Thursday, July 19, 2012

Facts Please!

 Nathan Jaco posts (July 18)Carbon Taxes and Cap-and-Trade are not Enough” in Daily Kos HERE 
We may need to rely on a new moral logic, the kind that Adam Smith would have been interested in because he was first and foremost a moral philosopher (Adam Smith wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments and was, incidentally, opposed to the division of labor).”
What a throw away line! Not true by a country mile.  Smith wrote favourably about the division of labour, which he noted had been recognized by others long before the 18th century, and also recognized (favourably) the power of the division of labour in extended markets that produced the necessary tools and raw materials in the long supply chains involving numerous sub-operations by scores of other labourers (both nearby and far away), all of whom were needed to produce the day-labourer’s simple common woolen coat (Book I of Wealth Of Nations). 
He returned to the division of labour in Book V of Wealth Of Nations in his discussion of the education of youth and warned that schooling provision in England fell far short of what was safe for society to leave as it existed, with most children left illiterate and innumerate by the absence of any schooling. This contrasted with the situation in Scotland, since the 1600s, where each parish had “little schools”, funded by parents and the charity, where all boys were expected,to attend from 6 years-old at least for a few years to learn “writing, reading, and account”.  Girls were left out.
He recommended that the policy of ‘little schools in every parish (all 60,000 of them!) be adopted in England too.
He also related this educational absence to the prevailing and spreading division of labour in mechanised society where each labourer learned one task which had clear advantages. However, combined with the prevalence of ignorance, this was dangerous to society, because ignorant labourers were open to dangerous influences from agitators and “enthusiasts” (Smith’s code for religious extremists) that threatened public order.  Educated labourers were more likely to judge the arguments of enthusiasts more critically.
The threats of ignorance were not caused by the division of labour; they were caused by mass uneducated illiteracy and ignorance.  Adam Smith was not “opposed to the division of labour” – that suggestion is a nonsense.   He was opposed to mass ignorance and proposed a remedy.
[A similar misreading of Adam Smith on the division of labour is made by Chomsky, as debated on Lost Legacy from time-to-time.]


Blogger airth10 said...


It appears you read a different article from the one Nathan Jaco wrote. He wasn't writing about the division of labour but about the environment and our morality towards it.

But the division of labor and morality are important to the environment, with everybody doing their bit to protect it.

1:21 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

I even quoted from Nathan's article:
"(Adam Smith wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments and was, incidentally, opposed to the division of labor)."
Hence mu comment.
Which article are you reading?

3:32 pm  

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