It is easy to forget that Smith wrote about 18th-century independent artisans interacting with each other in ever more complex transactions to exchange increasing surpluses of their ‘own output’, for greater quantities of the surpluses of ‘other workmen’, or ‘what comes to the same thing, for the price of a greater quantity of theirs’. With each supplying others ‘abundantly’ a ‘general plenty diffuses itself through all the different ranks of society’.1 He was not writing about labourers organised by the hundreds or thousands into 19th-century factories.
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