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Part Two: The Value of Money > Chapter 8. The Determinants of the... > III. A Special Cause of Variations in...

11. "Dearness of Living"

Those determinants of the objective exchange value of money that have already been considered exhibit no sort of special peculiarity. So far as they are concerned, the exchange value of money is determined no differently from the exchange value of other economic goods. But there are other determinants of variations in the objective exchange value of money which obey a special law.

No complaint is more widespread than that against "dearness of living." There has been no generation that has not grumbled about the "expensive times" that it lives in. But the fact that "everything" is becoming dearer simply means that the objective exchange value of money is falling. It is extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to subject such assertions as this to historical and statistical tests. The limits of our knowledge in this direction will have to be referred to in the chapter dealing with the problem of the measurability of variations in the value of money. Here we must be content to anticipate the conclusions of this chapter and state that we can expect no support from investigations into the history of prices or from the methods employed in such investigations. The statements of the average man, even though it may very easily happen that these are founded on self-deception and even though they are so much at the mercy of variations in the subjective valuations of the individual, would almost form a better substantiation of the fact of a progressive fall in the objective exchange value of money than can be provided by all the contents of voluminous statistical publications. Certainty can be afforded only by demonstration that chains of causes exist, which are capable of evoking this sort of movement in the objective exchange value of money and would evoke it unless they were cancelled by some counteracting force. This path, which alone can lead to the desired goal, has already been trodden by many investigators-with what success, we shall see.

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