Williamson plugs the division of labor

Kevin Williamson of National Review Online asks readers to consider the importance of the division of labor.

I would like you to entertain, for a moment, an idea that might sound a little eccentric, or maybe as plain and obvious as a thing can be. It is this:

The division of labor is the meaning of life.

I do not mean this metaphorically or analogically, but literally.

Life begins with the cell, and the cell is defined by a minimum of specialization: membrane, cytoplasm, and (usually) nucleus. …

… We are not colonial organisms. But human beings isolated from other human beings do not thrive. Even in situations in which the material needs of the human animal are satisfied, the human being in isolation degenerates quickly, both mentally and physically. There are many examples of this, but you can get a good indication of the phenomenon reading through the American Civil Liberties Union’s report on prison isolation, “A Death Before Dying: Solitary Confinement on Death Row.” …

… The division of labor among human beings is not a purely economic phenomenon—it is also a social and emotional one. The human need for other human beings is so deep as to be fundamental. This should, properly understood, complicate our understanding of individualism and our rhetoric about it.

In 21st-century human society, the mode of social life is so closely identified with the particularities of the division of labor that the two are practically identical. Even many of the so-called social issues are ultimately questions of the division of labor.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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