Division

My parents adhered to a code of clearly articulated division of labor. Mom specialized cooking, cleaning and caring for me; dad specialized welding (his profession) and “disciplining” me. My wife and I don’t exactly fit into this scheme of arrangement which begs reconciliation of our generalist life style with Adam Smith’s teaching that specialization means better productivity and overall gain for all. It boils down to this argument. I think.

The need for specialization has diminished; washing machines, dishwashers, fast food, fewer children, nuclear families are just few reasons. Learning and managing household doesn’t demand a person’s entire life anymore.

Put another way, the opportunity cost of specializing household chores is too high given the demand for paid labor in most economies. Case in point, As soon as a (wo)man’s wages for certain number of hours, otherwise spent washing clothes, can afford a washing machine, (s)he does not have to specialize washing anymore.

Bottom line, technology is an amazingly potent force to make people’s life better. But unfortunately not on its own. Consider this, I know a woman who could, today, afford a dozen washing machines, yet she refuses to buy or use one. She believes clothes processed through washing machines aren’t as clean as clothes hand washed. Yup, that’s my mom.

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