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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 to print
Siti Reply
what is flow variable
Siyanda Reply
a flow is a quantity that can be measured over a specific period of time
Abhishek
is economics a social science or a pure science
Hilda Reply
social science
Sammy
social science
Babarali
social Science as a Subject and Pure science as a study
Abhishek
How to compute National income by using the expenditure approach
Bridget Reply
Briefly explain whether the discipline of economics is a social science or pure science( normative or positive)
Okafor Reply
different between absolute advantage and comparative advantage
EDSON Reply
mathematical economics
masele Reply
show some questions under this topic
hassan
why met worth is added with libilitys in the balance sheet
bijoy Reply
what are the implications of inflation targeting?
Alinaitwe Reply
maximize profit
Murry
What happens to the goods and money market if the government cuts public spending?
Harman Reply
then the government will be punished by the public
soul
GDP, INFLATION, UNEMPLOYMENT & PRODUCTIVITY and then write a paragraph on the behavior of each variable after analyzing them graphically.
AWY
what is international trade
Stella Reply
International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders.
Bilal
international trade is the exchange of goods and services across boundaries
Zamu
international trade is the exchange of goods and services of country and abroad
Uwase
international is the process of exchanges of value interm of goods and services along national frontier
Murry
Trade*
Murry
Increase knowdge and skill. it save time and cost. Increase high Efficiency of production .
betta Reply
List kinds of Elastcity of Demand
betta
Is a faster rate of economic growth always a good thing as compared to a slower rate? And why?
LIMPHO Reply
what is unemployment
Doctor Reply
it is a situation during which workers remain jobless.
Zeeshan
is situation where people are willing to work but job are no available
Uwase
what is inflation
Sheila Reply
Inflation is a major concern to global economists, and it affects people from all walks of life. It refers to the measure or rate by which the cost of goods and services rises and purchasing power declines. As prices increase, monetary value decreases—prompting consumers to spend less on goods and s
King
inflation is the persistence rise in price level
Zamu
Inflation is the situation during which too much money is required to purchase too few goods.
Zeeshan
inflation is continuous increase in general price level
Uwase
it is the process where too much money pursuing fewer goods
Murry

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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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