Division of Labor

As a macro concept I agree with the specialization and the division of labor. Economically, it makes a lot of sense. Businesses that specialize can usually offer higher quality products at lower prices. I think this is especially true in food production and manufacturing industries. A factory dedicated to one task whether it’s assembling cars, canning corn or producing pencils is going to be able to do it immeasurably faster and cheaper than an individual or small business could.

So at the macro level I’m on board. Where I have a problem with specialization is on the micro or individual level. I think the trend toward specialization has gone too far. We now live in a society where even seemingly basic tasks are being specialized and outsourced. I know many people with relatively successful careers who seem to lack any ability to think or function outside of their chosen field of specialization. I don’t see any reason why individuals can’t be good at more than one thing. Just because you’re good developing marketing slogan doesn’t mean you can’t also be good at bike repair etc…

Now don’t get me wrong I don’t think a Brain Surgeon should also be able to design a structurally sound railroad bridge. But I do think there’s a core group of skills that anyone of average intelligence should possess. It takes very little time to learn most of modern life’s basic skills. I’d argue that in the long run it’s faster to learn to do things yourself than hiring other people to do them. Hiring a handyman to put your Ikea furniture together…you know who you are…shameful.

In my next post I’ll put up my list of basic skills that I think everyone should have.


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