium: they are the dividing boundaries between two positions of stable equilibria, the watersheds, so to speak, dividing two river basins, and the price tends to flow away from them in either direction.
When demand and supply are in unstable equilibrium, then, if the scale of production be disturbed ever so little from its equilibrium position, it will move rapidly away to one of its positions of stable equilibrium; as an egg if balanced on one of its ends would at the smallest shake fall down, and lie lengthways. Just as it is theoretically possible, but practically impossible, that an egg should stand balanced on its end, so it is theoretically possible, but practically impossible, that the scale of production should stay balanced in unstable equilibrium.
Thus in fig. 38 the curves intersect several times and the arrow heads on
Ox show the directions in which, according to its situation,
R tends to move along
Ox. This shows that if
R is at
H or at
L and is displaced slightly in either direction, it will, as soon as the disturbing cause is over, return to the equilibrium position from which it was displaced: but that if it is at
K and is displaced towards the right, it will continue, even after the cessation of the disturbing cause, to move to the right till it reaches
L, and if displaced towards the left it will continue to move to the left till it reaches
H. That is to say,
L are points of stable equilibrium and
K is a point of unstable equilibrium. We are thus brought to the result that:—
The equilibrium of demand and supply corresponding to the point of intersection of the demand and supply curves is stable or unstable according as the demand curve lies above or below the supply curve just to the left of that point; or, which is the same thing, according as it lies below or above the supply curve just to the right of that point.
We have seen that the demand curve is inclined throughout negatively. From this it follows that, if just to the right of any point of intersection the supply curve lies above the demand curve; then, if we move along the supply curve to the right, we must necessarily keep above the demand curve till the next point of intersection is reached: that is to say, the point of equilibrium next on the right-hand side of a point of stable equilibrium, must be a point of unstable equilibrium; and, it may be proved in like manner, that so must the adjacent point of intersection on the left-hand side. In other words, in cases in which the curves cut each other more than once, points of stable and unstable equilibrium alternate.
Also the last point of intersection reached, as we move to the right, must be a point of stable equilibrium. For if the amount produced were increased indefinitely, the price at which it could be sold would necessarily fall almost to zero; but the price required to cover the expense of producing it would not so fall. Therefore, if the supply curve be produced sufficiently far towards the right, it must at last lie above the demand curve.
The first point of intersection arrived at as we proceed from left to right may be a point either of stable or of unstable equilibrium. If it be a point of unstable equilibrium, this fact will indicate that the production of the commodity in question on a small scale will not remunerate the producers; so that its production cannot be commenced at all unless some passing accident has caused temporarily an urgent demand for the commodity, or has temporarily lowered the expenses of producing it; or unless some enterprising firm is prepared to sink much capital in overcoming the initial difficulties of the production, and bringing out the commodity at a price which will ensure large sales.
That is, when at a good distance to the right of the equilibrium point, the supply curve is but little above the demand curve.
In the adjoining diagram,
' is not a true supply
curve adapted to the conditions of the world in which we live; but it has properties, which are often erroneously attributed to such a curve. We will call it the
particular expenses curve.
As usual the amount of a commodity is measured along
and its price along
is the amount of the commodity produced annually,
is the equilibrium price of a unit of it. The producer of the
th unit is supposed to have no differential advantages; but the producer of the
th unit has differential advantages which enable him to produce with an outlay
a unit which it would have cost him an outlay
to produce without those advantages. The locus of
is our particular expenses curve; and it is such that any point
being taken on it, and
being drawn perpendicular to
represents the particular expenses of production incurred for the production of the
th unit. The excess of
and is a producer's surplus or rent. For convenience the owners of differential advantages may be arranged in descending order from left to right; and thus
' becomes a curve sloping upwards to the right.
Proceeding as in the case of consumer's surplus or rent (III. VI. 3), we may regard
MQ as a thin parallelogram or as a thick straight line. And as
M takes consecutive positions along
OH, we get a number of thick straight lines cut in two by the curve
SA, the lower part of each representing the expenses of production of a unit of the commodity, and the upper the contribution which that unit affords towards rent. The lower set of thick lines taken together fill up the whole space
SOHA; which therefore represents the aggregate of the expenses of production of an amount
OH. The upper set of thick lines taken together fill up the space
FSA, which therefore represents producer's surplus or rent in the ordinary sense of the term. Subject to the corrections mentioned above (III. VI. 3),
DFA represents the surplus satisfaction which consumers get from an amount
OH over that, the value of which is represented to them by a sum of money equal to
Now the difference between the particular expenses curve and a normal supply curve lies in this, that in the former we do, and in the latter we do not, take the general economies of production as fixed and uniform throughout. The particular expenses curve is based throughout on the assumption that the aggregate production is
OH, and that all the producers have access to the internal and external economies which belong to this scale of production; and, these assumptions being carefully borne in mind, the curve may be used to represent a particular phase of any industry, whether agricultural or manufacturing: but they cannot be taken to represent its general conditions of production.
That can be done only by the normal supply curve, in which
PM represents the normal expenses of production of the
OMth unit on the supposition that
OM units (not any other amount, as
OH) are being produced; and that the available economies of production external and internal are those which belong to a representative firm where the aggregate volume of production is
OM. These economies will generally be less than if the aggregate volume of production were the larger quantity
OH; and therefore,
M being to the left of
H, the ordinate at
M for the supply curve will be greater than for a particular expenses curve drawn for an aggregate production
It follows that the area
SAF which represents aggregate rent in our present diagram would have represented something less than the aggregate rent, if
SS' had been a normal supply curve even for agricultural produce (
DD' being the normal demand curve). For even in agriculture the general economies of production increase with an increase in the aggregate scale of production.
If however we choose to ignore this fact for the sake of any particular argument; that is, if we choose to assume that
MP being the expenses of production of that part of the produce which was raised under the most difficult circumstances (so as to pay no rent) when
OM units were produced, it remains also the expenses of production (other than rent) of the
OMth unit even when
OH is produced; or, in other words, if we assume that the increase in production from the amount
OM to the amount
OH did not alter the expenses of production of the
OMth unit, then we may regard
SAF as representing the aggregate rent even when
SS' is the normal supply curve. It may be occasionally convenient to do this, attention being of course called every time to the nature of the special assumption made.
But no assumption of the kind can be made with regard to the supply curve of a commodity that obeys the laws of increasing return. To do so would be a contradiction in terms. The fact that the production of the commodity obeys that law, implies that the general economies available when the aggregate volume of production is large, are so much greater than when it is small, as to override the increasing resistance that nature offers to an increased production of the raw materials of which the industry makes use. In the case of a particular expenses curve,
MP will always be less than
M being to the left of
H) whether the commodity obeys the law of increasing or diminishing return; but on the other hand in the case of a supply curve, for a commodity that obeys the law of increasing return,
MP would generally be greater than
It remains to say that if we are dealing with a problem in which some even of those appliances for production which were made by man, have to be taken as a given quantity for the time, so that their earnings will be of the nature of a quasi-rent; we may then draw a particular expenses curve, in which
MP stands for the expenses of production in the narrower sense in which such quasi-rents are excluded; and the area
SAF would thus represent the aggregate of rents proper and of these quasi-rents. This method of treating short-period normal value problems has attractions, and may perhaps ultimately be of service: but it requires careful handling, for the assumptions on which it rests are very slippery.
Jevons continues:—"We have only to trace out carefully the natural laws of variation of utility as depending upon the quantity of commodity in our possession, in order to arrive at a satisfactory theory of exchange, of which the ordinary laws of supply and demand are a necessary consequence...Labour is found often to determine value, but only in an indirect manner by varying the degree of utility of the commodity through an increase or limitation of the supply." As we shall presently see, the latter of these two statements had been made before in almost the same form, loose and inaccurate as it is, by Ricardo and Mill; but they would not have accepted the former statement. For while they regarded the natural laws of variation of utility as too obvious to require detailed explanation, and while they admitted that cost of production could have no effect upon exchange value if it could have none upon the amount which producers brought forward for sale; their doctrines imply that what is true of supply, is true
mutatis mutandis of demand, and that the utility of a commodity could have no effect upon its exchange value if it could have none on the amount which purchasers took off the market. Let us then turn to examine the chain of causation in which Jevons' central position is formulated in his Second Edition, and compare it with the position taken up by Ricardo and Mill. He says (p. 179):—
"Cost of production determines supply.
Supply determines final degree of utility.
Final degree of utility determines value."
Now if this series of causations really existed, there could be no great harm in omitting the intermediate stages and saying that cost of production determines value. For if
A is the cause of
B, which is the cause of
C, which is the cause of
A is the cause of
D. But in fact there is no such series.
A preliminary objection might be taken to the ambiguity of the terms "cost of production" and "supply"; which Jevons ought to have avoided, by the aid of that technical apparatus of semi-mathematical phrases, which was at his disposal, but not at Ricardo's. A graver objection lies against his third statement. For the price which the various purchasers in a market will pay for a thing, is determined not solely by the final degrees of its utility to them, but by these in conjunction with the amounts of purchasing power severally at their disposal. The exchange value of a thing is the same all over a market; but the final degrees of utility to which it corresponds are not equal at any two parts. Jevons supposed himself to be getting nearer the foundations of exchange value when in his account of the causes which determine it, he substituted the phrase "final degree of utility," for "the price which consumers are only just willing to pay,"—the phrase which in the present treatise is condensed into "marginal demand price." When for instance describing (Second Edition, p. 105) the settlement of exchange between "one trading body possessing only corn, and another possessing only beef," he makes his diagram represent "a person" as gaining a "utility" measured along one line and losing a "utility" measured along another. But that is not what really happens; a trading body is not "a person," it gives up things which represent equal purchasing power to all of its members, but very different utilities. It is true that Jevons was himself aware of this; and that his account can be made consistent with the facts of life by a series of interpretations, which in effect substitute "demand-price" and "supply-price" for "utility" and "disutility": but, when so amended, they lose much of their aggressive force against the older doctrines, and if both are to be held severely to a strictly literal interpretation, then the older method of speaking, though not perfectly accurate, appears to be nearer the truth than that which Jevons and some of his followers have endeavoured to substitute for it.
But the greatest objection of all to his formal statement of his central doctrine is that it does not represent supply price, demand price and amount produced as mutually determining one another (subject to certain other conditions), but as determined one by another in a series. It is as though when three balls
A, B, and
C rest against one another in a bowl, instead of saying that the position of the three mutually determines one another under the action of gravity, he had said that
C. Someone else however with equal justice might say that
A. And in reply to Jevons a catena rather less untrue than his can be made by inverting his order and saying:—
Utility determines the amount that has to be supplied,
The amount that has to be supplied determines cost of production,
Cost of production determines value, because it determines the supply price which is required to make the producers keep to their work.
Let us then turn to Ricardo's doctrine which, though unsystematic and open to many objections, seems to be more philosophic in principle and closer to the actual facts of life. He says, in the letter to Malthus already quoted:—"M. Say has not a correct notion of what is meant by value when he contends that a commodity is valuable in proportion to its utility. This would be true if buyers only regulated the value of commodities; then indeed we might expect that all men would be willing to give a price for things in proportion to the estimation in which they held them; but the fact appears to me to be that the buyers have the least in the world to do in regulating price; it is all done by the competition of the sellers, and, however really willing the buyers might be to give more for iron than for gold, they could not, because the supply would be regulated by cost of production.... You say demand and supply regulates value [
sic]; this I think is saying nothing, and for the reason I have given in the beginning of this letter: it is supply which regulates value, and supply is itself controlled by comparative cost of production. Cost of production, in money, means the value of labour as well as of profits." (See pp. 173-6 of Dr Bonar's excellent edition of these letters.) And again in his next letter, "I do not dispute either the influence of demand on the price of corn or on the price of all other things: but supply follows close at its heels and soon takes the power of regulating price in his [
sic] own hands, and in regulating it he is determined by cost of production."
These letters were not indeed published when Jevons wrote, but there are very similar statements in Ricardo's
Principles. Mill also, when discussing the value of money (Book III. ch. IX. § 3), speaks of "the law of demand and supply which is acknowledged to be applicable to all commodities, and which in the case of money as of most other things, is controlled but not set aside by the law of cost of production, since cost of production would have no effect on value if it could have none on supply." And again, when summing up his theory of value (Book III. ch. XVI. § 1), he says:—"From this it appears that demand and supply govern the fluctuations of prices in all cases, and the permanent values of all things of which the supply is determined by any agency other than that of free competition: but that, under the régime of free competition, things are, on the average, exchanged for each other at such values and sold for such prices as afford equal expectation of advantage to all classes of producers; which can only be when things exchange for one another in the ratio of their cost of production." And, on the next page, speaking of commodities which have a joint cost of production, he says, "since cost of production here fails us we must resort to a law of value anterior to cost of production and more fundamental, the law of demand and supply."
Jevons (p. 215), referring to this last passage, speaks of "the fallacy involved in Mill's idea that he is reverting to
an anterior law of value, the law of supply and demand, the fact being that in introducing the cost of production principle, he has never quitted the law of supply and demand at all. The cost of production is only one circumstance which governs supply and thus indirectly influences values."
This criticism seems to contain an important truth; though the wording of the last part is open to objection. If it had been made in Mill's time he would probably have accepted it; and would have withdrawn the word "anterior" as not expressing his real meaning. The "cost of production principle" and the "final utility" principle are undoubtedly component parts of the one all-ruling law of supply and demand; each may be compared to one blade of a pair of scissors. When one blade is held still, and the cutting is effected by moving the other, we may say with careless brevity that the cutting is done by the second; but the statement is not one to be made formally, and defended deliberately
Perhaps Jevons' antagonism to Ricardo and Mill would have been less if he had not himself fallen into the habit of speaking of relations which really exist only between demand price and value as though they held between utility and value; and if he had emphasized as Cournot had done, and as the use of mathematical forms might have been expected to lead him to do, that fundamental symmetry of the general relations in which demand and supply stand to value, which coexists with striking differences in the details of those relations. We must not indeed forget that, at the time at which he wrote, the demand side of the theory of value had been much neglected; and that he did excellent service by calling attention to it and developing it. There are few thinkers whose claims on our gratitude are as high and as various as those of Jevons: but that must not lead us to accept hastily his criticisms on his great predecessors
In doing this he allowed his zeal for giving a more human tone to economics to get the better of his judgment, and to hurry him on to work with an incomplete analysis. For, by putting his main theory of wages before his account of supply and demand, he cut himself off from all chance of treating that theory in a satisfactory way; and in fact he was led on to say (
Principles, Book II. ch. XI. § 1), that "Wages depend mainly upon...the proportion between population and capital"; or rather, as he explains later on, between "the number of the labouring class...who work for hire," and "the aggregate of what may be called the Wages-fund which consists of that part of circulating capital...which is expended in the direct hire of labour."
The first Fundamental Proposition of Mill's is closely connected with his fourth, viz. that
Demand for commodities is not demand for labour: and this again expresses his meaning badly. It is true that those who purchase any particular commodities do not generally supply the capital that is required to aid and support the labour which produces those commodities: they merely divert capital and employment from other trades to that for the products of which they make increased demand. But Mill, not contented with proving this, seems to imply that, to spend money on the direct hire of labour is more beneficial to the labourer than to spend it on buying commodities. Now there is a sense in which this contains a little truth. For the price of the commodities includes profits of manufacturer and middleman; and if the purchaser acts as employer, he slightly diminishes the demand for the services of the employing class, and increases the demand for labour as he might have done by buying, say, hand-made lace instead of machine-made lace. But this argument assumes that the wages of labour will be paid, as in practice they commonly are, while the work is proceeding; and that the price of the commodities will be paid, as in practice it commonly is, after the commodities are made: and it will be found that in every case which Mill has chosen to illustrate the doctrine, his arguments imply, though he does not seem to be aware of it, that the consumer when passing from purchasing commodities to hiring labour, postpones the date of his own consumption of the fruits of labour. And the same postponement would have resulted in the same benefit to labour if the purchaser had made no change in the mode of his expenditure
It may be objected that if other forms of wealth take the place of trade capital on a large scale, there may be a scarcity of the things needed to aid labour in its work and even of those needed to support it. This may be a real danger in some Oriental countries. But in the western world, and especially in England, the total stock of capital is equal in value to the aggregate of the commodities consumed by the working classes during many years: and a very small increase in the demand for those forms of capital, that minister directly to labour's needs, relatively to other forms, would quickly bring forward an increased supply of them, either imported from some other part of the world, or specially produced to meet the new demand. There is therefore no necessity to trouble ourselves much on this score. If the marginal efficiency of labour is kept high, its net product will be high; and so will therefore its earnings: and the constantly flowing stream of the national dividend will divide itself up in corresponding proportions, giving always an adequate supply of commodities for immediate consumption by the workers, and assigning to the production of those commodities an adequate stock of implements. When the general conditions of demand and supply have decided what part of the national dividend the other classes of society are free to spend as they will; and when the inclinations of those classes have decided the mode in which they will distribute their expenditure between present and deferred gratifications, etc., it matters not to the working classes whether orchids come from the private conservatories, or from the glass houses which belong to professional florists, and which are therefore trade capital.
The adjoining figure tends to show that there is a class of economic problems which cannot be safely treated by anyone of less genius than Ricardo without the aid of some apparatus, either of mathematics or of diagrams, that present as a continuous whole the schedules of economic forces, whether with regard to the Law of Diminishing Return or to those of Demand and Supply. The curve
AC has the same interpretation in this figure as in the last; but the improvement has the effect of increasing the return to each dose of capital and labour by one-third,
i.e. in an equal proportion and not by an equal amount: and the new produce curve
C' stands much higher above
AC at its left end than at its right. Cultivation is restricted to
OD' doses, where the area
C', representing the new aggregate product, is as before equal to
C' is as before the new aggregate Corn surplus. Now it can be easily proved that
C' is four-thirds of
AKE, and whether this is greater or less than
AHC depends upon the particular shape assigned to
AC be a straight line or nearly a straight line (both Mill's and Ricardo's numbers represented points on a straight Produce line)
C' would be less than
AHC; but with the shape assigned to
AC in our figure
C' is greater than
AHC. And thus Mill's argument is, while Ricardo's is not, dependent for its conclusion on the particular shape assumed by them for the gross produce curve.