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Part Four: Catallactics or Economics of the... > Chapter XVI. Prices

12. The Connexity of Prices

If a definite process of production brings about the products p and q simultaneously, the entrepreneurial decisions and actions are directed by weighing the sum of the anticipated prices of p and q. The prices of p and q are particularly connected with one another as changes in the demand for p (or for q) generate changes in the supply of q (or for p). The mutual relation of the prices of p and q can be called connexity of production. The businessman calls p (or q) a by-product of q (or p).

The production of the consumers' good z requires the employment of the factors p and q, the production of p the employment of the factors a and b, and the production of q the employment of the factors c and d. Then changes in the supply of p (or for q) bring about changes in the demand for q (or for p). It does not matter whether the process of producing z out of p and q is accomplished by the same enterprises which produce p out of a and b and q out of c and d, or by entrepreneurs financially independent of one another, or by the consumers themselves as a preliminary step in their consuming. The prices of p and q are particularly connected with one another because [p. 392] p is useless or of a smaller utility without q and vice versa. The mutual relation of the prices of p and q can be called connexity of consumption.

If the services rendered by a commodity b can be substituted, even though in a not perfectly satisfactory way, for those rendered by another commodity a, a change in the price of one of them affects the price of the other too. The mutual relation of the prices of a and b can be called connexity of substitution.

Connexity of production, connexity of consumption, and connexity of substitution are particular connexities of the prices of a limited number of commodities. From these particular connexities one must distinguish the general connexity of the prices of all goods and services. This general connexity is the outcome of the fact that for every kind of want-satisfaction, besides various more or less specific factors, one scarce factor is required which,in spite of the differences in its qualitative power to produce, can, within the limits precisely defined above26, be called a nonspecific factor--namely, labor.

Within a hypothetical world in which all factors of production are absolutely specific, human action would operate in a multiplicity of fields of want-satisfaction independent of one another. What links together in our actual world the various fields of want-satisfaction is the existence of a great many nonspecific factors, suitable to be employed for the attainment of various ends and to be substituted in some degree for one another. The fact that one factor, labor, is on the one hand required for every kind of production and on the other hand is, within the limits defined, nonspecific, brings about the general connexity of all human activities. It integrates the pricing process into a whole in which all gears work on one another. It makes the market a concatenation of mutually interdependent phenomena.

It would be absurd to look upon a definite price as if it were an isolated object in itself. A price is expressive of the position which acting men attach to a thing under the present state of their efforts to remove uneasiness. It does not indicate a relationship to something unchanging, but merely the instantaneous position in a kaleidoscopically changing assemblage. In this collection of things considered valuable by the value judgments of acting men each particle's place is interrelated with those of all other particles. What is called a price is always a relationship within an integrated system which is the composite effect of human relations. [p. 393]

  • 26. Cf. above, pp. 133-135.