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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Number of Laborers, Artisans, and Others, Who Work in a State, is Naturally Proportioned to the Demand for Them

The supply of workers adjusts itself to the demand for labor, across all professions, via wage rates, migration, and changes in population. Prosperity cannot be created by subsidizing job training.

IF ALL THE FARM LABORERS in a village raise several sons to the same work, there will be too many farm laborers to cultivate the lands of the village, and the surplus adults will have to leave in order to seek a livelihood elsewhere, which they generally find in cities. If some remain with their fathers—as they will not all find sufficient employment—they will live in great poverty and will not marry for lack of means to raise children. If they do marry, their children will soon die of starvation, with their parents, as we see every day in France.
Therefore, if the village continues in the same employment pattern, and derives its living from cultivating the same area of land, its population will not increase in a thousand years.
It is true that the women and girls of this village can, when they are not working in the fields, occupy themselves in spinning, knitting or other work that can be sold in the cities. However, this rarely suffices to support the extra children, who leave the village to seek their fortune elsewhere.
The same may be said of the artisans of a village. If a tailor makes all the clothes for the villagers and then raises three sons to the same job, there will only be enough work for one successor to him and the other two must seek their livelihood elsewhere. If they do not find employment in the neighboring town, they must move further away or change their occupations and earn a living by becoming servants, soldiers, sailors, etc.
By the same process of reasoning, it is easy to conceive that the laborers, artisans, and others, who earn their living by working, must proportion themselves in number to the employment and demand for them in market towns and cities.
If four tailors are enough to make all the clothes for a town and a fifth arrives, he may find some work at the expense of the other four. Therefore, if the labor is divided between the five tailors, neither of them will have enough work, and each one will live more poorly.
It often happens that laborers and artisans do not have enough employment when there are too many of them to share the business. It also happens that they can be deprived of work by accidents and by variations in demand, or that they are overburdened with work, according to the circumstances. Be that as it may, when they have no work, they leave the villages, towns or cities where they live in such numbers and those who remain are always proportioned to the employment that suffices to maintain them. When there is a continuous increase of work, there are gains to be made and others will move in to share the business.
From this, it is easy to understand that the charity schools in England, and the proposals in France, to increase the number of artisans, are useless. If the King of France sent 100,000 of his subjects, at his expense, into Holland to learn seafaring, they would be of no use when they returned if no more vessels were sent to sea than before. It is true that it would be a great advantage for a state to teach its subjects to produce the manufactured goods that are customarily drawn from abroad, and all the other articles bought there, but I am, at present, only considering a state in relation to itself.10
As the artisans earn more than the laborers, they are better able to raise their children into professions, and there will never be a lack of artisans in a state when there is enough work for their constant employment.

Essay on Economic Theory, An

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