By James Ahiakpor
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Malthus appeals to the approximation of the value of paper currency to that of specie (gold), simply by the expedient of limiting its supply, as a good illustration of his point: …the most striking instance which can be conceived to show that the cost of production only influences the prices of commodities, as it influences their supply compared with the demand, is continually before our eyes in the 20 The classical theory of value artificial value which is given to bank-notes by limiting their amount…if an article which costs comparatively nothing, though it performs the most important function of gold, can be kept to the value of gold, by being supplied in the same quantity; it is the clearest of all possible proofs that the value of gold itself no further depends upon the cost of its production, than as this cost influences the supply compared with the demand: and that if the cost were to cease, provided the supply were not increased compared with the demand, the value of gold in this country would still remain the same.
But they fail to interpret Adam Smith correctly. Some modern variations and distortions Alfred Marshall represents most consistently as well as refines the classical theory of value in his Principles of Economics, including distinguishing Smith’s apparent constant average costs industry analysis from the cases of increasing or decreasing average costs analysis. Marshall first summarizes Smith’s discussion of the theory of value by noting his distinction between value in use and value in exchange, pointing out that “experience has shown that it is not well to use the word in the former sense” (1920:51)—utility having replaced “value in use” in common usage.
In another elaborate explanation of the determination of the wage rate or price of labor by its demand and supply, and in which the wage rate is not constant, Smith says: The money price of labor is necessarily regulated by two circumstances; the demand for labour, and the price of the necessaries and conveniences of life. The demand for labour, according as it happens to be increasing, stationary, or declining, or to require an increasing, stationary, or declining population, determines the quantity of the necessaries and the conveniences of life which must be given to the labourer; and the money price of labour is determined by what is requisite for purchasing this quantity.