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Thus, employing Smith’s measure of the value of labor, and not the value of labor in terms of other goods or the wage rate, we find much more consistency in his argument than Ricardo did. When Smith means to speak of the wage rate or the money price of labor, he says so, for example, “The high price of provisions…has not in many parts of the kingdom been accompanied with any sensible rise in the money price of labour. It has, indeed, in some; owing probably more to the increase of the demand for labour than to the price of provisions” (WN, 1:83; emphasis added).
On the question of the measure of value, Mill takes the same position as Ricardo’s, arguing that an invariable measure does not exist: “not only is this not true of money, or of any other commodity, but we cannot even suppose any state of circumstances in which” such a commodity could be found (578). And while he recognizes Smith’s definition of the value of labor as “one day’s ordinary muscular exertion of one man, [and which] may be looked upon as always, to him, the same amount of effort or sacrifice,” Mill also reads Smith as sometimes having defined the value of labor as “wages,” just as Ricardo did.
The adjustment of the quantities demanded and supplied in Mill’s analysis very much mirrors that of modern price theory: Whether the demand and supply are equalized by an increased demand, the result of cheapness, or by withdrawing a part of the supply, equalized they are in either case… …the proper mathematical analogy is that of an equation. Demand and supply, the quantity demanded and the quantity supplied, will be made equal. If unequal at any moment, competition equalizes them, and the manner in which this is done is by an adjustment of the value.