This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
Man modifies matter and exchanges its condition, —By Transformation
This is the business of the manufacturer and the mechanic. These create values by changing the forms of matter, as cotton and wool into cloth, iron into tools and implements. This is the second great department of human industry. Its ramifications extend throughout the world, yet not everywhere of the same vigor and extent. Since manufactures, as a whole, do not meet wants so primitive and absolute as does agriculture, they are, by a law evident in all industry, found not to be so equally diffused. Those needs which are peremptory and instant will, from that reason, tend to obtain their supply from the immediate neighborhood in which they arise. The nearer objects of desire approach to being luxuries, the more cosmopolitan they become. Other reasons, which will appear in our progress, will further account for the unequal growth of manufactures, which have yet more uniformity than is exhibited in statistical tables, or in general estimation, since the staple articles of manufacture attract more attention than those multiform smaller products which far outweigh them in value.
The distribution of manufactures is governed by a variety of conditions, among which may be briefly stated the following : —
1. The industrial genius of a people. "Without plunging into the deep questions of ethnical differences, or compensations in the whole of character, it is yet evident beyond discussion, that the active powers of every people have something of their own which they do not fully share with others. Were all the nations of the earth possessed of mental, moral, and physical qualities which could be positively estimated to be, in the sum of them, equal, it is quite certain that they would be far from similar: their energies would develop in different lines towards different objects. Patience and a kind of business faith distinguish some peoples, mark their features, and are impressed distinctly in the results of industry. Activity and daring speculation no less characterize others. To a class of minds thoroughly representative of more than one nation, mechanical contrivance gives the same glow of pleasure that rewards the painter for his years of toil. A distrustful, reserved, secretive disposition may be observed through the entire industry of another country, tending to individualize efforts and discourage combination. The catalogue of traits has been extended sufficiently to account for much of the inequality which exists in the distribution of manufactures among the nations of the civilized world.
2. The territorial advantages of a people, which are both positive and negative in their nature, — positive, as a people is endowed with water-power, and with the collocation of necessary materials, as of ore, coal, and lime for making iron; negative, as a people is not attracted to Other branches of production by superior facilities. It is estimated that Holland has not agricultural capacities to supply a third of its population. With some peoples, this niggardliness of soil would have been a reason for emigration or starvation; but there, uniting with the peculiar genius of the inhabitants, this necessity has produced a wealthy and flourishing state. It has ever been held by moral writers, that such unkindness of Nature develops the industrial energies of a people, where it is not so extreme as to destroy even the conditions of production. But the inquiry is too abstruse for our purpose.
3. Great accidents, belonging neither to the essential genius of the people, or its territorial endowments. Such are the transcendent discoveries in the sciences and the arts. Such are wars which exhaust nations, leaving them weak for generations. Such are persecutions, like that which scattered over the continent six hundred thousand Huguenots, — the cunning artisans of France ; like that which wrought devastation still greater in the " reconciled " provinces of Spain.* Such was the windfall of the Indies in the lap of Europe. The desirableness of such a distribution of manufactures will be discussed elsewhere. Our purpose here is only to show by what means it comes about so unequally.
* " Our manufactures were the growth of the persecutions in the Low Countries."—Edmund Burke, in his speech to the electors of Bristol.
Passing now from this question, and looking only to the aggregate of such industries, we find it to be small, if we consider only the number of those employed. But labor here acts in connection with a greater amount of capital than in agriculture, and avails itself of more and mightier agencies of Nature. The factor into which labor is multiplied is vastly increased when we enter the workshop and the mill.