435.: trower to ricardo1[Answered by 437] - 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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First published by Cambridge University Press in 1951. Copyright 1951, 1952, 1955, 1973 by the Royal Economic Society. This edition of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., under license from the Royal Economic Society.
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trower to ricardo
[Answered by 437]
Unsted Wood—June 24. 1821
My Dear Ricardo
I am much obliged to you for the Agricultural Report; a very interesting part of which, viz the Evidence, I observe is not included.—
I intended myself the pleasure of writing to you to day, to say, that you will receive by tomorrow’s Coach your very elaborate Notes on Malthus, which I have read with great interest, and much attention.—
I think you have succeeded in compleatly vindicating your Book from the charges he brought against it; and in exposing many of his numerous errors and inconsistencies. After all, it appears to me, that when the question is stripped of the ambiguities and misconceptions, which he has mixed up with it, there is no very essential difference between you, at least with regard to Principles. With regard to many of his conclusions, they are very erroneous, and no less mischievous; and you have forcibly exposed their fallacies and their contradictions. He is incessantly puzzling and perplexing himself with undefined notions of value. Not that I can entirely agree with You in your definition of exchangeable value—No doubt, the labor expended upon a commodity is the measure by which the accuracy of its exchangeable value, is ascertained, and eventually regulated; but I confess I think, that the labor, which a commodity can command is what actually constitutes its exchangeable value.
The term value is employed to designate the relative value of Commodities; which is necessary to be ascertained in exchanging them for each other. It refers to exchangeable, and not to positive value. It is intended to express how much of one thing is worth, or can procure, so much of another thing. If there were no exchange of Commodities they would have no value. They would, of course, retain their use; but they could not be said to possess value; which implies the worth of one thing estimated in some other things. There are no means of estimating what is the value of Commodities in use. If they had no use they would possess no value, because they would not pass in exchange, and because therefore there would not be any thing with which they could be compared. I submit therefore, that the only proper use of the term value is in exchange. And value in exchange will signify the relative or comparative value of two commodities, which are exchanged for each other. If so, I doubt whether the term exchangeable value can be applied to signify the quantity of labor necessary to acquire or produce a commodity; but the quantity of labor that commodity can command when exchanged: The quantity of labor necessary to acquire or produce a commodity is the expence of acquiring it, and is very properly termed its cost, but this cost may be very different from, and is rarely exactly the same as, the value it can command in exchange. It is nevertheless the central point to which exchangeable value is constantly gravitating and from which any violent aberrations are neither frequent nor lasting. It would be a great pity, that your criticism on Malthus should not meet the public eye. But I confess I do not think, that in their present shape they would answer the purpose. Very few persons are sufficiently interested in the Science of Political Economy, especially in the controversies respecting to its abstruser points, to go through the labor of continually turning from the text to the comment, and examining the reasoning by which the opposite opinions are supported:—If Malthus is to be answered effectually, it must be by mixing up with the comments such an abstract of his work as shall put the reader into possession of the arguments, which are combatted, so as to enable him to follow out the reasoning without the labor of constant reference to the original works. But, perhaps such a work is unnecessary; and you may safely trust, that the Principles you have so ably developed in your Book, will silently win their way, and force the proper conviction on the minds of those, whose right understanding of the subject is likely to produce any practical effects upon the Public.
From Mr. Mill’s Book, too, I expect very essential assistance. No doubt, he must propose to throw some new light upon the subject, or to treat it in a manner which he conceives more likely to procure his doctrines a ready admission into his readers mind. I am looking impatiently for this performance.
I have already run my letter to such a length as to leave little room for any other subject. What say you to Continental affairs? The political horizon is clouded and stormy; but whatever may be the inclination of that frightful mass of people, who, in all Countries, are ever ready for War, I hope and trust, that the mere necessity of the case, the deranged finances, and distressed circumstances of every Country in Europe, will prevent the renewal of hostilities.—
When will your labors in the Senate end, and when shall you spread your wings for the Country? Pray make our united Comps to Mrs. Ricardo, and believe me
Yrs most truly