“How Many Servants Do You Have?”
That is the question posted by Joy Pullman in her post of that title at Values & Capitalism.
In “The Wealth of Nations,” Smith points out that the number of people under your command is a measure of power and wealth. Nowadays, the number of people you and I can “command” for $500 or $75 surpasses the number many—probably most—ancient kings commanded into war and peace. In other terms, it takes me from two hours to half a week of work to have the power of ancient kings. … Smith’s point is that even the lowliest workers in a free market are given power far beyond those at the top in a restricted market.
Ms. Pullman starts her discussion by pointing out a couple of things. My description is that for about $500 she can hire thousands of people to design, construct, fully staff an airplane, and schedule the fueled & maintained aircraft to quickly transport her anywhere in the country. For $75 she can hire thousands of people to find underground petroleum, construct wells, refine oil, and deliver a tank of gasoline to within a few blocks of her house, available at her convenience.
This question falls into the same category as what I’ve discussed previously:
- I have dozens of servants in my home and business
- You have millions of people working for you everyday
- Millions of people spontaneously work together to make your pencil – “I, Pencil: The Movie”
- “I, Smartphone” – it takes millions of people and thousands of inventions to make a smart phone
With that perspective, I can hire far more people, in other words have them under my momentary command, than did George Washington or even the captains of industry.
How many millions of people did I hire just to write and post the article you are now reading?