Reading the introduction to “TWoN,” I came across one important question: How do small tribal villages in third world African countries function (or anywhere hunting/gathering life is still the norm), and whether an economics or entrepreneurial class would provide more benefit visiting these villages than future potential med schooler’s?
What would be better than having a group of business and economics students visit a tribe, and come up with a strategy that may help boost their productivity? “Let’s see here, this tribe was 10 miles away from this tribe, but could be trading with this other tribe 7 miles away, thus decreasing travel by 30% and allowing more time for hunting and gathering, and at the same time, this kid is an inventor always making stuff out of bones and sticks, let’s tell the leader to make sure he never has to go hunting.” Rather than “All these kids are so poor, let me take pictures to post on the web and show the world how poor they are and let the doctor I came with give them some medicine that they will not be able to reproduce in a thousand years.” Regardless, I understand there are probably more issues keeping these tribes from prospering such as government policies and even choice?
**As a side note, I hope not to insult anyone from African since I am specifically talking about the tribes. I know Africa is not a country, and that many cities within each country of Africa may be just as well off as any other nation, with everything including internet and running water. However, please understand the audience of this blog will be mostly American’s who may have a better picture of what I’m saying
This question came about when reading the introduction to “TWoN” where Smith talks about the employment of labor in both advanced nations and “savage (hut living, hunting and gathering) nations.” The amount that a nation produces is going to determine how much its’ citizens can consume, which is based on the amount of those citizens employed in useful labor (paraphrased from the book itself). For the sake of this post, let’s assume that a tribe leader wants to see his village prosper. Sure he could use medicine to keep his people alive longer, but he needs resources, people, and labor to do that which isn’t acquired by medicine, but by business, and an understanding of economics.
Adam Smith uses the phrase “employed in useful labor.” He notes that those living in savage nations as hunters and fishers are usually all employed in useful labor, yet will neglect those who may be a burden (children, elderly, and sick). How come in a prospering nation, even the poorest can have all of these things and then some, all while not being employed?
Through the rest of the chapter Smith outlines the rest of the book by making the reader ask questions:
“How and why do different nations decide to employ their labor?” Example: Europe favoring arts and commerce over agriculture, but why?
“How does wealth become distributed?”
“How do you convince your citizens to all contribute, and also how should a nation spend it’s money?”
“How do private interests, and politics affect decisions of how to employ labor?”
I hope to have answers to many of these questions, and find ways they are applied, by the time I finish this series.