Really? Think a bit further
In RE, Adam Smith's pin factory:
[from my book, The Root of All Evil, available on Noise Trade as an e-book]
Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, illustrating how the division of labor results in greater productivity, famously used the example of a pin maker. He described how a solitary pin maker might make but one and no more than twenty pins in a day. That man would have to draw out the wire, straighten it, point it, prepare and set the head, whiten the pin and place it in its paper. He would also (though Smith does not mention it) have to procure materials, find customers and sell to them, deliver the goods and keep accounts. All this speaks of broad (if not deep) knowledge of all aspects of pin making.
Smith goes on to describe how if each of these tasks were assigned to a different individual, a group of maybe ten might make 4,800 pins in a day — far more than if those ten were solitary pin makers. Unfortunately, each of these ‘assembly line’ workers would not need to (and probably would not) have all the knowledge required to make and sell pins. They might well be more productive, but they would be lesser men. Despite being more productive, they could be paid less. Henry Ford liked this idea a lot.
In later days, technology replaced these men with pin making machinery that might produce as many as 100,000 pins in a day. But then, no one would know how to make pins. That’s considered acceptable, even though the men are all out of work, except for the guy who throws the switch and the one who occasionally must come in to work on the machine, since we can have all the pins we want.
In today’s world, such productive technology is reversing the trend and moving us back in the direction of the solitary artisan. Only twenty-five years ago, if one wanted a full color publication with photographs, he would need a writer, a photographer, a typesetter, a graphic designer, a color separator, a stripper, a plate maker, a printer and a binder, at a minimum. (This doesn’t include paper and ink merchants or distribution and delivery people, either.) All along the process, these nine people would be fully capable of identifying errors made by others previously. It served as a check to ensure quality workmanship. Such an operation is an art, a craft and a science.
Now, however, a solitary designer can call up stock photography on the internet, place it in the article he’s written in his page-layout document on his computer, impose and output color separations, then send it all off by e-mail to a computer-to-plate automated printing press. One artisan can easily produce what was once the work of nine. Nine people can produce nine times as much. That artisan is responsible for knowing the full process. Why, inside of a few short hours, he can produce 45,000 full color, bound books —of the wrong thing! And many of the specialist craftsmen have become graphic artists, responsible for their own projects, thus driving their pay down as their number increase.
Additionally, one might think from TW's article that centralized power generation and the concomitant distribution lines is the way to go — after all, there's an example where a few can generate for the many and free the many up for more useful and/or profitable work. Really? I can think of a couple of things wrong with that: 1) a centralized power plant, say a nuclear station like my local Seabrook, makes a fine target, 2) should all or part of the system go down, everyone involved is down and 3) distributed power generation, such as having solar panels on everyone's roof will prevent problems 1 and 2, while increasing the wealth of the owner. (Yes, I know they're inefficient, but they are getting better and cheaper. At the current state of the art, I could wipe out my entire electric bill. [Truth in Advertising: last time I looked (a few years ago), such a system would cost me $17,000, which at my current usage and assuming (hilariously) that there will be no rate increases, would take 15 years to pay off, leaving me with perhaps 5—10 years of free electricity, given the life span of the unit. I probably will not be in this house then.])
Lastly, a quote from my haftorah:
Q: Who is rich?
A: He who rejoices in what he has.