We may say that the natural social order is perfectible and harmonious if, on the one hand, the number of men engaged in unskilled labor and receiving the lowest possible wages is continually decreasing, and if, on the other, these wages, measured, not in value or in money, but in material satisfactions, are continually increasing.
In order to conclude this chapter on value, Frédéric Bastiat reiterates each point he reviewed earlier and shows to which extent they are valid in order to remind us then his own hypothesis, viz. that “Value is the relationship existing between two services that have been exchanged”.
He recapitulates in what way it is not fixed, which is the reason why it is not necessary to measure it once and for all. To me, this understanding that allowed him to conclude the chapter with today’s quote seems particularly visionary at that time. There is still today a large part of the population who is seduced by pessimistic pronouncements from a past era that assimilates capitalism and misery in the 19th century. This is due to a tunnel vision that ignores all that changed within the last two centuries (misery still exists nowadays but its proportions have shrunk dramatically and keep on diminishing – at least until the crisis orchestrated by governments in 2020). Frédéric Bastiat had seen how man’s perfectibility would lead to a significant improvement in the situation, probably far more than his wildest dreams (the level of progress we have experienced since then was absolutely inconceivable in 1850).
Other quotes from On Value:
Introduction – Part 1 of 10 – Part 2 of 10 – Part 3 of 10 – Part 4 of 10 – Part 5 of 10 – Part 6 of 10 – Part 7 of 10 – Part 8 of 10 – Part 9 of 10 – Part 10 of 10 – Conclusion – Epilogue