Monday, February 16, 2009

Menger on Available Quantities

This post is part of a series exploring Principles of Economics by Carl Menger.  The following explores content from chapter 2.

Previously in this series: Menger on Foreseeing Requirements

Successful human action depends on especially two kinds of knowledge.

  1. Foresight regarding requirements (quantities of goods necessary for the satisfaction of one's needs in the time period of one's plans), as discussed in my last Menger post, and
  2. Knowledge of stocks, or available quantities of the goods required.

Goods are considered "available" if a) they are in one's possession or b) they are in the possession of someone you have a "trading relation" with. The more division of labor, and thereby trade, there is in a society, then the more important, and the more difficult b) (above) will be. As such, in advanced economies, one finds businessmen going to great lengths and expense to accurately ascertain the available quantities "on the market". He cites as examples the exhaustive London grain reports, Berlin sugar reports, and Liverpool cotton reports of the time, the last of which...

contain periodical information about current stocks of the different grades of cotton in Liverpool, in England in general, on the continent, and in America, India, Egypt and the other producing regions; they inform us regularly about the quantities of cotton in process of shipment on the high seas (floating cargo), about the ports to which they are consigned, and whether the quantities in England are still in the hands of the wholesalers, already in the warehouses of spinners or other buyers, or assigned for export, etc.

Next in this series: Menger on Economizing

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