Front Page Titles (by Subject) ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION. - Principles of Political Economy
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ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION. - Thomas Robert Malthus, Principles of Political Economy 
Principles of Political Economy (London: W. Pickering, 1836).
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ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION.
Not many years had elapsed after the first edition of this work, when it became known to all with whom Mr. Malthus had the opportunity of communicating on the subject, or who were acquainted with his last publications, that his opinions on the subject of value had undergone some change.
Having formerly assumed, in common with most other Economists, that there was no perfectly accurate and unvarying measure of value, he had proposed a mean between corn and labour, as being the nearest approximation to it, which could be found.
But maturer reflection led him to a different view; and he subsequently became convinced that the standard of which he had been in search must necessarily reside in some one unalterable object, which had a fixed and permanent existence; rightly judging, that it would be impossible to establish any satisfactory conclusions respecting the rise or fall in the value of commodities, unless there existed a real test, which could, at all times, be practically referred to.
It was not, however, till after long meditation, and the most careful consideration of the subject, that he finally adopted the measure proposed by the author of the Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, and became a convert to the doctrine, that as “Labour was the first price, the original purchase money that was paid for all things,”* the value of every thing must be greater or less in proportion “as it is worth more or less of this original purchase money.”
That many eminent writers since the time of Adam Smith, should have rejected this measure, has probably arisen from their having given to the term value, a sense different from that which he gave to it, and which it is usually meant to express. According to their notion of value, it consists in the general power of purchasing,† or expresses the relation which commodities bear to each other, from which it would necessarily follow, that if the cost of producing all things were either increased or diminished, their value would nevertheless remain unaltered, provided they continued to exchange with each other in the same proportion as before; and by the same rule, that when a rise or fall takes place in any commodity or commodities, all other commodities must experience a corresponding fall or rise, or that, when some become cheaper, the rest must necessarily become dearer, and vice versa.
Now this definition makes the value of a commodity to depend as much upon the causes affecting all others which may be exchanged for it, as upon those which may affect itself; and of value so understood, it is perfectly obvious that there can be no standard, since there is no one object which can at all times purchase or exchange for an uniform quantity of all others; and if there were any such object, it would not be a better measure of others, than they would be of it.
But value in its popular signification, and in the sense in which it has been for the most part used by Adam Smith, expresses a very different sort of relation, namely, that which subsists between commodities and their cost, (including profit) or the sacrifice that must be made in order to procure them;* and if the quantity of labour which they are worth, or which must be given in exchange for them, be the proper measure of that sacrifice, it becomes the very standard sought for.
So thought latterly Mr. Malthus, and his coincidence with Adam Smith, on so important a point, founded as it appears to have been upon entirely distinct grounds, was first made known by him in a pamphlet, entitled The Measure of Value, stated and illustrated with an application of it to the alterations in the value of the Englishcurrency since 1790, which he published in the year 1823.
But the subject, notwithstanding the Author’s practical application of it was, at the time, regarded chiefly as a theoretical one; and it consequently attracted but little attention, being seldom alluded to, except in the immediate circles where such questions were discussed.
The more, however, Mr. Malthus reflected upon it, the more did it acquire importance in his eyes; and in 1827, he took another opportunity of enforcing his views respecting it in a small volume, which he published. On Definitions in Political Economy, in which some of the leading principles of the science are likewise to be found, admirably explained, in a concentrated form.
The intervention of these minor publications and Mr. Malthus’s other pursuits prevented him from sooner devoting himself to the second edition of his Political Economy. The first edition had been long out of print, and the work could not of course again make its appearance, until the author had remodelled it, so as to adapt it to his new opinions on value.
In doing this, if he had contented himself (as he at one time intended) with making such alterations only as were strictly necessary, the task would have been comparatively easy. His new views, so far from interfering with his general train of reasoning, or affecting any of his main conclusions, served only to confirm and establish them. A fresh section in the chapter on value, in place of the sixth and seventh sections of the former edition, together with a few slight changes in other parts of the book, chiefly of a verbal kind, would have been all that was absolutely required to preserve the unity and consistency of the work.
But this did not satisfy Mr. Malthus. He conceived that to pass over so main a doctrine thus slightly, would not be treating it in a way, which its importance seemed to demand. Being persuaded that it was not a mere matter of nomenclature, but a most fundamental principle, which affected more or less all other parts of the subject, he was desirous of imparting to others, the like conviction of its utility and importance. In this new Edition, therefore, he has gone more largely into the question of value than before, having preferred to incur the charge of tediousness and prolixity, rather than omit saying anything that might render it more clear and intelligible to his readers, or meet the objections which had been urged against it by those whose opinions differed from his own. But before he had completed the whole of the alterations which he had in contemplation, and while he was yet occupied in correcting and improving the latter parts of the work, his mortal career was suddenly closed, and an end for ever put to his earthly labours.
What other changes he might have made, had his days been prolonged, it is of course not possible to say; but from the state in which his manuscripts were found, there is reason to believe that he had done all, or nearly all, that he considered essential.
Very little indeed has been required to put the work in a state fit for publication. The text has in some places been slightly varied, where a regard to perfect clearness or precision seemed to require it, some passages have been omitted, where the sense of them appears to have been better expressed in other parts of the work, and a few notes have been interspersed here and there, which if they add nothing to the force of the Author’s reasonings, may serve still further to elucidate the several subjects to which they refer.
If, notwithstanding, the care which has been taken to free the present copy from imperfection, some discrepancies should be found to exist, and some needless repetitions and verbal inaccuracies to occur, which have escaped the Editor’s notice, (and which, considering the insertion of so much new matter, is far from being improbable,) the Reader will bear in mind, that he is perusing a work, to which, the last touches have not been given by the hand of the Master.
[* ] Wealth of Nations, Book I. ch. v.
[† ] It is true that Adam Smith has also defined value (Book I. ch. iv.) as the power of purchasing; but it is clear from the context, and from the whole tenor of his work, that he meant the power of purchasing which a commodity derives from causes peculiar to itself, and which depend upon the cost of procuring it. This limitation is most essential; but it has not been generally made.
[* ] That this is what is commonly meant by value, every practical man perfectly well knows. If, for instance, the question is asked what is the value of corn, no one ever supposes it to mean, what is the relation or proportion which it bears to oil, or wine, or hides, or cloth, or linen, or to other commodities generally, but what will it cost to any one desirous of purchasing it, or giving an equivalent for it. Now of this, the quantity of other commodities which it will exchange for, can give no idea, unless their cost happens to be previously known; but the cost of obtaining money, or its value, is always known, or at least easily ascertained, being clearly indicated by the money price of labour in each country. It is on this account, that the object of the question is, in almost every instance, sufficiently answered by a reference to the money price of the article concerning which the inquiry is made. (See three lectures on the cost of obtaining money, by N. W. Senior, Esq.)