The Theory of Political Economy
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earning anything. No labour, therefore, is devoted to the future which might be devoted to the present. As to the food and other articles necessary to the subsistence of the child, they are simply so much commodity which the parents are bound to supply. Whether the child is intended to labour in the future or not, the law requires that he shall be maintained, and will in the last resort provide his maintenance in the workhouse. Mr. Shadwell has very soundly and acutely pointed out that “if we
of his customers: his whole success depends upon it; and, in like manner, the theory of Economics must begin with a correct theory of consumption. Many economists have had a clear perception of this truth. Lord Lauderdale distinctly states,1 that “the great and important step towards ascertaining the causes of the direction which industry takes in nations . . . seems to be the discovery of what dictates the proportion of demand for the various articles which are produced.” Senior, in his
need to consume more than we have. Let the supply run short by drought, and we begin to feel the higher degrees of utility, of which we think but little at other times. The variation of the function expressing the final degree of utility is the all-important point in economic problems. We may state as a general law, that the degree of utility varies with the quantity of commodity, and ultimately decreases as that quantity increases. No commodity can be named which we continue to desire with the
separate inducements, or that any other motives than such as arise out of simple desire of one’s own convenience enter into the question. A much more difficult problem arises when we suppose an indivisible article exchanged for a divisible commodity. When Russia sold Alaska this was a practically indivisible thing; but it was bought with money of which more or less might be given to indefinitely small quantities. A bargain of this kind is exceedingly common; indeed it occurs in the case of every
consumption considerably. This means that it possessed a high degree of utility to them, which could only be overbalanced by some serious increase in the value of ψc, which would ultimately mean the need of the necessaries of life. It is very curious that in this subject, which reaches to the very foundations of Political Economy, we owe more to early than later writers. Before our science could be said to exist at all, writers on Political Arithmetic had got about as far as we have got at