Wealth, it has been said, consists of things essentially valuable. We now, therefore, need a definition of "value". Value signifies the strength or "availing" of anything towards the sustaining of life, and is always twofold; that is to say, primarily, Intrinsic, and, secondarily, Effectual.
The reader must, by anticipation, be warned against confusing value with cost, or with price. Value is the life-giving power of anything; cost, the quantity of labour required to produce it; price, the quantity of labour which its possessor will take in exchange for it. Cost and price are commercial conditions, to be studied under the head of Money.
Intrinsic value is the absolute power of anything to support life. A sheaf of wheat of given quality and weight has in it a measurable power of sustaining the substance of the body; a cubic foot of pure air, a fixed power of sustaining its warmth; and a cluster of flowers of given beauty, a fixed power of enlivening or animating the senses and heart.
It does not in the least affect the intrinsic value of the wheat, the air, or the flowers, that men refuse or despise them. Used or not, their own power is in them, and that particular power is in nothing else.
But in order that this value of theirs may become effectual, a certain state is necessary in the recipient of it. The digesting, the breathing, and perceiving functions must be perfect in the human creature before the food, air, or flowers can become their full value to it. The production of effectual value, therefore, always involves two needs; first, the production of a thing essentially useful; then the production of the capacity to use it. Where the intrinsic value and acceptant capacity come together there is Effectual value, or wealth. Where there is either no intrinsic value, or no acceptant capacity, there is no effectual value; that is to say, no wealth. A horse is no wealth to us if we cannot ride, nor a picture if we cannot see, nor can any noble thing be wealth, except to a noble person. As the aptness of the user increases, the effectual value of the thing used increases; and in its entirety can co-exist only with perfect skill of use, or harmony of nature. The effectual value of a given quantity of any commodity existing in the world at any moment is therefore a mathematical function of the capacity existing in the human race to enjoy it. Let its intrinsic value be represented by x, and the recipient faculty by y; its effectual value is xy, in which the sum varies as either co-efficient varies, is increased by either's increase, and cancelled by either's absence.
Valuable material things may be conveniently referred to five heads:
We shall enter into separate inquiry as to the conditions of value under each of these heads. The following sketch of the entire subject may be useful for future reference:
Its value is twofold—
Land of the highest value in these respects is that lying in temperate climates, and boldly varied in form; removed from unhealthy or dangerous influences (as of miasm or volcano); and capable of sustaining a rich fauna and flora. Such land, carefully tended by the hand of man, so far as to remove from it unsightlinesses and evidences of decay; guarded from violence, and inhabited, under man's affectionate protection, by every kind of living creature that can occupy it in peace, forms the most precious "property " that human beings can possess. The determination of the degree in which these two elements of value can be united in land, or in which either element must, or should, in particular cases, be sacrificed to the other, forms the most important branch of economical inquiry respecting preferences of things.
2. Buildings, furniture, and instruments.
The value of buildings consists—
The value of instruments consists —
3. Food, medicine, and articles of luxury.
Under this head we shall have to examine the possible methods of obtaining pure and nourishing food in such security and equality of supply as to avoid both waste and famine; then the economy of medicine and just range of sanitary law; finally, the economy of luxury, partly an aesthetic and partly an ethical question.
The value of these consists—
5. Works of art.
The value of these is of the same nature as that of books, but the laws of their production and possible modes of distribution are very different, and require separate examination.