The increase of the wealth of Europe, and the popular notion that, as the quantity of the precious metals naturally increases with the increase of wealth so their value diminishes as their quantity increases, may, perhaps, dispose many people to believe that their value still continues to fall in the European market; and the still gradually increasing price of many parts of the rude produce of land may confirm them still further in this opinion.
That that increase in the quantity of the precious metals, which arises in any country from the increase of wealth, has no tendency to diminish their value, I have endeavoured to show already. Gold and silver naturally resort to a rich country, for the same reason that all sorts of luxuries and curiosities resort to it; not because they are cheaper there than in poorer countries, but because they are dearer, or because a better price is given for them. It is the superiority of price which attracts them, and as soon as that superiority ceases, they necessarily cease to go thither.
If you except corn and such other vegetables as are raised
altogether by human industry, that all other sorts of rude produce,
cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, the useful fossils and minerals of
the earth, etc., naturally grow dearer as the society advances in
wealth and improvement, I have endeavoured to show already. Though
such commodities, therefore, come to exchange for a greater quantity
of silver than before, it will not from thence follow that silver
has become really cheaper, or will purchase less labour than before,
but that such commodities have become really dearer, or will
purchase more labour than before. It is not their nominal price
only, but their real price which rises in the progress of improvement.
The rise of their nominal price is the effect, not of any
degradation of the value of silver, but of the rise in their real