Mar 28: In defense of the lazy

Another undoubted classic today, The Wealth Of Nations. And not just any part, but the classic part of the classic -- the classic sirloin, if you will -- the part about pins and the division of labor. (Which doesn't have my favorite Smith quote: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.")

This is pretty famous, and unimpeachable, so I only want to point out two passages that are offensive to a lazy man such as myself. The first one is where Smith is talking about how the division of labor keeps workmen from doing more than one task:

A man commonly saunters a little in turning his hand from one sort of employment to another. When he first begins the new work he is seldom very keen and hearty; his mind, as they say, does not go to it, and for some time he rather trifles than applies to good purpose. The habit of sauntering and of indolent careless application, which is naturally, or rather necessarily acquired by every country workman who is obliged to change his work and his tools every half hour, and to apply his hand in twenty different ways almost every day of his life; renders him almost always slothful and lazy, and incapable of any vigorous application even on the most pressing occasions.
I bolded the "necessarily" to point out the one excuse Smith will give workmen -- they can't help being shiftless, it's just that they haven't been maximized. I speak up for them, however, having done some boring repetitive work among the chicken carcasses in the past. You need to gab.

And when I advanced to the writing rooms of the major studios, where all us writers made princely sums, we had to gab and saunter and trifle before we could buckle down to the work which the free market said was extremely valuable.

The other little passage is right at the end:
...and yet it may be true, perhaps, that the accommodation of an European prince does no always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant, as the accommodation of the latter exceeds that of many an African king, the absolute master of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages.
The peasant may indeed be accommodated better than the king, but the peasant has to be industrious and frugal. The king does not.

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