Wealth as we’ve discussed are those external things that are succor man’s needs. We can then begin to speak about economic value having to some extent identified wealth and its principal, i.e. human need.
Given that external things are wealth in virtue of meeting human need, we can see that it is a thing’s ability to actually meet this need that it is considered wealth. This capacity must be some real power in the thing in order to actually meet some need. Food does have a real power to satiate and nourish us.
Here then lies some clarity. A thing does not have economic value in virtue of its substance or nobility but in virtue of its qualities as they are useful to man. There are some things that have great powers but are no use to man and thus we qualify here. Further, since wealth is sought to meet man’s needs, it does not matter what nobility the thing has long as it is able to meet human needs or not.
Hence, we see that there are great qualities and powers of Jupiter in many respects, considering gravity or the great storm, but they are not use to man. Thus, it is not the qualities per se, but only in so far as they are useful to man. Further, it is clear that economic value is not founded in a things’ nobility or substance, for then a slave would be immeasurable more valuable then a horse and a field mouse more than any amount of raw material. Hence, we return to the note that the measure of economic value is a thing’s capacity to meet human need.
Here we may divert for a moment to consider gold. Gold has numerous good qualities such as durability and electrical conductance that make it useful in many respect. However, gold is considered immeasurably more valuable then any of its qualities would suggest. For example, other metals have similar properties and yet are significantly less in price.
There is then something here that differentiates the price that men are willing to pay for something and its actual value. For an extra ounce of gold discovered and refined does not truly add $2000 of economic value, but only in so far as its considered by people. Gold is closely linked currency and currency denotes a certain power, because one with currency can get whatever he wants.
To be continued…