Wealth of Nations and the Selfish Woman



The evolutionary imperative is an interesting concept.

In the 16th Century, a man by the name of Adam Smith wrote a book that revolutionized world trade. The Wealth of Nations is a book I came across when I was only 13 years old. I will not spoil the book for the unfortunate few who have yet to read it. All I want to extract from the book is the concept of specialization and division of labor.

“This idea relates primarily to the specialization of the labor force, essentially the breaking down of large jobs into many tiny components. Under this regime each worker becomes an expert in one isolated area of production, thus increasing his efficiency. The fact that laborers do not have to switch tasks during the day further saves time and money.”

This theory works on the simple assertion that although we can do anything and everything within physical limitations, we would benefit as individuals and as a group if we decide to specialize in something we have a comparative advantage in. I am not going into how to find out how to calculate your comparative advantage or what it exactly it means.  “The law of comparative advantage refers to the ability of a party (an individual, a firm, or a country) to produce a particular good or service at a lower opportunity cost than another party. It is the ability to produce a product with the highest relative efficiency given all the other products that could be produced.

All I want to get across right now is that ” we, all regardless of our gender or race, can do everything but we resort to only do certain activities because we are better at it than others”.

With me so far?

Now let’s take this division of labor concept and apply it to – relationships I.e. Women and men.

Think where women have got it wrong with the whole feminist movement is their misconception that “men thought women cannot do what men can”. On the contrary, men just thought that they just had a comparative advantage at what they had done over the centuries.

I must admit with the evolution of world trade and focus of service industry a man’s comparative advantage of being the worker and bread winner has been reduced. Women have become just as good at the work place in a service industry as men are. So how ?

The stop there and justify women’s feminist movement is to fail to appreciate the full theory of comparative advantage. Let’s take an example, two countries that can produce only coffee or tea. Country A is hopeless at coffee and tea production than Country B. So does that mean Country A people can never trade. On the contrary, then the comparative theory comes in to evaluate what is more costly for Country B to produce I.e. Tea or Coffee? Depending on the answer, Country A would just produce that product. The end result in that both countries benefit and through specialization everyone can enjoy a good cup of coffee and tea

So what does this all mean ?

Just that in the modern world men are Country A and women Country B. Coffee is raising a family and Tea is being the family bread winner. But you may ask why Country A can’t produce both tea and coffee ? and vice versa ? However taking that route would only result in the loss of the potential gains from the division of labor and specialization theory. So, what happens to Country B when it gets selfish and wants to do everything BECAUSE it can ?

Sub-standard coffee and tea and one hungry and/or lonely Country A.


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