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achievement wherever it is found.

Obedience to law. Another important element in reasonable-
ness is the recognition of the fact that if we are going to live
together in groups, it is necessary for each of us to submit to
many regulations, some of them at times irksome, which would
be unnecessary if we could live as isolated individuals. This
is commonly called obedience to law. This need not be a
slavish acceptance of all laws as they now stand, but it at
least involves a recognition of the orderly and legally constituted
methods of changing laws, rather than a stubborn and brutal
defiance of those which we do not happen to like. The pur-
pose of law is not to repress or obstruct, but to make free,
to release energy. The traffic policeman on a crowded street



THE QUALITY OF THE PEOPLE 113

corner may be taken as a good illustration of all enforcement
of law. He is not there to obstruct or hinder traffic, though
he does undoubtedly hinder some unreasonable people from
doing what they would like to do. But as the result of such
hindrances, traffic can move more freely than it could without
them, and thus the average person actually enjoys greater
freedom of movement than would otherwise be possible. A
reasonable person always recognizes this fact and submits to
such regulations. Only an unreasonable person finds them
irksome or refuses a willing obedience.

The world has generally been dominated by peoples who
were law-abiding. No nation whose people refuse to submit
to the necessary regulations could ever hope to grow prosperous
or powerful enough to play much of a part in civilization. It
would be as reasonable to expect a disorganized mob, each
individual of which followed his own whims, to succeed against
a well-organized and well-disciplined army. The type of disci-
pline and regulation is different, but the necessity is just as great
in a nation at peace as in a nation at war. The results of a
lack of discipline come more quickly in war than in peace,
but they are no more certain in the one case than in the
other. It is particularly important that this kind of reasonable-
ness shall exist in a democracy. Under a despotism the
subjects may be compelled by fear to submit to regulations ;
in a democracy it must be largely voluntary. In other words,
it depends upon the reasonableness of the people.

Willingness to cooperate. Willingness to cooperate where
cooperation is desirable, even without legal compulsion, is a
very important factor in the prosperity of any community.
Even where everyone agrees that cooperation is needed, it is
frequently difficult to get people to cooperate for community
work. The reasons are many, and some of them are hard to
understand. Personal jealousies, old grudges, mutual distrust,
and even general all-round meanness are given as the prin-
cipal reasons.' It is sometimes said that the lack of leaders is



114 PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

the great difficulty. It is quite as frequently the lack of fol-
lowers. Everyone wants to be a leader and is not willing to
follow anyone else. One of the vices of democracy shows
itself in many cooperative enterprises. Instead of supporting
a leader who really knows what ought to be done and how to
do it, it frequently happens that the only leader who can win
support is the one who can wheedle the different factions into
a cooperative mood. His fitness does not consist in the fact
that he is an expert in the work which is to be done by the
group, but in the fact that he is an expert in the arts of per-
suasion, that he is the only one who can overcome the
unwillingness of the various factions to cooperate. If they
were willing to cooperate, this sort of leader would not be a
necessity, and they could then choose a leader who was an
expert in the work to be done.

Even in the larger sense, the nation is weak if it must be
led by one who knows very little about the actual business in
hand, but knows only how to placate various factions and per-
suade them to undertake the work before them. With such a
spirit among the people the indispensable man is more likely
to be the orator or the persuader than the statesman or the
administrator. A people among whom the efficient man
is popular will never be outstripped in the arts of peace,
or beaten in war, by a people among whom only a dema-
gogue or even a persuasive orator can be popular. A people
who lack the willingness to cooperate in the carrying out of
great national plans and programs must be persuaded or
wheedled. Lacking a despot, their first need is for someone
who can wheedle them into doing that which they ought
to be willing to do without wheedling. Nothing more unerr-
ingly indicates the quality of the people than the kind
of leaders they pick out or follow. If they habitually allow
themselves to be led by men who are proficient merely in
the arts of persuasion, they are a weak people. Even that
which is sometimes called executive ability, and which is too



THE QUALITY OF THE PEOPLE 115

often a convenient excuse for much stupidity, is made neces-
sary mainly because people are too weak and vacillating to do
what they ought to do without a great deal of looking after.
If the people choose as their leaders men who have clear and
sound ideas and marked scientific or constructive ability, re-
gardless of their proficiency either in the arts of persuasion or
in the bluster of the " great executive," they are a strong
people. As the late William James pointed out, one of
the purposes of an education is to enable us to pick out a
good man.

If we are clear in our minds as to a few of the leading quali-
ties which a capable race must possess, the next question is,
How may a nation improve or preserve its capacity for great-
ness ? Our original qualities depend mainly upon heredity ; our
acquired qualities, upon education. Education depends mainly
upon the educational system and the advantages which civiliza-
tion provides for the accumulation and transmission of knowl-
edge. Few of us, unless we have thought seriously about it,
realize how much of our present knowledge is due to the art
of printing. By means of the printed book the knowledge
acquired by one generation may be stored up and bequeathed
to future generations. Without the printed book it would
have to be transmitted from generation to generation on the
thin air by means of the spoken word. Much that is wonder-
ful has been transmitted orally, but much has also been lost.
Such a thing as a lost art is scarcely possible in this age
of printing presses. But, while much of our knowledge is
due to the art of printing, more perhaps is due to the organ-
ized plans for training each generation during its growing
period. A school system which gives each and every child
just the training which he needs to fit him for the greatest
usefulness is the dream of all educators.

Heredity and training. A great deal has been written re-
garding the comparative importance of heredity and training
in the determination of ability and character. Some have gone



Il6 PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

to the extreme of saying that heredity is everything, that a
genius will always become a genius in spite of the lack of
educational advantages, in short, that he will find his own
means of education. Others have gone so far as to deny that
heredity has anything to do with a man's ability ; they claim
that it is all in his education, including under education all the
influences which have been at work since his birth in develop-
ing his mind or shaping his character. The truth, as in most
such cases, seems to be somewhere between these extremes.
There is no doubt whatever that men of average natural
ability may be greatly improved by education and training,
nor is there any reasonable doubt that some are capable of
being trained much more highly than others because of a
difference in natural ability.

If we consider certain special fields of study, for example,
music or mathematics, few will doubt that there are differ-
ences in natural talent for these studies. Any normal person
can acquire some skill in either of these fields, but there
are some who are so deficient in natural talent for one or
the other that no amount of training would ever enable them
to become highly proficient. There is a strong probability
that the same may be said of any special kind of ability or
skill which might be named ; but in our complex civilization
so many kinds of ability and skill are required that almost
anyone can find some field of work in which he may excel,
though there may be no good market for the kind of work in
which he excels, or there may be so many others possessing
the same kind of ability as to overstock the market. In either
case the individual, however skillful or capable in that special
field, may find it hard to make a living.

Whatever may be said regarding the relative importance
of the natural ability of the people and their training, it is
absolutely certain that it is more important for the present
generation to give attention to the problem of its own training
than to the problem of its own heredity. The latter cannot



THE QUALITY OF THE PEOPLE 117

now be changed, and there is no use worrying about it. The
only thing to do is to make the most of its inheritance and
see that it gets the best possible training. But when we look
to the future, there is much to be said in favor of giving atten-
tion to the question of the heredity of future generations. If the
most capable men and women of this and succeeding genera-
tions marry and have larger families than the less capable, and
if the least capable, the feeble-minded, and the defective are
prevented from reproducing their kind, we may expect a
gradual improvement, generation after generation, in the native
and inherited quality of the stock. If, on the other hand,
many of the most capable do not marry at all, and if the others
marry late and have small families, whereas the less capable
have larger families, while the feeble-minded and defective
multiply most rapidly of all, we must expect a gradual
deterioration in the stock, generation after generation.

The age of marriage. Aside from the difference in the size
of families, the mere difference in the age of marriage will
make a great difference in the rate of increase of different
classes. Let us suppose, for example, that there are two
groups of people, which we will call groups A and B, contain-
ing a thousand persons each, each group having different
habits with respect to the age of marriage. In group A mar-
riages take place so early, on the average, that there is an
average of twenty-five years between generations. That is, the
average parent is just twenty five years older than the average
child, enough children being born before the parents are
twenty-five to balance those who are born afterward. In group
B, on the other hand, marriages take place so late that there
is an average of thirty-three and a third years between genera-
tions. Let us assume, further, that the number of children
brought to maturity in the average family is the same in the
two groups, and that this average number is four ; that is,
in both groups the average married couple brings four children
to maturity and marries them off. The total number in each



Ii8 PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

group, therefore, doubles in each generation. But group A
will double four times in a hundred years, whereas group B
will double only three times. Under these circumstances
group A will have increased from one thousand to sixteen
thousand at the end of a hundred years, whereas group B will
have increased to only eight thousand. If, in addition to this,
group B should have fewer children on the average, so that
they doubled only once in two generations, the contrast is still
greater. In this case they would number only three thousand
at the end of a hundred years. If, through so many failing to
marry at all, and the rest having so few children, they should
not increase at all from generation to generation, the two
groups, at the end of the century, would bear the ratio of 16 to I.
Now it is rather obvious, is it not, that it makes a great deal
of difference whether group A represents the more capable
men and women in our nation, and group B the less capable,
or vice versa.



CHAPTER X

THE DIVISION OF LABOR

As suggested in Chapter VIII, labor, land, and capital are
the elements out of which national prosperity is built. Of
these by far the most important is labor, since we include
under that term both mental and physical exertion. It was
also stated that the efficiency of labor depends upon two factors :
the natural ability of the people and their training. But there
are many things involved in training which are not taught in
schools or learned in shops or business houses. The general
attitude of mind of the whole people, their outlook on life,
their personal habits, their systems of morals, and even their
religion, all have their share in the efficiency of the people.
The efficiency of labor depends also, to a large degree, upon
its organization and the opportunity for specialization.

Adam Smith begins his great " Inquiry into the Nature and
Causes of the Wealth of Nations " with a discussion of the
division of labor. Other writers, both ancient and modern,
had commented on the great fact of interdependence of indi-
viduals in society, but no one had gone into such detail or
shown so clearly just why a minute division of labor was so
advantageous. His statement of the case has scarcely been
improved upon up to the present day, though many of his
illustrations are out of date.

Meaning of the division of labor. By a division of labor he
means, first, a system under which no one produces everything
he needs, but each one confines himself to the production of
that one thing or those few things for the production of which
he is best fitted, exchanging his surplus product for the surplus
products of others who are specializing on other things ; second,

119



120 PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

the process of dividing up the work involved in the making of
a given article (each man performing a single part) and then
assembling all the parts, producing a complete whole. He
mentions the nail makers of his day as illustrations of the first
form. A common blacksmith having many other kinds of
work to do could never become very skillful at nail making,
but one who did nothing else except to make nails became
very skillful and could make in the course of a day several
times as many as a common blacksmith. He mentions boys
under twenty, who had never learned any other trade, who
could make, each of them, upwards of two thousand three
hundred nails in a day, whereas a common smith, even though
he were accustomed to making nails occasionally, could sel-
dom make over eight hundred or a thousand in a day. The
second form of the division of labor was found in his day in
the making of pins. The work of making a pin was divided
into eighteen different operations, each operation being per-
formed by a different workman. Of course, neither nails nor
pins are made nowadays as they were in his day ; but the
division of labor has been carried even farther. They are
turned out by automatic machines, but the machines are made
by one set of men, and the metal is mined, smelted, and
prepared by different groups ; all are performing parts of the
work of making nails or pins, as the case may be. Thou-
sands of other illustrations lie all about us if we choose to
look for them.

Advantages. Adam Smith names three distinct advantages
which result from the division of labor :

First, the improvement in the dexterity of the workman necessarily in-
creases the quality of the work he can perform ; and the division of labor,
by reducing every man's business to some one simple operation, and by
making this operation the sole employment of his life, necessarily increases
very much the dexterity of the workman. . . . Secondly, the advantage
which is gained by saving the time commonly lost in passing from one sort
of work to another, is much greater than we should at first view be apt to
imagine it. It is impossible to pass very quickly from one kind of work to



THE DIVISION OF LABOR 1 21

another that is carried on in a different place and with quite different tools.
. . . Thirdly and lastly, everybody must be sensible how much labor is
facilitated and abridged by the application of proper machinery. It is un-
necessary to give any example. I shall only observe, therefore, that the
invention of all those machines by which labor is so much facilitated and
abridged, seems to have been originally owing to the division of labor. Men
are much more likely to discover easier and readier methods of attaining
any object, when the whole attention of their minds is directed towards that
single object, than when it is dissipated among a great variety of things.
But, in consequence of the division of labor, the whole of every man's
attention comes naturally to be directed towards some one very simple
object. It is naturally to be expected, therefore, that some one or other of
those who are employed in each particular branch of labor should soon
find out easier and readier methods of performing their own particular
work, wherever the nature of it admits of such improvement. A great part
of the machines made use of in those manufactures in which labor is most
subdivided, were originally the inventions of common workmen. 1

Adam Smith's opinion that the third and last of these ad-
vantages was of special importance has been fully justified by
subsequent experience. Those special phases of the division
of labor which he so aptly illustrated by the nail makers and
the pin makers of his day scarcely exist now except in some
minor industries. The nail and pin makers actually made
their products with their own hands, using only such tools as
could be handled and driven by their own muscles. Machines
have now taken the place of the simple tool of that day.
Sometimes these machines are directed and fed by attendant
laborers, but sometimes they are so perfected as to require
very little attention, feeding themselves automatically and
stopping automatically when anything goes wrong. In these
cases the work of the attendant is reduced to a minimum,
consisting merely in starting the machines and putting them
in order when anything goes wrong.

Differences between a tool and a machine. The difference
between a tool and a machine is fairly clear. The working
part of a tool is not only driven but guided by human muscles.

1 Wealth of Nations, Chapter I.



122 PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

A machine may be driven by human muscles, but the working
part is guided by the machine itself. Besides, the power is
not applied directly to the working parts, but indirectly through
a series of mechanical devices such as wheels, pulleys, levers,
cranks, etc. For example, the working parts of a sewing
machine are the needle and the bobbin. These are guided by
the other parts of the machine, and the power is applied
indirectly. It is therefore a machine, even though it is pro-
pelled by the muscles of the operator ; on the other hand, the
needle of the tailor or seamstress is not only propelled but
guided by the worker. The hammer of the blacksmith is a
tool ; a steam hammer is a machine, not so much because it
is driven by steam as because the working part, that is, the
hammer itself, is controlled, guided, and made to strike accu-
rately by other parts of the machine, and the power is applied
indirectly through mechanical devices. Even in the case of a
riveting machine, while it has to be held in place, the actual
blows are struck in rapid succession by a striking part which
repeats the same motion over and over again, being guided in
its rapid motion by other parts which are made for that
purpose.

Advantages of machinery. The advantages of the machine
over the tool are, first, that it makes possible the use of greater
power than can be used to drive a tool ; second, that it can be
driven at much greater speed. Since the working part is
guided accurately by the mechanism and made to repeat the
same operation over and over again, the only limit of the speed
at which it can be driven is that fixed by the strength of the
materials of which it is composed. A third advantage is that,
by reason of the power which may be used to drive it, and
of the strength of the materials of which it is composed, it
can perform operations which no tool, whose working part
is guided and controlled by human muscles, could perform.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it can be made
to control working parts which are themselves too large and



THE DIVISION OF LABOR 123

heavy to be guided by human muscles. The working part of
a steel rolling mill, for example, consists of the rollers. Obvi-
ously no human hand could guide such powerful instruments, to
say nothing about driving them. They are held in place and
controlled by a powerful framework and, with the stupendous
power which they have behind them, can perform gigantic feats.

The fact that a machine is only capable of repeating one
operation over and over again suggests a weakness. It can
only be successfully employed where there are operations which
have to be repeated a great many times. The fact that sewing
involves the making of many stitches, all of them very much
alike, makes it a suitable kind of work for a machine. The
binding of sheaves of grain is another operation which has to
be repeated a vast number of times in the harvesting of a
crop ; therefore a twine binder is a practical machine. Thresh-
ing the grain with a flail also required a constant repetition
of the same act ; therefore we have threshing machines. In
short, any operation which has to be repeated without variation
a great number of times is suitable for machine work.

Human ingenuity is now able to construct machines which
can perform any operation, however delicate, which the human
hand can perform. Anyone who has seen the wonderful ma-
chines at work in a modern watch factory, for example, will
not doubt this statement. But if it is an operation which does
not have to be repeated continuously and a great number of
times, it may not pay to build a machine for the purpose. It
may be cheaper to do the work by hand. Even the darning
of socks and the patching of trousers can be done by machinery ;
but unless it were done on such a large scale as to keep a
darning machine or a patching machine busy a good part of
the time, it will be cheaper to darn and patch by hand. There
are still a good many operations of this character, especially in
the household and also in agriculture, the greatest of all our
industries. Much work must still be done by hand or with tools
rather than machines.



124 PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

Avoid competing with machines. By way of digression it
may be pointed out that young people who are looking forward
to an occupation should bear in mind that a machine can do
anything which can be reduced to a routine, or a constant repe-
tition of the same act, and that in the course of time all such
work will probably be done by machines ; therefore any occu-
pation requiring constant repetition ought to be avoided by
everyone who is intelligent enough to be trained for anything
else. No machine can think or use discretion ; therefore it
will never be able to do any kind of mental work or any kind
of physical work which requires judgment> discretion, taste, or
tact. Those who do not wish to compete with machines will
do well to train themselves to think, to use discretion, or to
exercise taste or tact. This should be done as much in the
interest of the nation as in the interest of one's self. The
nation has no great need for men to do work which machines
can do just as well. What it needs is men who can do what
machines can never do.

Two kinds of division of labor. As suggested above, the
division of labor takes on a somewhat different character when
highly developed machinery comes into general use. This
may be explained further by pointing out two kinds of division.
One has been called contemporaneous division of labor, and
the other successive division of labor. Under the contempora-
neous division of labor men are, at the same time, specializing
in different lines of production. One group is producing,
let us say, breadstuffs and bread, another meat, another textile
fabrics and clothes, and so on, each group bringing some kind



Online LibraryThomas Nixon CarverPrinciples of political economy → online text (page 10 of 48)