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Labor and Enterprise

skilled, unskilled, industry, workers, senses and wage

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LABOR AND ENTERPRISE f. Labon—Labor includes all human effort having for its end or aim the gratification of wants or the pro duction of income. Using the term in its broadest sense, we might say that there is not an idler on the earth, for all persons are seeking in one way or another to get some satisfaction out of life. But in the busi ness or economic sense there is a sharp distinction be tween those who work and those who loaf and play. The workers are those who are helping either to in crease our store of tangible economic goods, commonly known as commodities, or to render some personal service to others in return for compensation.

The economist is especially interested in the prob lems connected with the labors of those people who are engaged, whether directly or indirectly, in the production of commodities. These workers are parts of the great industrial machine and may be roughly divided into two classes, skilled and unskilled laborers.

2. Skilled and Unskilled laborers.—A skilled laborer is one. who has learned thru training and practice to perform certain tasks with unusual apti tude. He is in a sense a specialist, and the degree of his skill, his rank among skilled laborers, depends upon his use of brain power and the fineness of his senses. A man of sluggish intellect and dull senses might become what the New Englanders call a barn carpenter, but he never could learn to build a fine house and certainly could not become a cabinet maker, for he would lack judgment in the selection of ma terials and tools and his dull senses would be satis fied with imperfect joints and mortises. Thru in heritance men receive different endowments from na ture. Some easily become skilled laborers of a very high class, while others seem doomed to remain thru life in the lowest ranks.

The unskilled laborer is one who performs tasks requiring the minimum of mental effort. Physical strength is his chief asset. He digs, shovels, hoes, lifts, fetches and carries, but he is not paid to think.

Economics is specially concerned with the forces and conditions that determine the wages of both skilled and unskilled labor. The labor problem is recognized

as the most important and the most difficult in the whole field of economics. What is a living wage or a fair wage? Why are the wages of some classes of workmen, even those who possess some skill, so low that the workers' families cannot be properly fed and housed? What steps should be taken in order that labor may get a better wage? In.the long run what is the effect of strikes and lockouts, of trade unions, of war, of high living upon the welfare of the laboring classes? Economists must find answers to questions of this sort.

3. Division of labon—Since men and women are differently endowed, they naturally seek the kind of employment for which they are best fitted, or which they like best, or which seems to them the least irk some. As a result and because of the development of elaborate exchange and transportation facilities, modern business and industry are most highly spe cialized; every great industry has been subdivided into numerous groups and these again into minor subdivisions. Experience has taught men that greater efficiency results if a workman can concen trate upon a single task or if an entire factory can be devoted to the manufacture of a single simple prod uct. The parts of many complicated machines are now manufactured in different shops and then as sembled to create the finished product.

4. Advantages of division of labon—Division of labor is one of the most conspicuous facts of modern industry and business. It has many advantages. It enables a workman to become more adept and so im proves the product and shortens the time of produc tion. It lowers the cost of production, for it in creases the output per man and so brings into exist ence a larger supply of economic groods than would be produced if workers were employed at different tasks on the same day. The main reason why spe cialization of industry has proceeded so rapidly in modern times is because of the reduction in costs which resulted.

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