Chapter 3

The Opulence from the Division of Labour

by Adam Smith Icon

Superphysics Note: The beginnings of the Wealth of Nations is from this Chapter to Part 4. We can conclude that the rest is to form his work on Jurisprudence

In an uncivilized nation where labour is undivided, everything is provided for by the natural needs of mankind.

Yet, when the nation is cultivated and labour divided, a more liberal provision is allotted them. This is how a common day-labourer in Britain has more luxury than an Indian sovereign.

The woollen coat he wears requires many preparations. The following must be employed before the labourer is clothed:

  • the wool-gatherer,
  • the dresser,
  • the spinster,
  • the dyer,
  • the weaver,
  • the tailor, and many more.

The tools needed for this employ still more artists:

  • the loom-maker,
  • the miln-wright,
  • the rope-maker,
  • the bricklayer,
  • the tree-feller,
  • the miner,
  • the smelter,
  • the forger,
  • the smith, etc.

Besides his dress, consider all his:

  • household furniture,
  • coarse linens,
  • shoes,
  • coals dug out of the earth or brought by sea,
  • kitchen utensils and plates,
  • the people employed to provide his bread and beer,
    • the sower,
    • the brewer,
    • the reaper,
    • the baker,
  • his glass windows and the art required in preparing them.

Thus, the day-labourer’s simple conveniences requires the assistance of many. Yet this is nothing compared with the nobility’s luxury.

However, a European prince does not so far exceed a commoner, as the commoner exceeds the chief of a savage nation. It is easy to conceive how the rich can be so well provided for. They can direct so many hands to serve their purposes. They are supported by the peasant’s industry.

In a savage nation, everyone enjoys the whole fruit of his own labour, yet their indigence is greater. It is the division of labour which increases a country’s opulence.

A civilized society has a division of labour. But there is no equal division, for there are many who do not work at all.

The division of opulence is not according to the work.

The merchant’s opulence is greater than that of all his clerks, though he works less.

His clerks have six times more than an equal number of artisans, who are more employed.

The artisan who works comfortably indoors has far more opulence than the poor labourer who trudges up and down without intermission.

Thus, he who bears society’s burden has the fewest advantages.

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