The Wealth of Nations

Book 1, Chapter 2

the Principle Which Gives Occasion to the Division of Labor

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Chapter 2 Summary


The division of labor came about as a result of our preference, as human beings, for bartering and exchanging items. Trading items is part of human nature, and common to every society.


Man will always need help from others. He will be more likely to receive that help, however, if he can turn others’ self-interest to his advantage, by showing them that there is something in it for them. The butcher, brewer and baker who sell us our dinner are not motivated to do so by kindness, but by their own self-interest.


Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend solely upon the benevolence of his fellow citizens. Most of our needs are met through bartering and purchasing. This is what originally gave rise to the introduction of division of labor.


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