Meaning of Production
- Production a drawing forth
- Distinct from creation
- Production not of wealth
- Includes all stages
The Science of Political Economy
Book III, The Production of Wealth*
The Meaning of Production
Showing the Meaning and Proper Use of Production
The word production comes from the Latin, pro, before, and ducere, to draw, and its literal meaning is a drawing forth.
Production, as a term of political economy, means a drawing forth by man; a bringing into existence by the power of man. It does not mean creation, the proper sense of which is the bringing into existence by a power superior to that of man -- that power namely which to escape negation our reason is compelled to postulate as the final cause of all things.
A solar system, a world with all the substances and powers therein contained, soil, water and air, chemical affinities, vital forces, the invariable sequences which we term natural laws, vegetables and animals in their species as they exist irrespective of the modifying influence of man, and man himself with his natural powers, needs and impulses, we properly speak of as created. How precisely they came to be, and what and whence the originating impulse, we cannot tell, and probably in the sphere to which we are confined in this life can never know. All we can say with certainty, is that they cannot have been brought into existence by any power of man; that they existed before man was, and constitute the materials and forces on which his existence depends and on which and from which all his production is based. Since they cannot have come from what we call matter alone; nor from what we call energy alone; nor yet from any union of these two elements alone, they must proceed primarily from that originating element that in the largest analysis of the world that reason enables us to make we distinguish from matter and energy as spirit.
Nothing that is created can therefore in the politico-economic sense be said to be produced. Man is not a creator; he has no power of originating things, of making something out of nothing. He is a producer; that is to say a changer, who brings forth by altering what already is. All his making of things, his causing things to be, is a drawing forth, a modification in place or relation, and in accordance with natural laws which he neither originated nor altered, of what he finds already in existence. All his production has as its substratum what he finds already in the world; what exists irrespective of him. This substratum or nexus, the natural or passive factor, on which and by which the human or active factor of production acts, is in the terminology of political economy called land.
It is to be noted that when used as a term of political economy the word "production" has in some respects a narrower, and in some respects a wider, meaning than is often, in common use properly enough, attached to it. Since the production with which political economy primarily deals is the production of wealth, the economic term production refers to that. But it is important to bear in mind that the production of wealth is not the only kind of production.
I have alluded to this fact before in Chapter XVIII of Book II. Let me speak of it again.
I black my boots; I shave my face; I take a violin and play on it, or expend effort in learning to do so; I write a poem or observe the habits of bees; or try to make an hour pass more agreeably to a sick friend by reading to him something which arouses and pleases his higher nature. In such ways I am satisfying wants or gratifying desires, cultivating powers or increasing knowledge, either for myself or for others. But I am not producing wealth. And so, those who in the cooperation of efforts in which civilization consists devote themselves to such occupations -- boot-blacks, barbers, musicians, teachers, investigators, surgeons, nurses, poets, priests -- do not, strictly speaking, take part in the production of wealth. Yet it may be misleading to speak of them as non- producers, without care as to what is really meant. Though not producers of wealth, they are yet producers, and often producers of the highest kind. They are producers of utilities and satisfactions; and as such are not only producers of that to which wealth is but a means, but may indirectly aid in the production of wealth itself.
On the other hand there is something we should note.
In common speech, the word production is frequently used in a sense which distinguishes the first from the later stages of wealth-getting; and those engaged in the primary extractive or formative processes are often styled producers, as distinguished from transporters or exchangers. This use of the word production may be convenient where we wish to distinguish between separable functions, but we must be careful not to import it into our habitual use of the economic term. In the economic meaning of the term production, the transporter or exchanger, or any one engaged in any sub-division of those functions, is as truly engaged in production as is the primary extractor or maker. A newspaper-carrier or the keeper of a newsstand would for instance in common speech be styled a distributor. But in economic terminology he is not a distributor of wealth, but a producer of wealth. Although his part in the process of producing the newspaper to the final receiver comes last, not first, he is as much a producer as the paper-maker or type-founder, the editor or compositor or press-man.
For the object of production is the satisfaction of human desires, that is to say it is consumption; and this object is not made capable of attainment, that is to say, production is not really complete, until wealth is brought to the place where it is to be consumed and put at the disposal of him whose desire it is to satisfy.
Thus, the production of wealth in political economy includes transportation and exchange. The distribution of wealth, on the other hand, has in economic phraseology no relation to transportation or exchange, but refers, as we shall see when we come to treat of it, to the division of the results of production.
This fact has been ignored by the great majority of professed economists who with few exceptions treat of exchange under the head of the distribution of wealth instead of giving it its proper place under the head of the production of wealth.