The main direction of labour. The great merit of Adam Smith is that he first insisted upon labour as the principal element in P.E. and the production of wealth. His work opens with a definition of labour.1 He passes over altogether the branch of consumption, utility and those considerations we have had hitherto and starts with a definition. He says that “labour was the first price, the original purchase money, that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or silver but by labour that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased.”2 It is true that John Locke had nearly a century before pointed out that the activity of labour seemed to be the cause of wealth rather than the material resources of the countries as we should call them now.3 The very richest countries such as Mexico have a wretchedly poor population if the population is inactive. So that the whole rests in fact upon labour, or as it is expressed in several proverbs “The gods sell all to labour”. It might be worth considering how far labour is an actual requisite even of enjoyment itself. We have already partially discussed the matter, but according to Sir Wm. Hamilton pleasure is the reflex of perfect or successful energy,4 and I supply the word successful as an explanation of perfect. So that it is quite a question how far labour in itself is an element in … [pleasure]* provided that it is moderate in amount and also has that success of bringing the expected result. In fact whether it will or will not be pleasureable depends on whether it does or does not appear--------† to the intended end. On the one hand nothing is more painful than labour without result and the worst punishment that has been devised is useless labour — treadmill. And it is perfectly well known that of all forced labour that of slaves or convicts is exceedingly inefficient because it is unaccompanied by any motive to exertion and is therefore given in the worst possible way.


Prime Mover Steam Engine Water Mill Successful Energy Virginia Military Institute 
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© R. D. Collison Black and Rosamond Könekamp 1977

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  • R. D. Collison Black

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