Monday, August 10, 2009

MMA Bonus: We are devo.

I follow Steve Simon on Twitter; he's one of the guys I followed early on in my far less discriminating days. But he has interesting stuff, so he survived the big purge I did when I realized there was no way I could keep up with all the tweets.

A few weeks ago he talked about retiring, and then about cutting costs by doing a variety of tasks--lawn care, oil change, etc.--on his own. Nothing wrong with that, especially if these are things he derives some pleasure out of.

But at a social level, it's a symptom of poverty: We specialize because it's more efficient. An expert with the right tools can do something better and more cheaply than you can at home. This is not really a different discussion than the previous one on fast food. Economies of scale, expertise and specialization (why even fast foods are usually separated by variety of slop: chicken, burger, Mexican, sandwiches) both result from and drive wealth.

One thing Americans don't get about European countries is that it's kind of a big deal to go to lunch. Even Canada, with its $9 Subway footlongs--which must suck given they can see the $5 footlong ads from America.

It's sensible--necessary, even--to do more for yourself if it saves money. And there are good non-monetary reasons to do things, too: Just so you know you can fix the pipes, change the oil, etc.

But it's better if that's a luxury you do because you like or want to, not because the economy is such that you can't get paid more at your specialty than it would cost you to do on your own.


  1. Interesting point. But, since we are basically a service economy, what happens when we all start to perform our own services? At least those we are capable of?

    I personally haven't hired a plumber, electrician or mechanic in years, and am slowly working my way into becoming my own IT department. The problem is, what if those folks start doing their own legal work?

  2. Oh snap, now I'm going to report you to the White House office of sensible thought.

    I haven't mowed my own lawn in 20 yrs. Have you priced a lawnmower recently?

  3. It's an interesting tension, isn't it: On the one hand, you don't want to be a dweeb who can't do anything around the house; on the other, society should be making that a difficult decision, financially.

  4. Luckily I've got a neighbor like Edjamikated Redneck. When an emergency comes up I just run over to him in panic mode and he responds by fixing the house or car malfunction. Shameless I know. But it works. :^)

  5. I'm lucky, because my husband can fix almost anything. Which is great, until you realize there's no such thing as a "weekend" anymore ... at least that's how it was when we were poor, living in an old house with bad plumbing, and had cars that broke down all the time. Good times!

    Now he picks and chooses what he wants to fix, which is the best of both worlds. Though he still insists on fixing most things himself. Fortunately that's a lot more infrequent than it used to be.

  6. That is cool, knox. And I'm sure Mr. Knox thinks of himself as lucky, too!

    (My home repair tool is pretty much the phone.)


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