Friday, June 8, 2007

Equitable Commerce [extract]

"Equitable Commerce," Boston Investigator, 19, 2 (May 16, 1849), 2.

Equitable Commerce.

We extract the following paragraphs from a pamphlet with this title, by Josiah Warren, published at Utopia, Ohio:—

If a traveller in a hot day, stops at a farm house and asks for a drink of water, he generally gels it without any thought of price. Why?—Because it costs nothing, or its cost is immaterial. If the traveller was so thirsty that he would give a dollar for the water rather than not have it, this would be the value of the water to him; and if the farmer were to charge this price, ho would be acting upon the principle that "The price of a thing should be what it will bring," which is the motto and spirit of all the principal commerce of the world; and if he were to stop up all the neighboring springs, and cut off all supplies of water from other sources, and compel travellers to depend solely on him for water, and then should charge him $100 for a drink, he would be acting precisely upon the principle on which all the main business of the world has been conduced from time immemorial. It is pricing a thing according to "what it will bring," or according to its value to the receiver instead of its cost to the producer, For an illustration in the mercantile line, consult any report of "prices current" or "state of the markets" with comments by the publisher—the following is a sample, copied a paper nearest at hand:—

"No new arrivals of flour—demand increasing, price rose since yesterday at 12 o'clock, 25 cents per barrel.

No change in coffee since our last.

Sugar raised on Thursday a cent per pound, in consequence of a report received of small crops; later arrivals contradicted the report and prices fell again. Molasses, in demand, and holders not anxious to sell. Pork, little in market, and prices rising. Bacon, plenty and dull, fell since our last from 15 to 13 cts. Cotton, all in a few hands, bought up on speculation."

It will here be seen that prices are raised in consequence of increased want, and are lowered with its decrease. The most successful speculator is he who can create the most want in the community, and extort the most from it. This is civilized cannibalism.

The value of a loaf of bread to a starving man, is equivalent to the value of his life, and if the "price of a thing" should be "what it will bring," then one might properly demand of the starving man, his whole future life in servitude as the price of the loaf! But any one who should make such a demand would be looked open as insane, a cannibal, and one simultaneous voice would denounce the outrageous injustice, and cry aloud for retribution! Why! What is it that constitutes the cannibalism in this case? Is it not setting a price upon bread according to its value instead of its cost?

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