Principles of Political Economy (J.S. Mill, 1871), vol. 1/Book I, Chapter VIII
CHAPTER VIII.OF CO-OPERATION, OR THE COMBINATION OF LABOUR.
§ 1. In the enumeration of the circumstances which promote the productiveness of labour, we have left one untouched, which, because of its importance, and of the many topics of discussion which it involves, requires to be treated apart. This is, co-operation, or the combined action of numbers. Of this great aid to production, a single department, known by the name of Division of Labour, has engaged a large share of the attention of political economists; most deservedly indeed, but to the exclusion of other cases and exemplifications of the same comprehensive law. Mr. Wakefield was, I believe, the first to point out, that a part of the subject had, with injurious effect, been mistaken for the whole; that a more fundamental principle lies beneath that of the division of labour, and comprehends it.
Co-operation, he observes, is "of two distinct kinds: first, such co-operation as takes place when several persons help each other in the same employment; secondly, such co-operation as takes place when several persons help each other in different employments. These may be termed Simple Co-operation and Complex Co-operation.
"The advantage of simple co-operation is illustrated by the case of two greyhounds running together, which, it is said, will kill more hares than four greyhounds running separately. In a vast number of simple operations performed by human exertion, it is quite obvious that two men working together will do more than four, or four times four men, each of whom should work alone. In the lifting of heavy weights, for example, in the felling of trees, in the sawing of timber, in the gathering of much hay or corn during a short period of fine weather, in draining a large extent of land during the short season when such a work may be properly conducted, in the pulling of ropes on board ship, in the rowing of large boats, in some mining operations, in the erection of a scaffolding for building, and in the breaking of stones for the repair of a road, so that the whole of the road shall always be kept in good order: in all these simple operations, and thousands more, it is absolutely necessary that many persons should work together, at the same time, in the same place, and in the same way. The savages of New Holland never help each other, even in the most simple operations; and their condition is hardly superior, in some respects it is inferior, to that of the wild animals which they now and then catch. Let any one imagine that the labourers of England should suddenly desist from helping each other in simple employments, and he will see at once the prodigious advantages of simple co-operation. In a countless number of employments, the produce of labour is, up to a certain point, in proportion to such mutual assistance amongst the workmen. This is the first step in social improvement." The second is, when "one body of men having combined their labour to raise more food than they require, another body of men are induced to combine their labour for the purpose of producing more clothes than they require, and with those surplus clothes buying the surplus food of the other body of labourers; while, if both bodies together have produced more food and clothes than they both require, both bodies obtain, by means of exchange, a proper capital for setting more labourers to work in their respective occupations." To simple co-operation is thus superadded what Mr. Wakefield terms Complex Co-operation. The one is the combination of several labourers to help each other in the same set of operations; the other is the combination of several labourers to belp one another by a division of operations.
There is "an important distinction between simple and complex co-operation. Of the former, one is always conscious at the time of practising it: it is obvious to the most ignorant and vulgar eye. Of the latter, but a very few of the vast numbers who practise it are in any degree conscious. The cause of this distinction is easily seen. When several men are employed in lifting the same weight, or pulling the same rope, at the same time, and in the same place, there can be no sort of doubt that they co-operate with each other; the fact is impressed on the mind by the mere sense of sight; but when several men, or bodies of men, are employed at different times and places, and in different pursuits, their co-operation with each other, though it may be quite as certain, is not so readily perceived as in the other case: in order to perceive it, a complex operation of the mind is required."
In the present state of society the breeding and feeding of sheep is the occupation of one set of people, dressing the wool to prepare it for the spinner is that of another, spinning it into thread of a third, weaving the thread into broadcloth of a fourth, dyeing the cloth of a fifth, making it into a coat of a sixth, without counting the multitude of carriers, merchants, factors, and retailers, put in requisition at the successive stages of this progress. All these persons, without knowledge of one another or previous understanding, co-operate in the production of the ultimate result, a coat. But these are far from being all who co-operate in it; for each of these persons requires food, and many other articles of consumption, and unless he could have relied that other people would produce these for him, he could not have devoted his whole time to one step in the succession of operations which produces one single commodity, a coat. Every person who took part in producing food or erecting houses for this series of producers, has, however unconsciously on his part, combined his labour with theirs. It is by a real, though unexpressed, concert, "that the body who raise more food than they want, can exchange with the body who raise more clothes than they want; and if the two bodies were separated, either by distance or disinclination—unless the two bodies should virtually form themselves into one, for the common object of raising enough food and clothes for the whole—they could not divide into two distinct parts the whole operation of producing a sufficient quantity of food and clothes."
§ 2. The influence exercised on production by the separation of employments, is more fundamental than, from the mode in which the subject is usually treated, a reader might be induced to suppose. It is not merely that when the production of different things becomes the sole or principal occupation of different persons, a much greater quantity of each kind of article is produced. The truth is much beyond this. Without some separation of employments, very few things would be produced at all.
Suppose a set of persons, or a number of families, all employed precisely in the same manner; each family settled on a piece of its own land, on which it grows by its labour the food required for its own sustenance, and as there are no persons to buy any surplus produce where all are producers, each family has to produce within itself whatever other articles it consumes. In such circumstances, if the soil was tolerably fertile, and population did not tread too closely on the heels of subsistence, there would be, no doubt, some kind of domestic manufactures; clothing for the family might perhaps be spun and woven within it, by the labour probably of the women (a first step in the separation of employments); and a dwelling of some sort would be erected and kept in repair by their united labour. But beyond simple food (precarious, too, from the variations of the seasons), coarse clothing, and very imperfect lodging, it would be scarcely possible that the family should produce anything more. They would, in general, require their utmost exertions to accomplish so much. Their power even of extracting food from the soil would be kept within narrow limits by the quality of their tools, which would necessarily be of the most wretched description. To do almost anything in the way of producing for themselves articles of convenience or luxury, would require too much time, and, in many cases, their presence in a different place. Very few kinds of industry, therefore, would exist; and that which did exist, namely the production of necessaries, would be extremely inefficient, not solely from imperfect implements, but because, when the ground and the domestic industry fed by it had been made to supply the necessaries of a single family in tolerable abundance, there would be little motive, while the numbers of the family remained the same, to make either the land or the labour produce more.
But suppose an event to occur, which would amount to a revolution in the circumstances of this little settlement. Suppose that a company of artificers, provided with tools, and with food sufficient to maintain them for a year, arrive in the country and establish themselves in the midst of the population. These new settlers occupy themselves in producing articles of use or ornament adapted to the taste of a simple people; and before their food is exhausted they have produced these in considerable quantity, and are ready to exchange them for more food. The economical position of the landed population is now most materially altered. They have an opportunity given them of acquiring comforts and luxuries. Things which, while they depended solely on their own labour, they never could have obtained, because they could not have produced, are now accessible to them if they can succeed in producing an additional quantity of food and necessaries. They are thus incited to increase the productiveness of their industry. Among the conveniences for the first time made accessible to them, better tools are probably one: and apart from this, they have a motive to labour more assiduously, and to adopt contrivances for making their labour more effectual. By these means they will generally succeed in compelling their land to produce, not only food for themselves, but a surplus for the new comers, wherewith to buy from them the products of their industry. The new settlers constitute what is called a market for surplus agricultural produce: and their arrival has enriched the settlement not only by the manufactured article which they produce, but by the food which would not have been produced unless they had been there to consume it.
There is no inconsistency between this doctrine, and the proposition we before maintained, that a market for commodities does not constitute employment for labour. The labour of the agriculturists was already provided with employment; they are not indebted to the demand of the new comers for being able to maintain themselves. What that demand does for them is, to call their labour into increased vigour and efficiency; to stimulate them, by new motives, to new exertions. Neither do the new comers owe their maintenance and employment to the demand of the agriculturists: with a year's subsistence in store, they could have settled side by side with the former inhabitants, and produced a similar scanty stock of food and necessaries. Nevertheless we see of what supreme importance to the productiveness of the labour of producers, is the existence of other producers within reach, employed in a different kind of industry. The power of exchanging the products of one kind of labour for those of another, is a condition, but for which, there would almost always be a smaller quantity of labour altogether. When a new market is opened for any product of industry, and a greater quantity of the article is consequently produced, the increased production is not always obtained at the expense of some other product; it is often a new creation, the result of labour which would otherwise have remained unexerted; or of assistance rendered to labour by improvements or by modes of co-operation to which recourse would not have been had if an inducement had not been offered for raising a larger produce.
§ 3. From these considerations it appears that a country will seldom have a productive agriculture, unless it has a large town population, or the only available substitute, a large export trade in agricultural produce to supply a population elsewhere. I use the phrase town population for shortness, to imply a population non-agricultural; which will generally be collected in towns or large villages, for the sake of combination of labour. The application of this truth by Mr. Wakefield to the theory of colonization, has excited much attention, and is doubtless destined to excite much more. It is one of those great practical discoveries, which, once made, appears so obvious that the merit of making them seems less than it is. Mr. Wakefield was the first to point out that the mode of planting new settlements, then commonly practised—setting down a number of families side by side, each on its piece of land, all employing themselves in exactly the same manner,—though in favourable circumstances it may assure to those families a rude abundance of mere necessaries, can never be other than unfavourable to great production or rapid growth: and his system consists of arrangements for securing that every colony shall have from the first a town population bearing due proportion to its agricultural, and that the cultivators of the soil shall not be so widely scattered as to be deprived by distance, of the benefit of that town population as a market for their produce. The principle on which the scheme is founded, does not depend on any theory respecting the superior productiveness of land held in large portions, and cultivated by hired labour. Supposing it true that land yields the greatest produce when divided into small properties and cultivated by peasant proprietors, a town population will be just as necessary to induce those proprietors to raise that larger produce: and if they were too far from the nearest seat of non-agricultural industry to use it as a market for disposing of their surplus, and thereby supplying their other wants, neither that surplus nor any equivalent for it would, generally speaking, be produced.
It is, above all, the deficiency of town population which limits the productiveness of the industry of a country like India. The agriculture of India is conducted entirely on the system of small holdings. There is, however, a considerable amount of combination of labour. The village institutions and customs, which are the real framework of Indian society, make provision for joint action in the cases in which it is seen to be necessary; or where they fail to do so, the government (when tolerably well administered) steps in, and by an outlay from the revenue, executes by combined labour the tanks, embankments, and works of irrigation, which are indispensable. The implements and processes of agriculture are however so wretched, that the produce of the soil, in spite of great natural fertility and a climate highly favourable to vegetation, is miserably small: and the land might be made to yield food in abundance for many more than the present number of inhabitants, without departing from the system of small holdings. But to this the stimulus is wanting, which a large town population, connected with the rural districts by easy and unexpensive means of communication, would afford. That town population, again, does not grow up, because the few wants and unaspiring spirit of the cultivators (joined until lately with great insecurity of property, from military and fiscal rapacity) prevent them from attempting to become consumers of town produce. In these circumstances the best chance of an early development of the productive resources of India, consists in the rapid growth of its export of agricultural produce (cotton, indigo, sugar, coffee, &c.) to the markets of Europe. The producers of these articles are consumers of food supplied by their fellow-agriculturists in India; and the market thus opened for surplus food will, if accompanied by good government, raise up by degrees more extended wants and desires, directed either towards European commodities, or towards things which will require for their production in India a larger manufacturing population.
§ 4. Thus far of the separation of employments, a form of the combination of labour without which there cannot be the first rudiments of industrial civilization. But when this separation is thoroughly established; when it has become the general practice for each producer to supply many others with one commodity, and to be supplied by others with most of the things which he consumes; reasons not less real, though less imperative, invite to a further extension of the same principle. It is found that the productive power of labour is increased by carrying the separation further and further; by breaking down more and more every process of industry into parts, so that each labourer shall confine himself to an ever smaller number of simple operations. And thus, in time, arise those remarkable cases of what is called the division of labour, with which all readers on subjects of this nature are familiar. Adam Smith's illustration from pin-making, though so well known, is so much to the point, that I will venture once more to transcribe it. "The business of making a pin is divided into about eighteen distinct operations. One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on, is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper I have seen a small manufactory where ten men only were employed, and where some of them, consequently, performed two or three distinct operations. But though they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day."
M. Say furnishes a still stronger example of the effects of division of labour from a not very important branch of industry certainly, the manufacture of playing cards. "It is said by those engaged in the business, that each card, that is, a piece of pasteboard of the size of the hand, before being ready for sale, does not undergo fewer than seventy operations, every one of which might be the occupation of a distinct class of workmen. And if there are not seventy classes of work-people in each card manufactory, it is because the division of labour is not carried so far as it might be; because the same workman is charged with two, three, or four distinct operations. The influence of this distribution of employment is immense. I have seen a card manufactory where thirty workmen produced daily fifteen thousand five hundred cards, being above five hundred cards for each labourer; and it may be presumed that if each of these workmen were obliged to perform all the operations himself, even supposing him a practised hand, he would not perhaps complete two cards in a day: and the thirty workmen, instead of fifteen thousand five hundred cards, would make only sixty."
In watchmaking, as Mr. Babbage observes, "it was stated in evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons, that there are a hundred and two distinct branches of this art, to each of which a boy may be put apprentice; and that he only learns his master's department, and is unable, after his apprenticeship has expired, without subsequent instruction, to work at any other branch. The watch-finisher, whose business it is to put together the scattered parts, is the only one, out of the hundred and two persons, who can work in any other department than his own."
§ 5. The causes of the increased efficiency given to labour by the division of employments are some of them too familiar to require specification; but it is worth while to attempt a complete enumeration of them. By Adam Smith they are reduced to three. "First, the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and lastly, the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labour, and enable one man to do the work of many."
Of these, the increase of dexterity of the individual workman is the most obvious and universal. It does not follow that because a thing has been done oftener it will be done better. That depends on the intelligence of the workman, and on the degree in which his mind works along with his hands. But it will be done more easily. The organs themselves acquire greater power: the muscles employed grow stronger by frequent exercise, the sinews more pliant, and the mental powers more efficient, and less sensible of fatigue. What can be done easily has at least a better chance of being done well, and is sure to be done more expeditiously. What was at first done slowly comes to be done quickly; what was at first done slowly with accuracy is at last done quickly with equal accuracy. This is as true of mental operations as of bodily. Even a child, after much practice, sums up a column of figures with a rapidity which resembles intuition. The act of speaking any language, of reading fluently, of playing music at sight, are cases as remarkable as they are familiar. Among bodily acts, dancing, gymnastic exercises, ease and brilliancy of execution on a musical instrument, are examples of the rapidity and facility acquired by repetition. In simpler manual operations the effect is of course still sooner produced. "The rapidity," Adam Smith observes, "with which some of the operations of certain manufactures are performed, exceeds what the human hand could, by those who had never seen them, be supposed capable of acquiring." This skill is, naturally, attained after shorter practice, in proportion as the division of labour is more minute; and will not be attained in the same degree at all, if the workman has a greater variety of operations to execute than allows of a sufficiently frequent repetition of each. The advantage is not confined to the greater efficiency ultimately attained, but includes also the diminished loss of time, and waste of material, in learning the art. "A certain quantity of material," says Mr. Babbage, "will in all cases be consumed unprofitably, or spoiled, by every person who learns an art; and as he applies himself to each new process, he will waste some of the raw material, or of the partly manufactured commodity. But if each man commit this waste in acquiring successively every process, the quantity of waste will be much greater than if each person confine his attention to one process." And in general each will be much sooner qualified to execute his one process, if he be not distracted while learning it, by the necessity of learning others.
The second advantage enumerated by Adam Smith as arising from the division of labour, is one on which I cannot help thinking that more stress is laid by him and others than it deserves. To do full justice to his opinion, I will quote his own exposition of it. "The advantage which is gained by saving the time commonly lost in passing from one sort of work to another, is much greater than we should at first view be apt to imagine it. It is impossible to pass very quickly from one kind of work to another, that is carried on in a different place, and with quite different tools. A country weaver, who cultivates a small farm, must lose a good deal of time in passing from his loom to the field, and from the field to his loom. When the two trades can be carried on in the same workhouse, the loss of time is no doubt much less. It is even in this case, however, very considerable. A man commonly saunters a little in turning his hand from one sort of employment to another. When he first begins the new work, he is seldom very keen and hearty; his mind, as they say, does not go to it, and for some time he rather trifles than applies to good purpose. The habit of sauntering and of indolent careless application, which is naturally, or rather necessarily acquired by every country workman who is obliged to change his work and his tools every half hour, and to apply his hand in twenty different ways almost every day of his life, renders him almost always slothful and lazy, and incapable of any vigorous application even on the most pressing occasions." This is surely a most exaggerated description of the inefficiency of country labour, where it has any adequate motive to exertion. Few workmen change their work and their tools oftener than a gardener; is he usually incapable of vigorous application? Many of the higher description of artisans have to perform a great multiplicity of operations with a variety of tools. They do not execute each of these with the rapidity with which a factory workman performs his single operation; but they are, except in a merely manual sense, more skilful labourers, and in all senses whatever more energetic.
Mr. Babbage, following in the track of Adam Smith, says, "When the human hand, or the human head, has been for some time occupied in any kind of work, it cannot instantly change its employment with full effect. The muscles of the limbs employed have acquired a flexibility during their exertion, and those not in action a stiffness during rest, which renders every change slow and unequal in the commencement. Long habit also produces in the muscles exercised a capacity for enduring fatigue to a much greater degree than they could support under other circumstances. A similar result seems to take place in any change of mental exertion; the attention bestowed on the new subject not being so perfect at first as it becomes after some exercise. The employment of different tools in the successive processes, is another cause of the loss of time in changing from one operation to another. If these tools are simple, and the change is not frequent, the loss of time is not considerable; but in many processes of the arts, the tools are of great delicacy, requiring accurate adjustment every time they are used; and in many cases, the time employed in adjusting bears a large proportion to that employed in using the tool. The sliding-rest, the dividing and the drilling engine are of this kind: and hence, in manufactories of sufficient extent, it is found to be good economy to keep one machine constantly employed in one kind of work: one lathe, for example, having a screw motion to its sliding-rest along the whole length of its bed, is kept constantly making cylinders; another, having a motion for equalizing the velocity of the work at the point at which it passes the tool, is kept for facing surfaces; whilst a third is constantly employed in cutting wheels."
I am very far from implying that these different considerations are of no weight; but I think there are counter-considerations which are overlooked. If one kind of muscular or mental labour is different from another, for that very reason it is to some extent a rest from that other; and if the greatest vigour is not at once obtained in the second occupation, neither could the first have been indefinitely prolonged without some relaxation of energy. It is a matter of common experience that a change of occupation will often afford relief where complete repose would otherwise be necessary, and that a person can work many more hours without fatigue at a succession of occupations, than if confined during the whole time to one. Different occupations employ different muscles, or different energies of the mind, some of which rest and are refreshed while others work. Bodily labour itself rests from mental, and conversely. The variety itself has an invigorating effect on what, for want of a more philosophical appellation, we must term the animal spirits; so important to the efficiency of all work not mechanical, and not unimportant even to that. The comparative weight due to these considerations is different with different individuals; some are more fitted than others for persistency in one occupation, and less fit for change; they require longer to get the steam up (to use a metaphor now common); the irksomeness of setting to work lasts longer, and it requires more time to bring their faculties into full play, and therefore when this is once done, they do not like to leave off, but go on long without intermission, even to the injury of their health. Temperament has something to do with these differences. There are people whose faculties seem by nature to come slowly into action, and to accomplish little until they have been a long time employed. Others, again, get into action rapidly, but cannot, without exhaustion, continue long. In this, however, as in most other things, though natural differences are something, habit is much more. The habit of passing rapidly from one occupation to another may be acquired, like other habits, by early cultivation; and when it is acquired, there is none of the sauntering which Adam Smith speaks of, after each change; no want of energy and interest, but the workman comes to each part of his occupation with a freshness and a spirit which he does not retain if he persists in any one part (unless in case of unusual excitement) beyond the length of time to which he is accustomed. Women are usually (at least in their present social circumstances) of far greater versatility than men; and the present topic is an instance among multitudes, how little the ideas and experience of women have yet counted for, in forming the opinions of mankind. There are few women who would not reject the idea that work is made vigorous by being protracted, and is inefficient for some time after changing to a new thing. Even in this case, habit, I believe, much more than nature, is the cause of the difference. The occupations of nine out of every ten men are special, those of nine out of every ten women general, embracing a multitude of details, each of which requires very little time. Women are in the constant practice of passing quickly from one manual, and still more from one mental operation to another, which therefore rarely costs them either effort or loss of time, while a man's occupation generally consists in working steadily for a long time at one thing, or one very limited class of things. But the situations are sometimes reversed, and with them the characters. Women are not found less efficient than men for the uniformity of factory work, or they would not so generally be employed for it; and a man who has cultivated the habit of turning his hand to many things, far from being the slothful and lazy person described by Adam Smith, is usually remarkably lively and active. It is true, however, that change of occupation may be too frequent even for the most versatile. Incessant variety is even more fatiguing than perpetual sameness.
The third advantage attributed by Adam Smith to the division of labour, is, to a certain extent, real. Inventions tending to save labour in a particular operation, are more likely to occur to any one in proportion as his thoughts are intensely directed to that occupation, and continually employed upon it. A person is not so likely to make practical improvements in one department of things, whose attention is very much diverted to others. But, in this, much more depends on general intelligence and habitual activity of mind, than on exclusiveness of occupation; and if that exclusiveness is carried to a degree unfavourable to the cultivation of intelligence, there will be more lost in this kind of advantage, than gained. We may add, that whatever may be the cause of making inventions, when they are once made, the increased efficiency of labour is owing to the invention itself, and not to the division of labour.
The greatest advantage (next to the dexterity of the workmen) derived from the minute division of labour which takes place in modern manufacturing industry, is one not mentioned by Adam Smith, but to which attention has been drawn by Mr. Babbage; the more economical distribution of labour, by classing the work-people according to their capacity. Different parts of the same series of operations require unequal degrees of skill and bodily strength; and those who have skill enough for the most difficult, or strength enough for the hardest parts of the labour, are made much more useful by being employed solely in them; the operations which everybody is capable of, being left to those who are fit for no others. Production is most efficient when the precise quantity of skill and strength, which is required for each part of the process, is employed in it, and no more. The operation of pin-making requires, it seems, in its different parts, such different degrees of skill, that the wages earned by the persons employed vary from fourpence halfpenny a day to six shillings; and if the workman who is paid at that highest rate had to perform the whole process, he would be working a part of his time with a waste per day equivalent to the difference between six shillings and fourpence halfpenny. Without reference to the loss sustained in quantity of work done, and supposing even that he could make a pound of pins in the same time in which ten workmen combining their labour can make ten pounds, Mr. Babbage computes that they would cost, in making, three times and three-quarters as much as they now do by means of the division of labour. In needle-making, he adds, the difference would be still greater, for in that, the scale of remuneration for different parts of the process varies from sixpence to twenty shillings a day.
To the advantage which consists in extracting the greatest possible amount of utility from skill, may be added the analogous one, of extracting the utmost possible utility from tools. "If any man," says an able writer, "had all the tools which many different occupations require, at least threefourths of them would constantly be idle and useless. It were clearly then better, were any society to exist where each man had all these tools, and alternately carried on each of these occupations, that the members of it should, if possible, divide them amongst them, each restricting himself to some particular employment. The advantages of the change to the whole community, and therefore to every individual in it, are great. In the first place, the various implements being in constant employment, yield a better return for what has been laid out in procuring them. In consequence their owners can afford to have them of better quality and more complete construction. The result of both events is, that a larger provision is made for the future wants of the whole society."
§ 6. The division of labour, as all writers on the subject have remarked, is limited by the extent of the market. If, by the separation of pin-making into ten distinct employments, forty-eight thousand pins can be made in a day, this separation will only be advisable if the number of accessible consumers is such as to require, every day, something like forty-eight thousand pins. If there is only a demand for twenty-four thousand, the division of labour can only be advantageously carried to the extent which will every day produce that smaller number. This, therefore, is a further mode in which an accession of demand for a commodity tends to increase the efficiency of the labour employed in its production. The extent of the market may be limited by several causes: too small a population; the population too scattered and distant to be easily accessible; deficiency of roads and water carriage; or, finally, the population too poor, that is, their collective labour too little effective, to admit of their being large consumers. Indolence, want of skill, and want of combination of labour, among those who would otherwise be buyers of a commodity, limit, therefore, the practical amount of combination of labour among its producers. In an early stage of civilization, when the demand of any particular locality was necessarily small, industry only flourished among those who by their command of the sea-coast or of a navigable river, could have the whole world, or all that part of it which lay on coasts or navigable rivers, as a market for their productions. The increase of the general riches of the world, when accompanied with freedom of commercial intercourse, improvements in navigation, and inland communication by roads, canals, or railways, tends to give increased productiveness to the labour of every nation in particular, by enabling each locality to supply with its special products so much larger a market, that a great extension of the division of labour in their production is an ordinary consequence.
The division of labour is also limited, in many cases, by the nature of the employment. Agriculture, for example, is not susceptible of so great a division of occupations as many branches of manufactures, because its different operations cannot possibly be simultaneous. One man cannot be always ploughing, another sowing, and another reaping. A workman who only practised one agricultural operation would be idle eleven months of the year. The same person may perform them all in succession, and have, in most climates, a considerable amount of unoccupied time. To execute a great agricultural improvement, it is often necessary that many labourers should work together; but in general, except the few whose business is superintendence, they all work in the same manner. A canal or a railway embankment cannot be made without a combination of many labourers; but they are all excavators, except the engineers and a few clerks.
- Note to Wakefield's edition of Adam Smith, vol. i. p. 26.
- Supra, pp. 99-111.
- "Ce ne sont point les mêmes ouvriers qui préparent le papier dont on fait les cartes, ni les couleurs dont on les empreint; et en ne fesant attention qu'au seul emploi de ces matières, nous trouverons qu'un jeu de cartes est le résultat de plusieurs operations dont chacune occupe une'série distincte d'ouvriers et d'ouvrieres qui's'appliquent toujours a la même operation. Ce sont des personnes différentes, et toujouis les mêmes, qui épluchent les bouchons et grosseurs qui se trouvent dans le papier et nuiraient a l'égalité d'épaisseur; les mêmes qui collent ensemble les trois feuilles de papier dont se compose le carton et qui le mettent en presse; les mêmes qui impriment en noir le dessin des figures; d'autres ouvriers impriment les couleurs des mêmes figures; d'autres font'sécher au réchaud les cartons une fois qu'ils sont imprimés; d'autres's'occupent de les lisser dessus et dessous. C'est une occupation particulière que de les couper d'égale dimension; c'en est une autre de les assembler pour en former des jeux; une autre encore d'imprimer les enveloppes des jeux, et une autre encore de les envelopper; sans compter les fonctions des personnes chargées des ventes et des achats, de payer les ouvriers et de tenir les écritures." Say, Cours d' Economie Politique Pratique, vol. i. p. 340.
It is a remarkable proof of the economy of labour occasioned by this minute division of occupations, that an article, the production of which is the result of such a multitude of manual operations, can be sold for a trifling sum.
- Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, 3rd Edition, p. 201.
- "In astronomical observations, the senses of the operator are rendered so acute by habit, that he can estimate differences of time to the tenth of a second; and adjust his measuring instrument to graduations of which five thousand occupy only an inch. It is the same throughout the commonest processes of manufacture. A child who fastens on the heads of pins will repeat an operation requiring several distinct motions of the muscles one hundred times a minute for several successive hours. In a recent Manchester paper it was stated that a peculiar sort of twist or 'gimp,' which cost three shillings making when first introduced, was now manufactured for one penny; and this not, as usually, by the invention of a new machine, but solely through the increased dexterity of the workman." Edinburgh Review for January 1849, p. 81.
- Page 171.
- Statement of some New Principles on the subject of Political Economy, by John Rae, (Boston, U.S.) p. 164.