Picture what it would be like for a family to be totally isolated. Think about growing your own food. You would make everything yourself and do everything yourself. That means that unless you are a miner, ore processor and blacksmith you would not be able to have any tools that were not made with local wood and stone you gathered and chipped yourself. You would need to learn how to tame and train animals to pull the wood plow you made yourself or have a lot of children to hook up to the self made harness. And of course, where would you get your seed? And have you ever seen a vegetable garden with no pesticides? And all of these specialties would need to proceed at the same time.
One of the greatest boons for living in comfort and plenty is the step our ancestors made with a division of labor. Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations put it this way,
“The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour.” (Kindle Highlight Location, 108-10)He gives an illustration with a simple tool called a pin. You know, the straight pins that the tailor used to hem your pants. He says that one person working by themselves would have a hard time making twenty pins in a day, yet with the division of labor and the machines involved ten men could make 48,000 in a day. (Kindle Highlight Location, 130-31)
Think about the simple things we take for granted: Aspirin, pencils, rubber bands, gasoline, or oatmeal. Add to that all the complex luxuries we consider necessities: Air conditioning, radio, microwave ovens and skateboards. All of these come to us because of the increased productivity from the division of labor.
I don’t know what you contribute but you are part of the mosaic that makes modern civilization and gives of longer and healthier lives.
Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book I, Project Gutenberg download.
homo unius libri