This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
1st, It gives increased dexterity. All common observation testifies how rapid and accurate our motions become, when confined to a single operation. The juggler is not more remarkable for the nice use of his muscles, than is an accomplished mechanic at his bench. The powers of his body are in perfect discipline. They have learned their parts, and obey instantaneously and harmoniously. The more simple the movement assigned, the greater will be the efficiency of performance.
2d, It allows the workman a better knowledge of his business. This is to the mental powers what the first is to the bodily. It gives intellectual dexterity. The man has a mastery of his special operation. He knows more about it than if he had two things to think of and care for. He becomes shrewd in every motion. He adapts his labor to the material; he discriminates between the qualities of that material. He meets the little difficulties of his work with more skill and less waste. These two advantages of the division of labor are shown in the different wages which skilled mechanics obtain as compared with unskilled, able seamen with landsmen.
3d, It saves time, in passing from one work to another. In the making of a chair after the primitive fashion we have supposed, a great deal of time will be spent in passing from one part of it to another, from the place of one operation to that of another. And, even where we suppose a laborer to be engaged in two operations only, there is still a loss inflicted, just as often as he has occasion to leave one for another. It is not a loss alone of the time physically necessary in effecting the transition, but each operation will leave something to harass the mind in the other. During the first part, the attention will be distracted by what has just been left. During the last part, the attention will run on, anticipating what is to come. The shadow is cast both ways upon the mind.
4th, It facilitates the invention of tools and machines. If a treasure of gold or iron or oil is hid under the ground, the discoverer is more apt, other things being equal, to be the man who owns the land, and resides and works on it, than a casual visitor. So, if there is a possibility of adapting foreign forces to the production of values, the inventor will, on the same condition, more probably be the workman than any one else ; he is constantly engaged upon the operation ; he desires, of course, to simplify it, since it is a law of mind to do as little work as possible for a certain result; he knows the wants of the subject; he knows all the capabilities of his material; he thinks about it all the time, and can try an experiment without changing his place. Therefore, by the logic of Nature, he invents. And, in fact, few of the great aids to industry have been discovered by disinterested science. They came from the laboring brain of the mechanic. Where the work was almost too delicate for human eyes, a thousand iron fingers go around to do it, never losing their nimbleness, nor ever getting weary; where the work was too great for human strength, monster arms swing the hammer, or toss the load in air.
The history of American manufactures expounds the phrase, " Necessity is the mother of invention." Even the slaves of the South have been directed to important mechanical discoveries, in the way we have described. One simple operation, constantly employing the attention, must, in time, lose all its secrets.
5th, It secures the better adaptation of physical and mental abilities. No consideration is more vital than this. The work which man finds to do, the efforts he has to make for satisfactions, however high his wants may rise, will be of the most various character, and require the most diverse powers. There are operations which demand great strength ; others, rapid motion; others, good judgment; others, a mechanical eye; others, fidelity and trust; others, high intelligence and education. Such qualities, even those purely physical, are not found equally in all; nay, by the compensations of Nature, they are generally, though not necessarily, found apart. Therefore, unless work were divided according to the several qualities required, a deficiency in one would neutralize all the others, and exclude the workman from employment, or compel him to work at great disadvantage.
The extensive applications of this principle will occur to every mind. Each man finds the sphere of his highest usefulness as he is endowed by Nature. Those who are gifted with education and ingenuity devote all their time and energy to duties appropriate to such powers. They thus confer on others the advantage of their own gifts, and are themselves spared from drudgery and uncongenial labor. The poorest in qualifications, also, find a place in which they can produce within the great partnership of society. Women are enabled to undertake business of the most delicate and important character, to which their strength is sufficient; while children of all ages take parts that would otherwise occupy men. The power saved or gained, by such an adaptation of talents to special branches of industry, is incalculable. Without it, a great part of the human race would be helpless paupers, and the remainder would earn a scanty and miserable livelihood. Man working by himself is a poacher on the domain of Nature; men, in industrial society, found empires, build cities, and establish commerce.
And not merely do all find in a proper division of labor their full occupation and fair reward, but the work of each is just as truly productive as that of any other. The boy who watches crows does as much at that business as the bravest and greatest of earth. He takes the place of some one who goes away to do a larger work. In anthropology, this is only a boy; in political economy, he is a man. He and the other make together two men.
6th, It increases the power of capital in production, tends to concentrate manufactures in large establishments, and reduce profits.
Supposing all men equally capable of carrying on independent business, which is not the case, — if we compare seven men each with a capital of $1,000 and one man with a capital of $7,000, we shall find the economical advantage greatly in favor of the latter. The former must do business on a small scale, and purchase materials in small quantities. The latter can buy at wholesale prices, can afford to go often to market, and to keep himself well informed, and will sell as well as buy to great advantage.