Imágenes de páginas



we have little chance to delude ourselves: protectionists are blinded by this real Moloch of liberalism, which they fear more than a Tamerlane. They cannot for a moment recognize the beneficent effects, the admirable equilibrium which results in the world's economy. Protectionism, however, affords an illusory economic bal

The same is the case with bimetallism, which is only a manifestation of the same spirit of protectionism.

Bimetallism believes in destroying all differences in the value of money between the eastern and western countries. But in England, in the United States, and in France, coined silver will never have the same importance and the same value as the silver money used in India, Japan and China. All the writers on economic history, from Thorold Rogers, who spent almost his whole life in such researches (as he himself states), to the celebrated Tooke, Newmarch, D'Avenel, De Foville, Farraglia, Dupré de Saint-Maur and many others, have all confirmed the great limitation of the economic market of the past centuries, the economic differences, and have shown how the latter arise. And such great differences are verified very often between neighboring markets: the difference between Figeac and Rodez is hardly fifteen miles, and still, in 1692, the price of grain at Figeac was 130% greater than it was in Rodez.

A. Bourgne has found in the archives of the department of Eure, in France, a Registre des appreciations des grains kept at the bailiwick of Gisors. Such a historical document is very precious on account of the times to which it refers: that is, from 1648 to 1652 and from 1698 to 1795; and it is especially valuable on account of the careful way in which it was kept. The Register of the Price of Grains kept at the bailiwick of Gisors gives the market price on each Monday of every year. The average prices which are derived from it are very trustworthy. From 1795, in which year this register ends, up to the year IX, the prices of the Gisors market are known. For the following years Bourgne has taken the data from the department of Eure, which the Ministry of Agriculture publishes. Thus Bourgne * J. E. T. Rogers, Economic Interpretation to History, Preface to the 2d edi


[ocr errors]

has succeeded in giving us the prices of grain from 1648 up to our day.

In the great abundance of statistical data and researches as to the price of commodities in the past centuries, no one had succeeded in furnishing us with the price of one commodity on the same market for the period of over two centuries. There is no doubt about the great value of these results given by him.

Price for each hectoliter of grain, Gisors' market:

[blocks in formation]

In 1718 we find the price of wheat in the market of Gisors was 5.62 fr. It rose from 5.45 fr. in 1733 to 22.48 fr. in 1741, and fell again to 5.21 fr. in 1745. Later it rose and varied between 10 and 15 francs. From 1761 to 1768 it was somewhat lower, and often fell below 10 francs. A period followed, longer than the preceding ones, in which the price was higher. From 1789 to 1821 it rose: and now it is difficult to find the price of wheat at Gisors below 25 francs. On the other hand, from 1821 to 1852 said price was a little over fifteen francs. In the last period down to 1870, wheat at Gisors was dearer: from 1854 to 1856 it remained at a price above thirty francs, and in the following years never fell below twenty. It is true that at Gisors, in the last two centuries and a half, you cannot find the price to be the same for two consecutive years. But it is also true, and it is important to be noticed, that the prices, at times low and at times high, remain stationary during a given period of years, as can be readily seen.

1 A. Bourgne, Le prix du blé depuis 1650 jusqu à 1890, Economiste Français, 1894, p. II.

[ocr errors]

Availing ourselves of the data furnished by Thorold Rogers, we find that in England the average price of one hectoliter of wheat was as follows during periods of ten years each, viz.: 1261-1270, 5.80 fr.; 1361-1370, 7.16 fr.; 1401-1410, 5.60 fr.; 1501-1510, 5.40 fr.; 1593–1602, 5.33 fr.; 1622–1632, 19.30 fr.; 1643–1652, 21.68 fr.; 1693-1702, 19.10 fr. For a more recent period Jevons finds that, by indicating with the figure 100 the price of wheat in England in 1849, the corresponding price in 1789 was 133; in 1795, 202; in 1809, 245; in 1819, 175; in 1829, 124; in 1839, 144; in 1859, 120; in 1869, 119.2

If we take the wages of a Manchester spinner, which had nominally decreased on account of the introduction of the power looms and the increased number of spindles, and compare them with the prices of meat and wheat, in place of an actual decrease we find a steady increase of wages.

Houldsworth, to demonstrate the truth of the above statement to a committee of manufacturers, used the following interesting statistics :3

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

While we can disregard the sudden fluctuations in the price of wheat and confine ourselves to its normal movements, which are due to causes more general and stable, regardless of those fluctuations, we cannot possibly demonstrate to what extent the movement in the price of wheat can reflect the prices of other commodities.


Rogers, J. E. T., History of Agriculture and Prices in England, Vol. i, p. 245 ; Vol. iv, p. 292 ; Vol. v, p. 276.

W. S. Jevons, Journal of Royal Statistical Society, Vol. xxxii, p. 446. 3 Schulze-Gaevernitz, La grande industrie, Paris, 1895, p. 63.

In such abundance of data it is impossible to find in those prices any relation of cause and effect. D'Avenel has contributed very much to our information in gathering such data. He cannot help smiling at the expense of M. Garnier and several others, who are in the habit of taking the price of only one commodity as a criterion for the price of others. Such men have gone astray in admitting that the price of a commodity selected by them should be less influenced by commercial fluctuations. Wheat generally has been the commodity selected by them, therefore D'Avenel repels the inference made; and states that if wheat now is scarcely worth twice as much as it was worth in France during the period 1351-1375 (9 fr.), pork is worth four times as much, and meat six times as much. On the other hand, fish sold for one-third less. Then a day laborer received 90 centimes per day, while nowadays he receives 2.50 fr. The soil produced six times less than what it produces to-day, and its value was nineteen times less. If no relation can be established between the fluctuations in the price of such commodities and that of wheat, it is very important to notice that none of them, aside from the yearly fluctuations due to temporary causes, follow a well-determined tendency and direction. This is what we have minutely noted in reference to the movements in the price of wheat. From the reign of Henry II and the beginning of that of Charles IX (1551-1575) to the present day, the average prices of commodities have fallen as 3 to 1.

The expression “cost of living" fails to explain such a complex result, even if the working of the numerous prices of commodities coöperate in bringing it about. The cost of living, or rather the power to acquire money, which means the same, but is more explicit, varies from one country to another, still better, from one center of production to another, therefore, certain products are dearer in one than they are in another, consequently the complex cost of living differs. The price of wheat has decreased, owing to the greater facilities of transportation of the American and Indian wheat to Europe. But the wheat which remains on the American and Indian

1 G. D'Avenel, La fortune privée, Paris, 1895, p. 3.

markets fails to feel the influence of the decreased price of transportation to Europe, but it feels an entirely opposite influence. American or Indian wheat in Europe costs less, hence the importation of it into Europe increases, while for the same reasons the price of wheat on the exporting markets tends to increase. The purchasing power of money not only varies from Paris to Lyons, or between two towns of the same country, but it varies even for the simple fact that the seasons vary. In a city like Rome, with almost half a million inhabitants, owing to the simple fact of the foreign colonies, and of the Italians from other cities coming there to spend the winter season, the general cost of living increases as also does the cost of more useful commodities. But in large cities the cost of living varies quite a little, according to their different sections, especially when you compare the more with the less central sections: at Paris the cost of living in the Faubourg Montmartre differs from that in the Champs Elysées.

From 1825 to 1850, French Government bonds yielded on an average 4.7% Now the 3% bonds yield only 2.94% to the holder.1 Since 1869 the actuarial interest of all insurance companies has fallen at least 20%.2 In 1869 the English 3% consols yielded 3.25%; nowadays the rate of interest has fallen by about one per cent. But this reduction in the rate of interest has not been uniform in all countries. Luzzattihas classified the countries with various interest-rates as follows: the first category includes England, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland; and in these countries the interest trial ranges from 2 to 3%. In Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Norway, Russia, Roumania and Italy it varies from three to five per cent. In the category are included all those states where the interest ranges from six to eight per cent. Servia and Portugal have six per cent.; Greece 672%; Bulgaria even

1 Barthelemy Rey, L'interêt, Paris, 1891.

? A. Neymark, Le morcellement des valeurs mobilières, Revue Politique et Parlementaire, juillet 1896, p. 123.

3 L. Luzzatti, Banche popolari, Roma, 1895, Prefazione, p. 17.

« AnteriorContinuar »