Hope for the re-opening of barbers’ shops has so far remain unfulfilled. With the temperature hovering around twenty-five degrees, there was no option other than to resort to the Boot’s clippers.
A Number Two on the back and sides left my hair much shorter than I had anticipated, I would need to have the top shorter than usual. A Number 5 was not the best selection, hair stuck up at various angles. At the back, where the Number Two and the Number 5 met, there was a wavy line and tufts like the feathers of a young duckling.
If anyone ever needed evidence of how the division of labour is the best way of organising a society, everyone doing the things at which they are best, then try cutting your own hair.
Douglas Howe, our economics tutor at Strode College in Street, would have explained to us how division of labour was a much more efficient way of doing things. It was Mr Howe who introduced me to the ideas of Adam Smith and Smith’s book The Wealth of Nations.
Using the making of pins as an example of efficient production might not have seemed very exciting, but it was very memorable:
One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them. I have seen a small manufactory of this kind, where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. But though they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day.
“Educated to this peculiar business” is a key concept in the division of labour. People become skilled at their work. Skill means not only that they can produce much more, it also means they can produce something far better than a person without those skills.
Barbers reopening will allow people educated to the particular business to do haircuts in a much faster time than my efforts, they will also do them in a way that doesn’t look like a haircut that someone has done themselves.