The Wealth of Nations Book II, Chapter 3
Advertisement - Guide continues below
Book II, Chapter 3
Of the Accumulation of Capital, or of Productive and Unproductive Labour
- Smith distinguishes between two types of labor that he calls "productive" and "unproductive" labor. For example, a manufacturer performs productive labor by adding value to the objects that he/she is creating.
- But a household servant is engaged in unproductive labor because he/she doesn't add value to anything. The first person increases the wealth of the country overall, while the second performs a job that sucks up wages. Sure, your house might be tidier, but no additional wealth is created by the house servant.
- Imagine one person who hires a bunch of workers to make coats for her and another who hires a bunch of servants to clean his house. The first person will get richer over time because she'll make a profit by selling the coats.
- The second person will get poorer because he'll pour wages into his servants without creating any profit to replace this lost wage money. The same goes for a country, where emphasis should be on people who are creating wealth and having productive labor.
- In Smith's view, this is why some countries are richer than others. The focus more on producing new things, while the rich people in poor countries tend to spend their money on servants.
- Therefore, it doesn't matter how much money there is in a country. What matters is the amount of goods that country produces and how those goods are valued. A country that produces fewer and fewer goods can't hang on to money. It just doesn't work that way.
The Wealth of Nations Book II, Chapter 3 Study Group
Ask questions, get answers, and discuss with others.
Tired of ads?
Join today and never see them again.