On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 358 pages of information about On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures.

405.  If, therefore, we wish to prove that the total quantity oflabourisnot diminished by the introduction of machines, we must have recourse to some other principle of our nature.  But the same motive which urges a man to activity will become additionally powerful, when he finds his comforts procured with diminished labour; and in such circumstances, it is probable, that many would employ the time thus redeemed in contriving new tools for other branches of their occupations.  He who has habitually worked ten hours a day, will employ the half hour saved by the new machine in gratifying some other want; and as each new machine adds to these gratifications, new luxuries will open to his view, which continued enjoyment will as surely render necessary to his happiness.

406.  In countries where occupations are divided, and where the division of labour is practised, the ultimate consequence of improvements in machinery is almost invariably to cause a greater demand for labour.  Frequently the new labour requires, at its commencement, a higher degree of skill than the old; and, unfortunately, the class of persons driven out of the old employment are not always qualified for the new one; so that a certain interval must elapse before the whole of their labour is wanted.  This, for a time, produces considerable suffering amongst the working classes; and it is of great importance for their happiness that they should be aware of these effects, and be enabled to foresee them at an early period, in order to diminish, as much as possible, the injury resulting from them.

407.  One very important enquiry which this subject presents is the question whether it is more for the interest of the working classes, that improved machinery should be so perfect as to defy the competition of hand labour; and that they should thus be at once driven out of the trade by it; or be gradually forced to quit it by the slow and successive advances of the machine?  The suffering which arises from a quick transition is undoubtedly more intense; but it is also much less permanent than that which results from the slower process:  and if the competition is perceived to be perfectly hopeless, the workman will at once set himself to learn a new department of his art.  On the other hand, although new machinery causes an increased demand for skill in those who make and repair it, and in those who first superintend its use; yet there are other cases in which it enables children and inferior workmen to execute work that previously required greater skill.  In such circumstances, even though the increased demand for the article, produced by its diminished price, should speedily give occupation to all who were before employed, yet the very diminution of the skill required, would open a wider field of competition amongst the working classes themselves.

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On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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