Today, we take specialization and trade for granted. We get ticked off when the government “fails to create jobs.” Yet the unemployed do not revert to growing their own food, sewing their own clothes, and dipping their old candles.
That reminded me of recent Ellen show (yes, I’m a fan) where she showed off her new garden and expressed her delight in its bountiful, fresh produce.
While watching, it occurred to me that just how wealthy we really are.
We use to grow our own food out of necessity. Then, through trade and specialization we became better off and didn’t have to grow our own food anymore. Really what happened was that the opportunity cost of growing our own food became so great that we didn’t do it. We could get more food by doing what we did best, whatever that may be.
Now, we are so well off that we can grow our own food again. There’s nothing better for Ellen to do than to pay* someone to plant and tend a garden so she can enjoy fresh produce. What use to be a necessity that was tended by our own hard labor is now a luxury item, like having a pool or hot tub.
It would actually be a sign that we are becoming less well off if people stopped tending (or have others tend to) to their gardens.
Come to think of it, Arnold Kling would make an interesting guest for Ellen Degeneres.
*I use the word pay loosely here. The segment showed other people building her garden for her. She may not have paid them directly with money (or she might have), but she did pay them with something – air time perhaps.