What Causes the Division of Labourby Adam Smith
The division of labour cannot be the effect of human prudence. The Sesostris made a law that every man should follow the employment of his father. But this:
- is not suitable to the dispositions of human nature and
- can never long take place.
Everyone is fond of being a gentleman, whatever his father’s employment. The strongest and those above the weak in society must have as many under as to defend their station. From necessary causes, there must be as many in the lower stations as needed. There must be as many up as down.
No division can be overstretched. But this does not cause the division of labour. It flows from a direct propensity in human nature for one man to barter with another. This is common to all men.
It is not present in any other animal. Nobody ever saw a dog exchange a bone with his companion for another. Two greyhounds running after a hare, seem to have an agreement between themselves. But this is just a concurrence of the same passions. If an animal intends to gain anything from man, it is by its fondness and kindness.
In the same way, man works on his fellows’ self love, by setting before them a sufficient temptation to get what he wants. The language of this disposition is= ‘Give me what I want, and you shall have what you want.’ It is not from benevolence, as the dogs, but from self love that man expects anything. The brewer and the baker do not serve us from benevolence, but from self love. Only a beggar depends on benevolence.
Even they would die in a week if they totally depended on it. If anyone, in a nation of hunters, can make bows and arrows better than his neighbours, he will at first make presents of them.
In return, he will get presents of their game. This is caused by the disposition to barter and exchange the surplus of one’s labour for that of other people. By continuing this practice, he will live better than before. He will have no occasion to provide for himself, as the surplus of his own labour does it more effectually. This disposition to barter is not founded on different genius and talents.
It is doubtful if there be any such difference at all, at least it is far less than we are aware of. Genius is more the effect of the division of labour than the latter is of it. There is no difference between a porter and a philosopher in the first five years of their life. When they come to be employed in different occupations, their views widen and differ.
There is no need for such different endowments since everyone has this natural disposition to truck and barter, by which he provides for himself. Accordingly, there is always the greatest uniformity of character among savages. In other animals of the same species, we find a much greater difference than between the philosopher and porter, antecedent to custom.
The mastiff and spaniel have quite different powers. But they cannot bring their productions into the common stock and exchange. Therefore, their different talents are useless. It is quite otherwise with humans.
They can exchange their several productions according to their quantity or quality. The philosopher and the porter are advantageous to each other. The porter is useful in carrying burdens for the philosopher. In turn, the porter burns his coals cheaper by the philosopher’s invention of the fire machine. Thus, genius is not the foundation of this disposition to barter which is the cause of the division of labour.
Its real foundation is the principle to persuade. It so much prevails in human nature. When any arguments are offered to persuade, it is always expected that they should have their proper effect. A person who asserts anything false about the moon would still feel a kind of uneasiness in being contradicted. He would be very glad if the person he is trying to persuade has the same way of thinking as himself. We should then mainly cultivate the power of persuasion. Indeed, we do so without intending it.
Since a whole life is spent in the exercise of it, a ready method of bargaining with each other must be attained. No animal can do this but by gaining the favour of those whom they would persuade. Sometimes, animals seem to act in concert.
But there never was a bargain among them. When monkeys rob a garden, they throw the fruit from one to another, until they deposit it in the hoard. But there is always a scramble about the division of the booty. Usually some of them are killed.