The Distribution of Products

division, labor, community, qualities, contact, occupations, degree, communities and particular

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There is still a third principle operating in the same direction with the two that have been mentioned, viz., the division of trades, or, as it is frequently but less accurately called, the division of labor. In the development of in dustry it is found advantageous for the mem bers of each community to separate themselves into distinct trades or occupations. The chief economy resulting from this arrangement is that it permits each producer to devote himself to the particular tasks for which he is best fitted by disposition and training. Not that this result is by any means always secured, but division of labor tends to secure it. There are certain occupations which demand great physi cal endurance. Under free competition those who have the necessary endurance will naturally succeed best in those industries, and will gradu ally drive out others who are not so well fitted. Other occupations require manual dexterity, and the law of evolution will gradually eliminate all who do not have the capacity for acquiring the necessary degree. There are still other occupa tions in which lightness and delicacy of touch are the chief requisites. Generally it is a pecul iar combination of qualities rather than the predominance of any one that is demanded, and mental qualities are even more decisive in most instances than physical qualities. By calling to higher occupations those who have superior or happily blended qualities, the division of labor permits much good work to be done by persons less liberally endowed with physical strength or mental capacity, but still able to compete for certain kinds of work.

Besides apportioning producers in this man ner to different tasks in accordance with their natural capacity, the division of labor is of advantage in that it permits a great develop ment of specialized skill. Constant repetition of the same processes will produce a high degree of efficiency, even where efficiency is at first very moderate. Precision and speed can be gained by the average worker only by confining the attention to comparatively few operations. Practice is necessary for perfect work in the best of workers, and it secures from the great body of workers, if not perfec tion, at least a very efficient total production of goods.

But again it will be noticed that if the com munity is self-contained, depending for its in dustry, thus organized upon the principle of the division of labor, upon the materials which its members can extract from the particular portion of the earth's crust with which they are in contact, the evils flowing from the unequal distribution of natural products and the unequal physical and mental equipment of men are not remedied by such a division of labor. The hunters, after a division of labor, may prepare the skins of wild animals with less difficulty and in larger quantities, but the relative quanti ties of the goods which they had in abundance have been increased by every extension of the principle of division of labor, and similar results follow its adoption in communities of other varieties.

We have assumed thus far in the present chapter that the smallest industrial unit is the local community—large enough to permit within itself a certain degree of division of labor, and to secure some degree of control over the forces of nature ; that this community, owing allegiance to the patriarch or oldest member, and consisting only of his descendants and those who have been adopted from other families by marriage, has somewhat clearly marked characteristics, showing a preference for certain products and certain kinds of activity. Such a community will be able to provide for its absolute necessities, and it will usually possess an abundance of some one or more kinds of wealth.

If these particular commodities, which are ob tained from the environment at little cost, are not produced in great profusion, it is only because their marginal utility more quickly falls to the level of the marginal utility of other commodities which, although with greater dif ficulty, they still think it worth their while to produce.

In such a community, as in every other, there would be a desire to equalize the final incre ments of consumption. Labor cannot be spent exclusively upon the goods which are produced most easily, since, if the community has ad vanced far enough to have any diversity of wants, it must spend its energies chiefly upon increasing the supply of the products which, in their environment, are scarce. In any division of labor which takes place, disproportionate attention must be given to the least remunera tive tasks. Their own industrial qualities may or may not mitigate the difficulties imposed by their lot, but at best they derive no advantage from the lavish gifts of nature, which are offset by such rigorous conditions in the production of other and no less necessary goods.

It would require very limited intelligence in deed to discover that it would be of advantage for two such local communities to come into contact with each other, in order that they might exchange products. The enormous gain from such contact would not be so obvious to the communities on their first contact, as it is to us, for the reason that each community hav ing extended its production in all the directions for which it has discovered any wants, is not ordinarily conscious of superfluity in any prod ucts. If, at the moment of contact, both have by some accident accumulated more than their normal portion of the products which are easily obtained, or if each is suffering from the lack of a commodity with which the other is supplied, or if, again, either makes clear to the other that it is in the possession of commodities of some sort which are unknown to the other and have the power of adding a new enjoyment, then some kind of commerce in the superfluous or the new commodity is likely to begin.

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