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Specialization - The Machine

Written by Louis Even on Saturday, 15 October 2016. Posted in In This Age of Plenty (book)

In this age of plenty - Chapter 5

As production progresses, the producer becomes more specialized. This specialization is in itself a factor since it increases the total production while requiring less effort of everyone.

For a long time now, some men have been cultivating the earth, some have been making fabrics, some have been working at transportation and others still were engaged in various kinds of services.

Specialization increases even on farms, but above all in industry. Workers account for no more than a tiny part, always the same tiny part, of the finished product.

As far as output goes, this division of labour is certainly profitable but it requires, for the satisfaction of the consumers' needs, making a greater use of trade. To match the increase in the division of labour, in specialization, we must have an increase in the flexibility of the trading mechanism.

The division of labour has furthered the invention of machinery. In fact, the greater the division, the more uniformly repeated and the more automatic becomes the movement of the worker who executes his very tiny part of the whole production. Replacing the human hand by a mechanical hand is then only a matter of time. 

The introduction of machinery contributes to increasing production while decreasing the work done by man.

The division of labor and the introduction of machinery are perfectly in line with the principle that directs economic life in matters of production: the maximum result with the minimum effort.

But this division of labor and the introduction of machinery cause problems that have yet to be solved.

If the division of labour has resulted in abridging, in almost doing away with, the time spent at apprenticeship, it has a negative impact since it transforms labor into a chore. What could be more boring and mind-destroying than to repeat the same movement, the same gesture, hour after hour, day after day, without having the satisfaction of thinking, of devising, of applying one's mind! This is the case in many occupations. Man's creative faculties have less and less to do in the worker's daily toil; he becomes little more than a robot, the precursor of machinery made of steel.

A remedial measure would be to shorten working hours to a minimum to allow the worker leisure time during which he can at will exercise his faculties, becoming a man again.  Another remedy is to hasten the coming of the machine which will perform, in place of the worker, the uniform movement which is, strictly speaking, no longer a human task.

But with the present economic regulations, which require personal participation in production to get claims to the production, one can imagine what happens when the worker is freed from work. Leisure is called unemployment and the man thus released is an outcast.

We are told that machines do not replace manpower in a lasting way because new occupations, created by new needs, offer a new outlet for the unemployed, at least until such time when, one day, the machine drives them out again. Nevertheless, these disruptions, these continual expropriations of the worker's labor, disorganize his life more and more, eliminate all security, prevent him from building his future, cause the multiplication of State interventions and lead to enlistment.

Must we join in the broad opposition that we always notice at the coming of practically all new machinery? Not at all. But the system by which goods are distributed must be adapted.

Since machinery increases the amount of goods instead of decreasing it, mechanical production ought to increase the amount of products found in the homes, even if man's personal contribution to work in production decreases. This ought to be done without clash, without upheaval, without enlistment. This is possible to the degree required provided we dissociate the individual's contribution to production from the right to draw upon the production.

This, as will be seen later, is what Social Credit intends to do by introducing into the distribution of goods, a system of dividends to EACH and EVERYONE, since wages and salaries have remained powerless at clearing inventories. 

With production being more and more specialized and mechanized, each producer, whether man or machine, supplies in his or its line of work, an ever increasing amount of goods that they themselves do not use.

But, all that a producer supplies, over and above his personal needs, is meant to be used by the rest of the community. Thus, all of a farmer's production, over and above his family's needs, is necessarily meant to be for the rest of the community. All of a blacksmith's production, save for what is for his family's use, is destined to others in the community.

As for machines, they consume none of what they produce. Their immense production adds to these surpluses which must, in some way or other, reach the consumers so that production might accomplish its end.

One can make all the rules one sees fit so that no one is wronged. The fact remains that consumers must, somehow, be allowed to draw upon this abundant production which exceeds the particular needs of producers who have brought it into existence. And the more plentiful the share of production which is not absorbed by its makers, the wider the channel needed for its clearing must be, and the more generous the claims that give access to it. 


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