Neither of them could possibly win a complete victory, because the word has both meanings, depending on whether one views wealth as real or relative.

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Harmonies

As an introduction to his chapter on wealth, Frédéric Bastiat focuses on the disagreements that were in the open between David Ricardo and Jean-Baptiste Say. We shall see later which definition he prefers but what today’s quote reveals is that both were right, or wrong. One can see here that economic science is not an exact science and that disagreements may arise on issues of definition.

In the present case, one saw wealth as an absolute value while the other saw is as a relative measure. Does absolute wealth exist (and how to define it or its limits?) or is it only relative (the poor in the 21st century would have been considered rich in the 18th century)? Economic science is not able to answer such a question, however interesting it would be.

Other quotes from Wealth:
Introduction – Thesis – Conclusion – Epilogue

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