Self-Sufficiency Undermines the Division of Labor?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Posted in category Economics

As many folks may know, I am a big advocate of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness (jack-of-all-trades). As a response to this post on frugality and self-sufficiency, someone writes me and makes the statement: “Self-sufficiency undermines the division of labor … and it drags us back to the stone age.” The libertarianoid sentiment that we should all be division-of-labor drones in every single thing we do is deranged. The division of labor as it relates to the specialization of complex industrial processes is not necessarily applicable to growing a home garden, painting your own furniture, and homeschooling, etc. There is much utility to be gained from the power of independence and the many marketable and unique skills we can each develop.

Also, countless acts of self-sufficiency on the part of many folks is actually a hobby, or leisure. Mises and Rothbard criticized Romanticism and Primitivism because the tribalists denounced specialization and the division of labor. Jose Ortega y Gasset termed these primitives, “those who have remained in the motionless, frozen twilight, which never progresses towards midday.” Modern, self-sufficient folks who value life skills and independence from the potential fallout of politically controlled systems are not primitives who endorse the prowess of caste and status. A person possessing the spirit of independence in terms of the tasks and lifestyle that he enjoys is not living the life of the noble savage, nor is he living a life that is nasty, brutish, and short. In fact, he is living the life of luxury because his chosen skills are a crucial part of his wealth and spiritual well-being.

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8 Responses to Self-Sufficiency Undermines the Division of Labor?

  1. Eric Anondson says:

    August 30th, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Robert Heinlein is always good for a quote in these situations. 

    “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

  2. geoih says:

    August 31st, 2011 at 6:20 am

    I think you’re over-simplifying the argument. “Modern, self-sufficient folks” don’t mine and smelt their own metals, grow and mill their own lumber, formulate and manufacture their own chemicals, etc. At best they might do part of one of those things, and then depend on the division of labor for all the other things they cannot physically do on their own.

    Knowledge and skills are all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t change the physical limits of the most able independent spirit.

  3. Karen De Coster says:

    August 31st, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Over-simplifying?

    No where did I say that “modern self-sufficient folks mine and smelt their own metals….” I love how you make things up. I said this: “Modern, self-sufficient folks who value life skills and independence from the potential fallout of politically controlled systems are not primitives who endorse the prowess of caste and status.” But then again, that’s in black and white, ain’t it?

    And then I said this: “The division of labor as it relates to the specialization of complex industrial processes is not necessarily applicable to growing a home garden, painting your own furniture, and homeschooling, etc.” But you say that I am saying the _opposite_. But then again, you aren’t reading or commenting on what I wrote?

  4. geoih says:

    August 31st, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I didn’t say that you said anything other than the items I put in quotes. The only things I “made up” were the things I said myself.

    One of the reasons you can be a “modern, self-sufficient” person is because of the many benefits of the division of labor. If not for that, then you would be a caveman.

    Do you always respond with a raving personal attack on every commenter?

  5. Karen De Coster says:

    August 31st, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Newsflash ktrombley: When you leave a comment here that distorts what I said and veers 90 degrees off track, be prepared for me to correct the distortion and maintain the focus of my post. Horrible of me! Aye, horrible I say!

    That was a “raving personal attack?” Raving? LoL. Ask yourself why commenters (I attack “every commenter.” LoL.) like you make things up and ascribe them to the writer, and then, you go “raving” mad on that writer when you are corrected by a reference to archived words.

    The post was about “self-sufficiency not undermining the division of labor.” Hence the title of the post? Perhaps your personal attack/raving comment was not on topic and nothing more than an attack on me. Yeah – people who comment on blogs tend to do that. And your original coment was a blank slate, and made no sense in terms of being a response to what I said …

  6. steve says:

    August 31st, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    um, not to throw gas on the fire, but you may want to go back and see where quotations were in comment 2. He wasn’t quoting you about the mining/smelting and all that, those indeed were his own words. Just trying to bridge the gap since it seems like you’re talking (typing) past each other.

    PS Love the blog, just discovered it…

  7. Karen De Coster says:

    September 2nd, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Steve – forget the quotations. His response lead anyone reading it to believe that HIS WORDS were mine, and HIS WORDS had nothing to do, at all, with my post.

    p.s. – your words about “attacking” were cut. Attacking me on my blog as an “attacker” based on one moron’s comments is unacceptable. You have no clue who I am, nor do you know anything about me. To say that based on one person’s breezy and sniping comment is …. pretty darn dumb.

  8. Zoe says:

    September 5th, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Well the whole point of it is that Ms. De Coster is the ultimate decider of what her time is worth and how she wishes to spend it. She also analyzes potential risks and rewards from having a wide knowledge set. If this knowledge set grew to include metal smelting, so be it!

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