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A Chapter in the Philosophy of Value

striking as it appears, for all consideration whether a definite
product is worth enough to justify a definite expenditure of
labor or other goods is, for the economic agent, precisely the
same as the appraisal which takes place in connection with
exchange. In confronting the concept,, exchange,, there is
frequently the confusion of ideas which consists in speaking of a
relationship as though it were something apart from the elements
between which it plays. It means, however, only a condition or a
change within each of these elements, but nothing that is between
them in the sense of a spatial object that can be distinguished
in space between two other objects. When we compose the two acts
or changes of condition which in reality take place into the
notion "exchange," the conception is attractive that something
has happened in addition to or beyond that which took place in
each of the contracting parties. Considered with reference to its
immediate content, exchange is nothing but the twofold repetition
of the fact that an actor now has something which he previously
did not have, and on the other hand does not have something which
he previously had. That being the case, the isolated economic
man, who surely must make a sacrifice to gain certain products,
acts precisely like the one who makes exchanges. The only
difference is that the party with whom he contracts is not a
second sentient being, but the natural order and regularity of
things, which no more satisfy our desires without a sacrifice on
our part than would another person. His appraisals of value, in
accordance with which he governs his actions, are, as a rule,
precisely the same as in the case of exchange; for the economic
actor, as such, it is surely quite immaterial whether the
substances or labor-energies in his possession are sunk in the
ground or given to another man, if only there accrues to him the
same result from the sacrifice. This subjective process of
sacrifice and gain in the individual soul is by no means
something secondary or imitative in comparison with
inter-individual exchange; on the contrary, the give-and-take
between sacrifice and accomplishment, within the individual, is
the basal presumption, and at the same time the persistent
substance, of every two-sided exchange. The latter is merely a
sub-species of the former; that is, the sort in which the
sacrifice is occasioned by the demand of another individual. At
the same time, it can only be occasioned by the same sort of
result for the actor so far as objects and their qualities are
concerned. It is of extreme importance to make this reduction of
the economic process to that which actually takes place, that is,
in the soul of every economic agent. We must not allow ourselves
to be deceived about the essential thing by the fact that in the
case of exchange this process is reciprocal; that is, that it is
conditioned by the like procedure in another. The main thing is
that the natural and solitary economic transaction, if we may
conceive of such a thing, runs back to the same fundamental form
as two-sided exchange: to the process of equalization between two
subjective occurrences within the individual. This is in its
proper essence not affected by the secondary question whether the
impulse to the process proceeds from the nature of things or the
nature of man; whether it is a matter of purely natural economy
or of exchange economy. All feelings of value, in other words,
which are set free by producible objects are in general to be
gained only by foregoing other values. At the same time, such
sacrifice may consist, not only in that mediate labor for
ourselves which appears as labor for others, but frequently
enough in that quite immediate labor for our own personal
purposes.
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