Wealth of Nations Essay

This essay has a total of 1168 words and 6 pages.

Wealth of Nations



In the first book of The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith discusses the “Variations in the
Proportion between the respective Values of Gold and Silver.” Throughout history, these
two metals have been regarded as mints of significant value. Before mines were found in
America, the difference in value between silver and gold was usually seen as
proportionate, where one ounce of fine gold was considered equivalent to anywhere from ten
to twelve ounces of fine silver. More recently, the values have changed as much as one
ounce of fine gold to be equal to as much as fourteen or fifteen ounces of fine silver.
Over the years, it is said that both silver and gold have dropped in value, but the drop
of silver has come more rapidly, therefore leading to the reason why gold has become
proportionately even more valuable than in the past. Smith does claim, however, that
“both the gold and silver mines of America exceeded in fertility all those which had ever
been known before, the fertility of the silver mines had, it seems, been proportionally
still greater than that of the gold ones.” As a result of silver being more plentiful in
comparison to gold, though it is considered less valuable it is certainly more important
in many cases.

Adam Smith says that it would be “absurd to infer…” that “… because an ounce of gold will
commonly purchase from fourteen to fifteen ounces silver, that there are commonly in the
market only fourteen or fifteen ounces of silver for one ounce of gold.” The amount of
silver that can be found in the market is in all probability worth more in proportion to
gold. Adam Smith feels that the cheaper of the two metals is f both more value and
greatness due to the quantity that is accessible. He explains, “There are so many more
purchasers for the cheap than for the dear commodity that not only a greater quantity of
it, but a greater value, can commonly be disposed of. The whole quantity, therefore, of
the cheap commodity must commonly be greater in proportion to the whole quantity of the
dear one than the value of a certain quantity of the dear one is to the value of an equal
quantity of the cheap one.” Silver can be seen as more valuable in the sense that it is
used more often and more common. Silver even outclasses gold in certain cases, for example
in the French coin where silver “preponderates”. In another instance, it is said that
silver plate is more of more worth than gold plates. Another way in which Adam Smith
shows the greater importance of silver is through the Spanish Market. Though he does
admit that gold will always be more expensive, he feels that it is also cheaper in certain
senses. He states that product is claimed cheap or expensive, “not only according to the
absolute greatness or smallness of its usual price, but according to the absolute
greatness or smallness of its usual price, but according as that price is more or less
above the lowest for which it is possible to bring it to market for any considerable time
together.” In Spain during this time, gold is closer to its lowest price than silver is
because the tax put upon gold is five percent, whereas the tax put on silver is ten
percent. Thus, miners for silver in this country are much more successful. Silver
understandably then still takes a big part in monetary system during this time and is more
important than gold in many instances. Though the value may differ in favor of gold, other
factors come into play which raise the importance of silver.

In the European market silver has raised in value a bit because decline in the amount
found. With silver becoming scarcer, it adds to the importance of the metal since it is
not as available. Smith explains that as “mass increases…” the value of gold and silver
“…diminishes”. Smith says that anytime a metal is “more used…” it is “…less cared for.”
Silver is a very important part of European monetary system during these times. The
outright overall value can sometimes be very deceiving in comparing two precious metals. A
rare gem is evidently going to be worth a lot, but silver would be much more handy in
comparison. Silver during these times experienced some difficulties as far as price
diminishment of a few occasions during the time of Adam Smith. He explains this by saying:

The increase of expense must either, first, be compensated altogether by a proportionable
increase in the price of the metal; or, secondly, it must be compensated altogether by a
proportionable diminution of the tax upon silver; or, thirdly, it must be compensated
partly by the one, and partly by the other of those two expedients. This third event is
very possible. As gold rose in its price in proportion to silver, notwithstanding a great
diminution of the tax upon gold, so silver might rise in its price in proportion to labour
and commodities, notwithstanding an equal diminution of the tax upon silver.

Thus, a momentary drop in silver’s value is not to define the eternal value of the metal
by any means, and in fact, a raise in value is probable.
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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