chapter  XLIII
11 Pages


In order to form any estimate of the volume of this great chain of debts outstanding at any time we should need to know the size, the number and the length, as it were, of these links: that is to say, the value of goods at each stage of production, the number of owners through whose hands they passed and the length of the debts created between these successive owners. In fact, knowledge falls far short of this. We know that the final value of goods consumed in the United Kingdom in 1907 exceeded £1700 m.; but the facts are so extremely complex, the methods of selling vary so much at different stages in the same trade and at corresponding stages in different trades, that even those in the best position to judge can form no estimate of the size of the other two factors by which this figure should be multiplied in order to obtain the outstanding volume of trade debts.