Interdependent human beings are exchanging things for other things, and in that process, they tend to specialize. They become experts in the production of one type of object that can be exchanged against all those other objects that they need. This is how the early forms of the division of labor began to develop. In the course of time, this division of labor becomes more stabilized. It conquers new territories. In this connection, Adam Smith, almost in passing, surprises the reader with a very interesting idea. He says that in many cases the different talents that people exploit in their different professions are not so much the cause as the effect of the division of labour. That he is referring to social stratification here, and to social inequality becomes clear when he gives as an example, the dissimilarity between on the one hand, the philosopher, and on the other hand what he calls the common street porter. He means the man who carries the luggage for travelers. He wonders about how similar the two of them must have looked when they were both young kids. For the first six or eight years of their life he says they were very much alike. Their parents or the friends they played with didn't notice much difference. But then the division of labor began to do its differentiating work, and one of them was sent to the university and became a professor and the other one embarked upon a career that ended in carrying the luggage for other people. And then, at the end of that process, Smith says the arrogant professor does not acknowledge any resemblance anymore. And that is an interesting thought coming from a professor, Adam Smith, who was already during his lifetime very, very famous. It seems as if he wants to say here, if I was born in the cradle of that common street porter, I might have ended as somebody carrying the bags of other people. And had he been born in another place then he might have become the university professor. The division of labor is not the outcome of different talents of human beings, it is in many cases the breeding ground for different careers that lead to the development of different talents. In older theories, social stratification is often explained by pointing at the different talents that people possess. And people say some are physically strong but not too clever, and others are intellectually well-endowed, etc., etc. And that is what explains the social distance between the different ranks of society, to quote Adam Smith, the differences in power and in wealth. But Adam Smith here goes in the opposite direction. He says people are born into a society with a certain preexisting division of labor and their social location in that stratified social universe determines in many cases the talents that they will develop later on in life. Smith goes even so far here as to say that human beings differ less from one another than the different breeds of dogs. To quote him again, by nature, the philosopher is not ingenious in this position, also different from a street porter, as a mastiff, that's a kind of dog, is from a greyhound, and a greyhound from a spaniel. When my students read those lines, they are often surprised. They thought that Adam Smith was this diehard liberal admired by many conservative thinkers, and here he says that the man who is carrying the suitcases for the famous professor was not so different from that professor after all. Sometimes, one of my students says, but sir, this is so unfair. Isn't it a terrible injustice that that street porter never could develop his talents because, you know, he was born at the wrong side of the train tracks. Whereas, the guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth is given every opportunity, even if he happens to be not extremely talented. Interesting point, but Adam Smith does not draw that conclusion. There is no hint of indignation in this paragraph. He just observes it as an interesting fact. He doesn't suggest that this is a flaw that we should do something to remedy it. And yet, the paragraph tells us a lot about the detached sociological scholar. And also about this friendly man filled with sympathy, even empathy. I can see him climbing out of his coach in Paris walking behind the man who is carrying his suitcase. As he looks at his back, he notices the holes in his coat and he realizes that this man who seems to be of his age might have become a famous professor in moral philosophy had he been born in a different social location. Let's not forget, this is the second half of the 18th century. The French Revolution is not so far away.