Division of Labor

Smith's discussions of the division of labor, while they might seem like common sense today, were radical in his time. Find out more, and consider its enduring relevance today.

Questions for Further Thought and Discussion:

1. The narrator challenges us to imagine our lives without the constant exchange of others. Can you list all the people with whom you’ve exchanged today?

2. Smith described the advantages to a nation “as societies grow and the market expands,” and offers a plethora of examples from his own time. How else do markets expand, beyond reasons tied to population and territorial expansion?

3. How does increased specialization lead to innovation?

4. What gives rise to the division of labor, if not for the human mind? (Hint: You may wish to explore Diderot’s pin factory for some inspiration here…)

5. The film takes us to life in a garment factory in modern-day Ethiopia, and the narrator points out that the workers’ “lives have changed drastically over the past decade.” To what extent are these changes net positive? Explain.

6. What does Smith mean when he says, “The market alone may not ensure positive outcomes for all?” What else should the government do to ensure that the its citizens’ quality of life rises?