[A-List] Adam Smith quote on free movement of labor (reply to Nestor)

Jurriaan Bendien adsl675281 at tiscali.nl
Sat May 20 05:59:02 MDT 2006


Smith discusses the free movement of labor in chapter 10 of the Wealth of 
Nations:

"SUCH are the inequalities in the whole of advantages and disadvantages of 
the different employments of labour and stock, which the defect of any of 
the three requisites above mentioned must occasion, even where there is the 
most perfect liberty. But the policy of Europe, by not leaving things at 
perfect liberty, occasions other inequalities of much greater importance. It 
does this chiefly in the three following ways. First, by restraining the 
competition in some employments to a smaller number than would otherwise be 
disposed to enter into them; secondly, by increasing it in others beyond 
what it naturally would be; and, thirdly, by obstructing the free 
circulation of labour and stock, both from employment to employment and from 
place to place. First, the policy of Europe occasions a very important 
inequality in the whole of the advantages and disadvantages of the different 
employments of labour and stock, by restraining the competition in some 
employments to a smaller number than might otherwise be disposed to enter 
into them. The exclusive privileges of corporations are the principal means 
it makes use of for this purpose. (...) Thirdly, the policy of Europe, by 
obstructing the free circulation of labour and stock both from employment to 
employment, and from place to place, occasions in some cases a very 
inconvenient inequality in the whole of the advantages and disadvantages of 
their different employments. The Statute of Apprenticeship obstructs the 
free circulation of labour from one employment to another, even in the same 
place. The exclusive privileges of corporations obstruct it from one place 
to another, even in the same employment. It frequently happens that while 
high wages are given to the workmen in one manufacture, those in another are 
obliged to content themselves with bare subsistence.

Source: http://www.adamsmith.org/smith/won-b1-c10-pt-2.htm

For a critique of some anti-labor interpretations of Smith, see e.g. 
www.onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_499.shtml

Labor mobility is an essential aspect of the modification of the law of 
value in trade, in the transition from precapitalist to capitalist economy.

Jurriaan 





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