Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

mate value of the finished product which falls to their share; the profits of retailers in this country average from 10 to 20 per cent., or from one tenth to one fifth part of the values sold. And while competition is free, it is certain, for the reasons already explained, that this is only a fair compensation for their services; if it were not so, miners, manufacturers, and even common workmen, would turn retailers, and undersell them.

I borrow another illustration from Mr. Mill. "In the present state of society, the breeding and feeding of sheep is the occupation of one set of people, dressing the wool to prepare it for the spinner is that of another, spinning it into thread of a third, weaving the thread into broadcloth of a fourth, dyeing the cloth of a fifth, making it into a coat of a sixth, without counting the multitude of carriers, merchants, factors, and retailers put in requisition at the successive stages of this process. All these persons, without knowledge of one another or previous understanding, cooperate in the production of the ultimate result, a coat. But these are far from being all who cooperate in it; for each of these persons requires food and many other articles of consumption; and unless he could have relied that other people would produce these for him, he could not have devoted his whole time to one step in the succession of operations which produce one single commodity, a coat. Every person who took part in producing food or erecting houses for this series of producers has, however unconsciously on his part, combined his labor with theirs. It is by a real though unexpressed concert, 'that the body who raise more food than they want, can exchange with the body who raise more clothes than they want; and if the two bodies were separated, either by distance or disinclination, — unless the two bodies should virtually form themselves into one, for the common object of raising enough food and clothes for the whole, — they could not divide into two distinct parts the whole operation of producing a sufficient quantity of food and clothes.'"

The advantages of Simple Cooperation, which was formerly regarded as the only kind of Division of Labor, have been admirably illustrated by Adam Smith. Passing over, as it is so well known, his illustration from pin-making, I adopt an example of the effects produced by the division of labor that is given by M. Say, in a passage translated by Mr. Mill. It is taken from a very humble branch of industry, the manufacture of playing-cards. "It is said by those engaged in the business, that each card, before being ready for sale, undergoes no less than seventy operations, every one of which might be the occupation of a distinct class of workmen. And if there are not seventy classes of work-people in each card-manufactory, it is because the division of labor is not carried so far as it might be; because the same workman is charged with two, three, or four distinct operations. The influence of this distribution of employments is immense. I have seen a card-manufactory where thirty workmen produced daily 15,500 cards, being about 500 cards for each laborer; and it may be presumed that, if each of these workmen were obliged to perform all the operations himself, even supposing him a practised hand, he would not perhaps complete two cards in a day; and the thirty workmen, instead of 15,500 cards, would make only 60." The business of watch-making in England is said by Mr. Babbage to have been divided into 102 distinct branches, to each of which a boy may be put apprentice, and taught to practise it exclusively, without learning to work at any other branch. "The watch-finisher, whose business it is to put together the scattered parts, is the only one, out of 102 persons, who can work at any other department than his own."

The prodigious increase in the efficiency of labor caused by division of the task is attributed by Adam Smith to three causes.

1. The increased dexterity, corporeal and intellectual, acquired by frequent repetition of one simple operation. The laborer thus acquires a sleight of hand, enabling him to perform his task with a rapidity which, to those who have had no experience in the work, appears truly marvellous. A child who fastens on the heads of pins will repeat an operation requiring several distinct motions of the muscles one hundred times a minute, for several successive hours. Gymnastic exercises, many feats of jugglery, and the ease and brilliancy of execution acquired by experienced performers on musical instruments, are other cases, as remarkable as they are familiar? of the rapidity and facility acquired by repetition. The same is true of operations exclusively mental; a practised accountant sums up a column of figures with a quickness that resembles intuition.

2. The saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another, and in the change of place, position, and tools. Thus, says Smith, "a country weaver who cultivates a small farm must lose a good deal of time in passing from his loom to the field, and from the field to his loom. When the two trades can be carried on in the same workhouse, the loss of time is, no doubt, much less. Even in this case, however, it is very considerable. A man commonly saunters a little in turning his hand from one employment to another." /" When the human hand, or the human head," adds Mr. Babbage, "has been for some time occupied in any kind of work, it cannot instantly change its employment with full effect. The muscles of the limbs employed have acquired a flexibility during their exertion, and those not in action a stiffness during rest, which renders every change slow and unequal in the commencement. Long habit also produces in the muscles exercised a capacity for enduring fatigue to a much greater degree than they could support under other circumstances." So, also, in the use of tools, time is lost in shifting from one to another; and when many implements are required for the different occupations, at least three fourths of them must be constantly idle and useless.

3. The invention of a great number of machines, which facilitate and abridge labor in all its departments. The division of labor reduces a complex operation to many simple tasks, each of which is incessantly repeated; and this is precisely what machines may be made most easily to perform. The whole of a workman's attention, moreover, being directed to one simple object, easier and readier methods of obtaining that object are more likely to occur to him, than when his thoughts are dissipated among a variety of things. I have heard that most of the improvements in machinery, which have been made of late years in the manufactories at Lowell, were first suggested by the common workmen who were engaged in tending the machines. In the first steam-engine, says Adam Smith, "a boy was constantly employed to open and shut alternately the communication between the boiler and the cylinder, according as the piston either ascended or descended. One of those boys, who loved to play with his companions, observed that, by tying a string from the handle of the valve which opened the communication to another part of the machine, the valve would open and shut without his assistance, and leave him at liberty." Thus one of the most important steps in the improvement of steam-engines was made by an idle boy.

4. Another advantage derived from the division of labor was first pointed out by Mr. Babbage ; —(the more economical distribution of labor, by classing the work-people according to their capacity, J" Different parts of the same series of operations require unequal degrees of skill and bodily strength; and those who have skill enough for the most difficult, or strength enough for the hardest, parts of the labor, are made much more useful by being employed solely in them; the operations which everybody is capable of, being left to those who are fit for no others." \ Thus, in a cotton manufactory, men, women, and children are employed on different portions of the work, and, of course, at very different rates of wages.) /Obviously there would be a great waste, if men were employed to perform tasks which children might do as well, or if fingers which were delicate enough for hem-stitching and embroidery, were devoted to raising heavy weights or swinging sledge-hammers. In needlemaking, Mi*. Babbage tells us, the scale of remuneration for different parts of the process, performed by different work-people, varies from sixpence to twenty shillings a day.

5. One of the principal advantages of the division of labor, says Mr. Senior, "arises from the circumstance that the same exertions which are necessary to produce a single given result are often sufficient to produce many hundred or many thousand similar results. (The Post-Office supplies a familiar illustration. The same exertions which are necessary to send a single letter from Falmouth to New York are sufficient to forward fifty, and nearly the same exertions will forward ten thousand. If every man were to effect the transmission of his own correspondence, the whole life of an eminent merchant might be passed in travelling, without his being able to deliver all the letters which the Post-Office forwards for him in a single evening^ The labor of a few individuals, devoted exclusively to the forwarding of letters, produces results which all the exertions of all the inhabitants of Europe could not effect, each person acting independently."

The extent of the division of labor must always be limited by the extent of the market. Ten workmen can make 48,000 pins in a day; but they cannot do so to advantage, unless there is a daily consumption of pins to that amount. If there be a daily demand for no more than 24,000 pins, they must either lose half the day's work, or change their occupation,— that is, lessen the division of labor by engaging in two separate tasks. Hence, the division of labor cannot be carried to its farthest limit except in the case of products capable of distant transport, and the consequent increase of consumption; or where the manufacture is carried on amidst a dense population, creating an extensive local demand. Where the population is limited, many trades, elsewhere distinct, are practised by the same individual, f In a small village, the same person is surgeon, doctor, and apothecary; while, in a large city, there is separate employment for each of these practitioners, and even for subdivisions of their profession into the several occupations of dentists, oculists, accoucheurs, &c.) {The village grocer deals not only in groceries, but in dry goods, crockery, hardware, books, and stationery; and if a Yankee, he may also edit, print, and publish a newspaper, keep a school, and go to Congress. In large cities, the sale of a single article of grocery may form a large and lucrative business; in Boston and New York, there are shops where nothing is sold but tea. All improvements in the modes of transportation, as by roads, canals) and railways, obviously promote the division of labor, by widening the market which each locality can command for its special products.

"The division of labor is also limited, in many cases," says Mr. Mill, "by the nature of the employment. Agriculture, for example, is not susceptible of so great a division of occupations as many branches of manufactures, because its different occupations cannot possibly be simultaneous./ One man cannot be always ploughing, another sowing, anAanother reaping. A workman who only practised one agricultural operation would be idle eleven months of the year. The same person may perform them all in succession, and have, in almost every climate, a considerable amount of unoccupied time. The combination of labor of which agricultural industry is susceptible is chiefly that which Mr. Wakefield calls Simple Cooper

« НазадПродовжити »