Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Specializing to Produce More

Specialization is what makes our modern economy possible. The more advanced and complex an economy, the more specialized is work.

In today's economy everyone has a specializes and concentrates their efforts on only a part of the process of producing a good or a service. Very few people do the entire job of producing an item. Even if someone does do every aspect involved in producing an item, they do not produce everything else needed to survive.
Observe the operation the next time you stop by a McDonald's or other fast food restaurant. Some people work at the counter taking orders, some make the hamburgers, others make the fries, still others are cleaning, etc. When you place an order the order taker does not walk back to the freezer, get a new hamburger, cook it, get the bun, make the fries, etc. These jobs are done by different people.

Specialization allows each person to concentrate on one or two tasks and do them well. In this way each person is able to produce more of the product they specialize in thereby producing more of both items in the same amount of time.
For an example of this lets go back to prehistoric times and observe a cave couple, Ag and his wife Mag. Both would wake up in their cave each morning and spend the entire day scrounging for food. If they worked hard and were lucky they managed to get enough food for one good meal before going to bed that night. Both would look for berries, edible roots, grubs and other large worms and bugs. Sometimes they even came across the remains of a rabbit or other small animal that had been killed and eaten by a larger animal and they got to eat the leftovers.

One day they came upon a fox that had just killed a rabbit. Fearing the fox might attack them, Ag picked up a rock and threw it at the fox, scaring it away. It was then that they saw the freshly killed rabbit and had a fine meal. They both practiced throwing some rocks but soon concluded that Ag was much better at throwing rocks and thus had a better chance of getting some fresh meat.

So, Ag and Mag decided to divide the work. Mag would focus on gathering berries, roots and edible bugs and worms near the cave while Ag would circle a larger area seeking to find and chase away foxes, wolves, hawks and other creatures that had just killed some game.

By specializing and each gathering only one type of food they were able to find a greater amount of total food than when both looked for everything.

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