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Restatement of Familiar Principles

workman, labor, occupation, machinery, division, subdivision and pins

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RESTATEMENT OF FAMILIAR PRINCIPLES The division of labor increases the efficiency of production. The first great treatise on political economy, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, opens with a discussion of the advantages of the division of labor introduced by an illustra tion drawn from the manufacture of pins. He shows that in a small pin factory employing only ten men, where the subdivision of work was therefore not carried to its fullest extent, there were turned out daily some 48,000 pins, or 4800 for each workman. Mr. David Wells brings the illustration down to our own times by citing a modern pin factory in which three men manufactured daily 7,500,000 pins, or 2,500,000 for each workman. It would probably be quite impossible for a man without the cooperation of others to produce even a single pin. Even in occupations which have not been so much modified by the introduction of machinery, the 323 same effect follows the subdivision of the work into distinct branches, each workman con fining himself to one of these branches. This great economy arises chiefly from three sources. The laborer acquires manual dexterity by in numerable repetitions of the same operation. Every day his work becomes easier, and if there is sufficient motive to prevent a corre sponding lessening of exertion, this greater dexterity is accompanied by increased product. If an occupation is of a kind that does not permit laborers to specialize in this way, but requires each person who follows it to learn a larger number of different kinds of work, it is not likely to advance so rapidly as others in which the specialization takes place. Farming is an occupation of this kind. Men cannot confine themselves to sowing, cultivating, har vesting, or threshing, because these come at different times in the year. Neither can a farmer produce corn or oats or live stock ex clusively, because land requires a rotation of crops, and it is more advantageous to combine several kinds of agricultural products.

Allied to this advantage of increased dexterity is another. Close and long attention to a single occupation enables the workman to think of new methods to discover improvements in machinery, and even to invent new tools and machines. Not

many of the greater inventions, such as the cot ton-gin, the steam engine, the sewing-machine, or the electric motor, have been made in this way. They have come rather from the patient investigations of a class of specialists whose energies were concentrated on working out an idea conceived while watching the work of others. But thousands of minor inventions and discoveries have been made by workmen in the manner indicated. This is much more likely to be done where men are employed in piece-work than if they are paid by the day ; but only where there is some assurance that at least for a time the workman will be permitted to enjoy the fruits of the increased production caused by his discovery. A steel manufacturer relates to the writer an instance in which the output of a plant was doubled in a period of ten years without any increase in the capital or in the number of laborers, by .the introduction of piece-work, and a policy of liberal encourage ment to workmen for such improvements as they might make.

The third advantage which deserves emphasis is the opportunity given by the division of labOr to secure a good adjustment between the work to be done and the capacity of the worker. Those who have special strength or special facility in any particular direction may gain the greater rewards which come from doing a work in which they have little competition. Many other occupations are open to persons of less skill or strength who would not be able to make their living at all where the subdivision of labor had not been carried so far. There are other important advantages, such as the constant employment of tools and machinery, the saving of time necessary to pass from one occupation to another, the multiplicity of services arising from so arranging work that a laborer may serve many persons as easily as one, as, for example, in the delivery of parcels or letters, and from the multiplicity of copies, as in the printing of books or of calico.

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