Wealth of Nations



This first reading of Adam Smith's, Wealth of Nations, examines the labor force, ( in this case, of Europe and England ) how it functions to improve abundance and how that abundance is distributed throughout society.

The amount of annual abundance in a country will depend on two

circumstances. First, by the skill, dexterity, and judgment in applying labor. Second, by the number of those employed in useful labor versus those who are not.

By far, the greatest improvement in production was the division of labor, resulting in a substantial increase in the quantity of work based on three criteria. First, dexterity of workmen. Second, saving of time. Third, the invention of machines.

Smith maintains that division of labor was not the product of human wisdom or benevolence, but rose out of human nature to exchange what one has for something one doesn't have, which will bring a greater good into their lives.

The next point regarding abundance was that the division of labor is always limited by the extent of market or, supply and demand. The first trading was dependent upon commodities. This led to "common" commodities being used for exchange such as cattle, salt, or sugar. Metals became the preferred common commodity because they were non-perishable and could be divided. Metals were first used as crude bars of iron or copper with richer nations using gold and silver. Eventually, the bars evolved into money as we know it today, stamped by public office known as mint.

This first portion of Wealth of Nations struck me as a mini course in basic economics. However, given the time period it was written, it did give me an insight into how our own country prospered so greatly in such a short time using natural resources, division of labor, and machinery.

Also, as I read about the division of labor and how it has prospered nations, I couldn't help reflecting back on the principles Rousseau put forth in The Social Contract. That of everyone working together for the good of the whole, which while seeming restrictive, actually brings freedom. The same would seem true of the division of labor. One industry divided into several branches. Each person has their own area of expertise with everything coming together as a whole to produce a single commodity. This results in not only more work being accomplished, but good government and more abundant society.