|The Principles of Political Economy|
J.R. McCulloch (Excerpt Defending Mechanization)
Various bad consequences have been supposed to result from the continued extension and improvement of machinery. But a presumption arises at the outset, that they must be in a great degree fallacious, inasmuch as they would equally follow from the continued improvement of the skill and industry of the labourer. If the construction of a machine that would manufacture two pairs of stockings for the same expense that was previously required to manufacture one pair, be in any respect injurious, the injury would obviously be equal were the same thing accomplished by increased dexterity and skill on the part of the knitters; were the females, for example, who knitted two or three pair in the week, able in future to knit four or six pairs. There is really no difference in the cases. And supposing the demand for stockings were already supplied, M. Sismondi could not, consistently with the principles he has advanced, [in "Nouveaux Principes"] hesitate about condemning such an improvement as a very great evil--as a means of throwing half the people engaged in the stocking manufacture out of employment. The question respecting the improvement of machinery is, therefore, at bottom, the same with the question respecting the improvement of the skill and industry of the labourer. The principles which regulate our decision in the one case, must regulate it in the other. If it be advantageous that the manual dexterity of the labourer should be indefinitely extended--that he should be able to produce greater quantities of commodities with the same, or a less quantity of labour, it surely must be advantageous that he should avail himself of such aids as may be most effectual in enabling him to bring about that result.
From J.R. McCulloch, The Principles of Political Economy.
RESOURCE: World Civilizations
Page created by Thomas Pearcy, Ph.D and Mary Dickson.
Direct questions or comments to Webmaster.
Last revised February 4, 1997
Copyright (c) 1997. W. W. Norton Publishing. All Rights Reserved