418.: ricardo to mcculloch1[Reply to 417.—Answered by 421] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 8 Letters 1819-June 1821 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 8 Letters 1819-1821.
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ricardo to mcculloch
[Reply to 417.—Answered by 421]
London Jany. 25—1821
My Dear Sir
There being no business in the House of Commons this evening, I cannot more agreeably employ my time than in returning you my sincere thanks for the very candid and friendly manner in which you have given me your opinion of my papers. You may be assured that it has the greatest weight with me, and confirms the view which I myself took of the inexpediency of publishing my notes on Mr. Malthus’s work. For the present I shall do nothing with them. I cannot spare time to try to extract what may be most useful in them, and put it in the form which you advise, and I fear the same reason may prevent me from recasting the chapter on accumulation in my former work, which is now actually in the printers hands for the purpose of printing a 3d. edition. If however before he comes to that chapter I find that I have time and talent sufficient to improve it I shall not fail to attempt it. I have made some alterations in the first chapter “on value” which I fear from the remarks in your letter will not meet with your approbation.—I wish I had sent you the chapter, as it is now printing, with the other papers, that I might have profited by your opinion of it, before I had proceeded so far towards its publication. I agree in every thing you say respecting the variations which would take place in the relative value of commodities on the supposition that they were produced with capitals of degrees of durability, as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 “as any standard with which they can be compared must itself be produced by the employment of capital returnable in a certain period, when wages rise those commodities which are produced by less durable capitals will appear to rise and those which are produced by more durable capitals will appear to fall—In truth, however, the whole would have fallen; and if the standard had been produced by capital whose durability was equal to 1 they would almost all have fallen as compared with this standard while it is plain none could have risen.” These are my opinions expressed only in language ten times more clear than I could have expressed them in. But here is I think the difficulty. You say “if the standard had been produced by capital whose durability was equal to 1 they would almost all have fallen as compared with this standard, while it is plain that none could have risen” true, if the standard were so produced, but Mr. Malthus and our adversaries say that the standard shall be produced with labour without any capital at all, or at most the capital only that is necessary to support a man a single day. In this standard your No. 1 would fall with a rise of food and necessaries, and labour never could rise at all. Malthus has supposed a case of a man by a day’s labour being enabled to pick up a certain number of grains of gold or silver on the sea shore ;—suppose he could pick up as much silver as we coin into a shilling, labour never could fall below a shilling a day, and if corn rose in silver labour could not rise and all commodities, produced with capital, which could not be brought to market for a year, a month or even for two days, would fall in such a standard with every rise in the price of food and necessaries. If we could take our stand at No. 1 we should do very well but we are driven from it, and it is proved that a thing which is produced and brought to market in one day by ten mens labour, is not so valuable as another commodity produced and brought to market at the end of ten days, after one mans labour has for that time been employed upon it. Are you prepared to adopt this standard of daily labour? It may possibly be the correct one, but the circumstances under which it is produced agree so little with the circumstances under which most other commodities are produced, that by adopting it we introduce a cause of variation of price, which we avoid if we chuse a standard produced under the ordinary circumstances that other commodities are produced. I am not satisfied, as I have often told you, with the account I have given of value, because I do not know exactly where to fix my standard. I am fully persuaded that in fixing on the quantity of labour realised in commodities as the rule which governs their relative value we are in the right course, but when I want to fix a standard of absolute value I am undetermined whether to chuse labour for a year, a month, a week, or a day. I should not so soon after the receipt of your letter, for I received it and the parcel this morning, have given you my thoughts on this difficult subject, if I had flattered myself that by more consideration I could have arrived at more satisfactory conclusions, but I am sure I could not, for I have reflected so much upon it that I despair of becoming more enlightened upon it by my own unassisted efforts.
There is a great deal of repetition in the two parts of the observations on Say and they should not both have been sent to you, one part was intended for the 3d. edition of my work—the other for the notes on Malthus—if I published one I should not have published the same matter in the other.
If the House will listen to me, and my courage do not fail me, I will take the first good opportunity of saying something on the injurious effects of the corn laws on the farmers.
I thank you for your article on Interest, I shall read it with much satisfaction. With sentiments of the greatest regard and esteem I am
My dear Sir Very truly Yours