Books / Digital Text

Part Two: The Value of Money > Chapter 8. The Determinants of the... > I. The Element of Continuity in the...

5. "Monetary" and "Non-Monetary" Influences Affecting the Objective Exchange-Value of Money

Now, the first part of the problem of the value of money having been solved, it is at last possible for us to evolve a plan of further procedure. We no longer are concerned to explain the origin of the objective exchange value of money; this task has already been performed in the course of the preceding investigation. We now have to establish the laws which govern variations in existing exchange ratios between money and the other economic goods. This part of the problem of the value of money has occupied economists from the earliest times, although it is the other that ought logically to have been dealt with first. For this reason, as well as for many others, what has been done toward its elucidation does not amount to very much. Of course, this part of the problem is also much more complicated than the first part.

In investigations into the nature of changes in the value of money it is usual to distinguish between two sorts of determinants of the exchange ratio that connects money and other economic goods; those that exercise their effect on the money side of the ratio and those that exercise their effect on the commodity side. This distinction is extremely useful; without it, in fact, all attempts at a solution would have to be dismissed beforehand as hopeless. Nevertheless its true meaning must not be forgotten.

The exchange ratios between commodities—and the same is naturally true of the exchange ratios between commodities and money—result from determinants which affect both terms of the exchange ratio. But existing exchange ratios between goods may be modified by a change in determinants connected only with one of the two sets of exchanged objects. Although all the factors that determine the valuation of a good remain the same, its exchange ratio with another good may alter if the factors that determine the valuation of this second good alter. If of two persons I prefer A to B, this preference may be reversed, even though my feeling for A remains unchanged, if I contract a closer friendship with B. Similarly with the relationships between goods and human beings. He who today prefers the consumption of a cup of tea to that of a dose of quinine may make a contrary valuation tomorrow, even though his liking for tea has not diminished, if he has, say, caught a fever overnight. Whereas the factors that determine prices always affect both sets of the goods that are to be exchanged, those of them which merely modify existing prices may sometimes be restricted to one set of goods only.25

  • 25. See Menger, Grundsätze der Volkswirtschaftslehre (Vienna, 1923), pp. 304 ff. [In the German edition of this book, the above paragraph was followed by an explanation that German writers, following Menger, usually refer to "the question of the nature and extent of the influence upon the exchange ratios between money and commodities exerted by variations in those determinants of prices that lie on the monetary side" as the problem of the innere objektive Tauschwert of money, and to "those concerned with variations in the objective exchange value of money throughout time and space in general" as the problem of its äussere objektive Tauschwert. Since this distinction has not been usual in English terminology, it has been omitted from the present version; and, in what follows, wherever "the objective exchange value of money" is referred to, it is the innere exchange value that is meant unless the contrary is explicitly stated. H.E.B.]
Shield icon library