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Adam smith

The image is a profile sketch of Adam Smith.
Adam Smith introduced the idea of dividing labor into discrete tasks. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The division of and specialization of labor

The formal study of economics began when Adam Smith (1723–1790) published his famous book The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Many authors had written on economics in the centuries before Smith, but he was the first to address the subject in a comprehensive way. In the first chapter, Smith introduces the division of labor    , which means that the way a good or service is produced is divided into a number of tasks that are performed by different workers, instead of all the tasks being done by the same person.

To illustrate the division of labor, Smith counted how many tasks went into making a pin: drawing out a piece of wire, cutting it to the right length, straightening it, putting a head on one end and a point on the other, and packaging pins for sale, to name just a few. Smith counted 18 distinct tasks that were often done by different people—all for a pin, believe it or not!

Modern businesses divide tasks as well. Even a relatively simple business like a restaurant divides up the task of serving meals into a range of jobs like top chef, sous chefs, less-skilled kitchen help, servers to wait on the tables, a greeter at the door, janitors to clean up, and a business manager to handle paychecks and bills—not to mention the economic connections a restaurant has with suppliers of food, furniture, kitchen equipment, and the building where it is located. A complex business like a large manufacturing factory, such as the shoe factory shown in [link] , or a hospital can have hundreds of job classifications.

Division of labor

The image is a photograph of factory workers for a shoe company working separately on individualized tasks.
Workers on an assembly line are an example of the divisions of labor. (Credit: Nina Hale/Flickr Creative Commons)

Why the division of labor increases production

When the tasks involved with producing a good or service are divided and subdivided, workers and businesses can produce a greater quantity of output. In his observations of pin factories, Smith observed that one worker alone might make 20 pins in a day, but that a small business of 10 workers (some of whom would need to do two or three of the 18 tasks involved with pin-making), could make 48,000 pins in a day. How can a group of workers, each specializing in certain tasks, produce so much more than the same number of workers who try to produce the entire good or service by themselves? Smith offered three reasons.

First, specialization    in a particular small job allows workers to focus on the parts of the production process where they have an advantage. (In later chapters, we will develop this idea by discussing comparative advantage .) People have different skills, talents, and interests, so they will be better at some jobs than at others. The particular advantages may be based on educational choices, which are in turn shaped by interests and talents. Only those with medical degrees qualify to become doctors, for instance. For some goods, specialization will be affected by geography—it is easier to be a wheat farmer in North Dakota than in Florida, but easier to run a tourist hotel in Florida than in North Dakota. If you live in or near a big city, it is easier to attract enough customers to operate a successful dry cleaning business or movie theater than if you live in a sparsely populated rural area. Whatever the reason, if people specialize in the production of what they do best, they will be more productive than if they produce a combination of things, some of which they are good at and some of which they are not.

Questions & Answers

how does one analyze a market where both demand and supply shift
Reymark Reply
explain and justify the effect of the event to the demand and supply for direction then apply the elasticity concepts for extent , support with diagrams
samantha
objective of macro economic
saroj Reply
give the characteristics of good money?
Chok Reply
suppose that there is a positive aggregate demand shock. what graph most accurately show how this would affect the aggregate demand-aggregate supply model?
Shielyn Reply
ppf and ad/as
jax
PPF , AD/AS
Shubham
Every Work must be done properly based on its Feasibility Studies duly prepared.
Pundato
if there is advance technology in the fishing industry, how will this change in supply and demand
El Reply
yes
Shehazahd
increase Supply, since technology in fishing will increase the efficiency of fishing , higher productivity and thus lower per unit cost of production, which incentive producers to increase their supply. demand wise, not so sure. depends on what exactly is the advancement in tech.
samantha
how many types of natural rate of unemployment
Trina Reply
what is macro economic
muniira Reply
in the year 1933, Ragnar Frisch used the term macro
Ammu
factors that determine the country material standard ?
Serena Reply
population divide by gdp in currency analysis
Aniyikayekenny
what is the important of studying economics
Akurugu Reply
economics teaches you how to think not what think
umer
in order to know how our country operates and corporate with other countries based on the international marketing and to know how our economy is doing regarding incomes going in and out through exchange of goods and services,we have to study more about economics to gain more and better understanding
Betty
important studying economic is make a choice under the condition of scarcity
cafifo
is labour a intermediate good or final good
umer Reply
what is economics
Mahamed Reply
Economic is science, which Studies human behaviour and who they are earn and spend
Ammu
economics is the science which shows how can use scare resources among society
umer
economic is a science which study human behavior as a result relationship between ends at scarce means which have more than one use
Jovert
simply, economics is a science which studies human wants,
Saeed
Economy is knowledge of choice
Omid
how to derive the equation for the equilibrium level of national income in an open economy with no taxes
loise Reply
what is inflation?
Herry Reply
when price goes up with some shottime
umer
Give me 5 example for Macro economics
Neha Reply
1. Markets 2. Market Failure 3. Competition 4. Price Stability 5. Efficiency
Luyando
please can you explain markets and markets failure ?
Timothy
When we talk about Markets as an example of macroeconomics, we look at demand and supply in labor market.
Luyando
Then for market failures, we focus on market inefficiencies and failures such as the destruction of common goods due to economic systems that provide no incentive for their preservation
Luyando
Who is a discourage worker.?
Timothy
a discourage worker is simply a worker who stop looking for a job because he/she believe no job is available for them..
Joseph
sloping curve normal
Mirasol Reply
A normal sloping curve
Mirasol
State what happen to the aggregate supply curve for beef. The price of beef decrease
Mirasol
i think there is positive relationship between price n supply so as the price decreases the supply curve so decreases and vice versa
Dharani
quantity supply will decrease,less.profit for firms in a perfectly competitive market i guess
Joseph
yaa
Dharani

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Source:  OpenStax, Macroeconomics. OpenStax CNX. Jun 16, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11626/1.10
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