Montesquieu

The Blacks of the African coast have a sign of values without money : it is a purely ideal sign, based on the degree of esteem they place in their minds on each com­mo­dity, in pro­por­tion to their need of it. A cer­tain item or com­mo­dity is worth three macu­tes ; ano­ther, six macu­tes ; ano­ther, ten macu­tes : it is as if they were sim­ply saying three, six, and ten. The price emer­ges from the com­pa­ri­son they make among all the kinds of mer­chan­dise, in which case there is no spe­ci­fic money, but each por­tion of mer­chan­dise is money for the other.

Let us for a moment bring this man­ner of eva­lua­ting things to our world, and com­bine it with ours. All the mer­chan­dise and food­stuffs in the world, or all the mer­chan­dise or food­stuffs of a state in par­ti­cu­lar, consi­de­red as sepa­rate from all the others, will be worth a cer­tain num­ber of macu­tes ; and divi­ding that state’s sil­ver into as many parts as there are macu­tes, a sub­di­vi­sion of that sil­ver will be the sign of one macute.

If we sup­pose that a state’s quan­tity of sil­ver dou­bles, it will take twice as much sil­ver for one macute ; but if in dou­bling the sil­ver you also dou­ble the macu­tes, the pro­por­tion will remain what it was before both dou­blings.

If since the dis­co­very of the Indies gold and sil­ver have increa­sed in Europe in a ratio of one to twenty, the price of pro­ducts and mer­chan­dise ought to have risen in a ratio of one to twenty ; but if ins­tead the num­ber of pro­ducts has increa­sed as one to two, the price of these pro­ducts and mer­chan­dise will have to have risen, on one hand, by a ratio of one to twenty, and to have fal­len by a ratio of one to two, and will be conse­quently at a ratio of only one to ten.

The quan­tity of pro­ducts and com­mo­di­ties grows by an increase in com­merce ; the increase in com­merce by an increase in sil­ver that arri­ves suc­ces­si­vely, and by new com­mu­ni­ca­tions with new lands and new seas, which bring us new com­mo­di­ties and new pro­ducts.