For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

A Treatise of Political Economy

by Say, Jean-Baptiste (1850)

Key Passage

The man who discovered the property of fire to soften metals, was not the creator of this utility this process adds to smelted ore. That utility results from the physical action of fire, in concurrence, it is true with thelabour and capital of those who employ the process. But are there no processes that mankind owes the knowledge to pure accident? Or that are so self-evident, as to have required no skill to discover? When atree, a natural product, is felled, is society put into possession of no greater produce than of the mere labour of the woodman? From this error Smith has drawn the false conclusion, that all values produced, represent pre-exerted human labour or industry, either recent or remote; or, in other words, that wealth is nothing more thanlabour accumulated; from which position he infers a second consequence equally erroneous, viz. that labour is the sole measure of wealth, or of value produced. (p.76)


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