Day 5: The Hardest Book

Good Evening! Or morning… it’s one thirty AM.

Well, today was a resounding success! Today I have been reading through book one of The Wealth of Nations and my god it’s hard; I have never strived so hard to understand a book, the differences in dialect and the rather esoteric machinations that Smith employs is easily enough to baffle many a reader, myself included.

My primary vice is with a rather specific word, ”Occasion” And furthermore with the phrase ”Give occasion to”. It is as if no one had ever heard of the word, needs… no one at all. Every time I read that word or phrase I can feel my fists clench, there’s no need to implement it, simply say: needs, wants, has to have, requires; Any of the above!

Now that my futile rant against the dead is over, let’s go over what I’ve read. I covered five chapters, they were as follows: the division of labour, principles that ”give occasion” to the division of labour, how the power of the market effects the division of labour, the origin and use of money, and last (and most aggravating) Prices of commodities. Forty pages of pain.

So I’m going to whiz through these chapters, reducing them to their key points in the most crude fashion- a bit of a hack job for classic literature.

  • The division of labour: The best way to improve productivity in a labour chain is to subdivide this chain into as many simple parts as possible and assign a man or woman to each part, allowing them to increase their dexterity at the job. Eventually this will be their only trade and as a result they will become very good at the job, increasing productivity.
  • Principles that give Need for the division of labour: As a town grows so too do the desires of the people for more than simply the necessities of life. If the people live frugally even the most lowly orders of civilisation can enjoy a wide variety of luxuries that they will spend, that what they do not consume themselves to subsist, upon the crafts of other areas of labour. More need and want requires higher productivity… in essence.
  • How the power of the market effects the division of labour: The ”Market” As a whole is the combined capital of the people and their demand, where there are more people and, this is important, ways to transport huge amounts of cargo quickly and cost efficiently (i.e: ships) the market is strong and large. Where there is an absence of that the capital and demand of the people is low there is no need for the division of labour and every man may be a novice at many professions that support one another (i.e: Carpentry, joinery, forestry, wood carving). Also there is a very clear link between the proximity of a civilisation to the water and their cultural and scientific advancement…politics too.
  • The origin and use of money: This is more context to the coming chapter. It explains how money came to be what it is. Before the minting and use of metals different people used different modes of barter: the Greeks used oxen, Abyssinians used salt and some parts of the coast of India used shells, all of these forms of currency are flawed. Oxen cannot be subdivided into smaller parts, salt can be derived from the sea or rivers thus devaluing the currency and shells enable no man to be impoverished, but no man to become rich as they crack, age and break. Metal was used because it was durable and could be clearly defined from other metals due to colour and weight, copper was first used by the romans, it was them counterfeited at varying weights, thus real copper was minted and trusted to be of a set weight, other metals followed suit in the order of silver and gold.
  • Prices of commodities: This Chapter… I mean this chapter, much like the Abyssinians… the salt is real and it is abundant! Basically supply and demand, durable products like metals and stone are subject to an easier drop in price due to their permanence, this can be said of gold and silver affecting the price of currency too. Perishable products generally have a higher demand due to their short-lived nature and are less likely to drop in price because the supply constantly loses and refills itself, things like corn and maize fit into this category and tend to only drop in price when stock needs to be drastically reduced (i.e: rotting tomatoes). However because of the more reliable nature of the ”nominal” price of these items, you could ask for payment against a debt in grain or famously corn against a third of he rent of colleges under Elizabeth I.
  • It also brings up the notion of ‘real’ pricing, which in simple terms is the cost of labour to produce an item, though, this is not cost in a monetary sense, you don’t need to understand the metaphor, just understand ”The real cots of an item remains the same constantly as the effort required to produce it shall always be the same, only the quantity produced dependant on external factors (like a poor harvest, or a bountiful mine) changes the amount created”. The nominal cost is the monetary cost, the amount it costs to buy the item or for an employer to fund his workers and their tools and machines.

I cannot fully describe to you the ardor i feel

for having to figure that out myself.

Other than that, I spent all day in the house, it’s been raining almost non stop and I draw a sense of satisfaction from that; I love being in the house when it’s raining, is that weird? It’s probably weird.

I was up pretty much all night again, though I do have to say I managed to last out until around two o’clock before having a three to four hour cat nap and I’m beginning to get tired now, so i think my sleeping might be in position to be more on track soon.

But, if you can’t tell by the terse and somewhat unintelligible script of this blog.

I’m very tired.

Until tomorrow.


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