0
   

The opportunity costs of the division of labor

 
 
Deckard
 
Reply Sun 16 May, 2010 01:18 am
Within a particular mindset the benefits of the division of labor overwhelm all of its drawbacks. Why? Becaise we can get so much more efficient at our chosen (or more often appointed) tasks! We can make four thousand eight hundred pins in a day!

But there are drawbacks. We buy beef and milk at the supermarket yet we can only very vaguely understand what it means to slaughter or milk that cow ourselves. We buy clothes with only a very vague understanding of what it means to pick the cotton or sow the garments.

And why does our understanding remain so vague? Because we have no experience of it.

The greatest cost of the division of labor is experience. An economist might call this loss of experience an opportunity cost though it is impossible to put a monetary value to it. There is something pathetic about someone who has eaten a hundred hamburgers but never even once seen a cow slaughtered and someone who as bought a hundred pairs of socks and yet never once picked a bail of cotton. It is all the more pathetic by the fact that we do not recognize it to be pathetic and thus all the more costly.
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 1,314 • Replies: 4
No top replies

 
harlequin phil
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 06:33 pm
@Deckard,
perhaps i'm not understanding what you are saying.

why do i need the experience of picking cotton or sewing (not sowing) to appreciate wearing socks? why is that pathetic? i have never built a computer, but i can appreciate and enjoy this discussion. so what is lost?
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 06:44 pm
@harlequin phil,
harlequin;166245 wrote:
perhaps i'm not understanding what you are saying.

why do i need the experience of picking cotton or sewing (not sowing) to appreciate wearing socks? why is that pathetic? i have never built a computer, but i can appreciate and enjoy this discussion. so what is lost?


Self-sufficiency, understanding of ones world, and a life that is less fragmented and more integrated. There are different degrees of this and some more practical than others but the modern life of, say, an American is at one radical extreme of that spectrum.
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 09:58 pm
@Deckard,
Interesting, very much in line with the home-made ice cream thread, but taking a different angle.

Picking a cotton ball does not give you the experience of being a farm worker. Nor would a day or two of it. Physical labor is tough, but not bad at all for just a short period of time. Doing a few days would give you the impression that it's a lot of fun. It would be a great break from the office routine. I say that because I once worked a job that was mostly office, but every few weeks would have a few days manual work outside.

But if it takes a while to get the experience, then it adds up to an impossible amount. If we had experience of those things, would wouldn't have experience of other things. How to find our way through a city, how to work a computer, and, presumably, much of philosophy.

Also as a side note, people ate meat even when they hand slaughtered every animal. I don't think there are any vegetarian butchers.
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 May, 2010 11:17 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;166291 wrote:
Interesting, very much in line with the home-made ice cream thread, but taking a different angle.

Picking a cotton ball does not give you the experience of being a farm worker. Nor would a day or two of it. Physical labor is tough, but not bad at all for just a short period of time. Doing a few days would give you the impression that it's a lot of fun. It would be a great break from the office routine. I say that because I once worked a job that was mostly office, but every few weeks would have a few days manual work outside.

But if it takes a while to get the experience, then it adds up to an impossible amount. If we had experience of those things, would wouldn't have experience of other things. How to find our way through a city, how to work a computer, and, presumably, much of philosophy.

Also as a side note, people ate meat even when they hand slaughtered every animal. I don't think there are any vegetarian butchers.

If I had a farm and raised my own meat I believe I would feel less of a desire to be a vegetarian. Or for that matter if I hunted and slaughtered all my own meat. But, as it is, there really is a gut level feeling that I haven't earned the right to eat a steak or a pork-chop or whatever.

Really, for me, it comes down to the proximity of these activities. I want to be able to talk to the person who picked the cotton that made my clothes and talk to the person who raised that pig I ate. And by "person" I of course don't mean corporation, I don't mean that I want to be able to talk to a customer service representative on the phone about the cotton or the pig.

And yes, if Bob the pig farmer or Jill the cotton picker wants to trade jobs with me for a few months I want to be able to do this. If someone needs a barn, I want to be able to take part in raising it rather than suggest to them that they call a construction company.

I think the apparent complexities of our lives are exaggerated. Computers are made to seem more complicated than they actually are. Heck, brain surgery is made to be more complicated than it actually is. In a truly open society much of the complexity of modern life would dissolve.

In any case the vast majority of tasks that are to be done in society could be done by anyone. There is no need to divide this labor as strictly as it is presently divided and de facto regulated.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

How can we be sure? - Discussion by Raishu-tensho
DOES NOTHING EXIST??? - Question by mark noble
Proof of nonexistence of free will - Discussion by litewave
morals and ethics, how are they different? - Question by existential potential
Destroy My Belief System, Please! - Discussion by Thomas
Star Wars in Philosophy. - Discussion by Logicus
Existence of Everything. - Discussion by Logicus
Is it better to be feared or loved? - Discussion by Black King
 
  1. Forums
  2. » The opportunity costs of the division of labor
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.04 seconds on 07/23/2019 at 08:09:04