Chapter 1c of Book 1 of the Wealth of Nations Simplified

Productivity from the Division of Labor Icon

January 29, 2020

10 The division of labour greatly increases productivity. This productivity in a well-governed society creates the universal opulence which extends to the poor.

Every worker produces a lot more goods than what he himself needs. This allows all workers to exchange their excess goods among each other, creating a general plenty that diffuses itself through the different ranks of society.

11 The accommodation of a common day-labourer in a civilized country involves a small part of the industry of so many people.

For example, the labourer’s woollen coat is coarse and rough. But it is the produce of the joint labour of many workers=

  • the shepherd,
  • the sorter of the wool,
  • the wool-comber or carder,
  • the dyer,
  • the scribbler,
  • the spinner,
  • the weaver,
  • the fuller, and
  • the dresser.

These must all join their arts to complete the coat. It also requires=

  • many merchants and carriers to transport the materials from those workers to others who often live very far, and
  • the drugs used by the dyer, which often come from the remotest corners of the world.

This is brought together by the commerce and navigation which employs=

  • ship-builders,
  • sailors,
  • sail-makers,
  • rope-makers
  • the tools of the meanest of those workers,
  • the complicated machines such as=
  • the sailor’s ship,
  • the fuller’s mill, and
  • the weaver’s loom.
  • the very simple machines such as the shepherd’s shears for clipping the wool which requires the combined work of=
  • the miner,
  • the builder of the furnace for smelting the ore,
  • the feller of the timber,
  • the burner of the charcoal to be made use of in the smelting-house,
  • the brick-maker,
  • the brick-layer,
  • the workers who attend the furnace,
  • the mill-wright,
  • the forger, and
  • the smith.

The labourer has=

  • his dress and household furniture,
  • the coarse linen shirt which he wears next his skin,
  • the shoes which cover his feet,
  • the bed which he lies on, with all its parts,
  • the kitchen-grate where he prepares his victuals, and
  • the coals which he uses which are=
    • dug from the bowels of the earth
    • brought to him by a long sea and land carriage.
  • all the other utensils of his kitchen,
  • all the furniture of his table=
    • the knives and forks,
    • the earthen or pewter plates upon which he divides his victuals,
  • the different hands employed in preparing his=
    • bread and beer,
    • glass window which keeps out the wind and rain. These northern parts of the world would not be very comfortable without them.
  • the tools of all the workers employed in producing those different conveniencies.

The production of all these things require the cooperation of many thousands. Without these, the very meanest person in a civilized country could not be provided his accommodations, which seem to be produced in an easy and simple way.

His accommodations appear extremely simple and easy compared to the more extravagant luxury of the great.

The accommodation of a European prince does not always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant.

But the peasant’s accommodation exceeds the accommodation of many African kings. Those kings are absolute masters of the lives of 10,000 naked savages.


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