It is obvious enough that there are some out there better than we are at everything. This is something I find in everything I attempt much to my annoyance. Yet it is still necessary for me to do something with my life so what should that be? Among the things that I could do I should be doing the one that I am least bad at – the comparative part of the advantage is among the things I can do, not in relation to what others can.

That is, if we all do what we are least bad at then production will be as high as it can be and we are all, in aggregate, as rich as we can be.

So, those who are differently abled in that modern sense, what should they be doing? Their abilities might be different, yes, they might even be lesser in every manner than others, but their decision is still just as with everyone else. They should be specialising in what they are least bad at just as the rest of us should be. Different skills and talents, OK, but equally human and facing the same life questions as the rest of us.

We have that 30,000-foot view then but one of the advantages of belonging to a culture, a civilization, is that we do not have to work through every question we face in our lives from first principles. We have that system of transmitting through the generations the lessons our forbears worked out the answers to – that is what a civilisation is. Or, of course, in this era of globalisation we can steal the answers from those who worked it out elsewhere.

13 thoughts on “Elsewhere”

  1. That’s bollocks about Nobel’s wife running off with a mathematician, though. He was never married.

  2. This theory does depend on the thing that I am least bad at actually producing something useful. I was fortunate that I had an aptitude for fixing industrial machinery, so I made useful things indirectly.

  3. Just suppose most people are least bad at the same thing. A lot of them will have to do the second or third least worst thing.

    We have half the age cohort in uni. Probably these kids are least bad at being undergraduates. Doesn’t mean we need 50% of young people at uni.

  4. My main takeaway from this is that Bangladesh is now wealthy enough to be able to worry about autistic kids, rather than about having enough food to eat.

  5. “That’s bollocks about Nobel’s wife running off with a mathematician, though. He was never married.”

    Oh come on; think like an economist. Assume a wife.

  6. Stony/Philip
    You could define ‘least bad’ in this context as being most effective way of earning a crust.
    I might consider myself least-bad at hedgelaying, but given neither that nor dry-stone walling pays even beer money, I have to stick to the data wrangling.

  7. Least bad is a good summary. But it’s a little more complex than that. For my current role, I attended a training spot at an airport hotel in Gatwick for 3 days. There were 5 slots and one was unfilled. The company asked 11 people before me if they wanted the slot – they had lives, schools, children etc and turned it down. In any event the skill acquired is to be no more in about 5 years time anyway. So I got the spot, 55 isn’t far away so there will be other income then.
    So least bad, least unwilling, least bad options.
    It’s hard to explain comparative advantage in half a sentence. Even PJ struggled and had to take the piss out of Courtney Love to explain it. She couldn’t sing and write pap songs as good as the best, but they were designing higher value stuff like digital recording equipment.

  8. “I might consider myself least-bad at hedgelaying, but given neither that nor dry-stone walling pays even beer money, I have to stick to the data wrangling.”

    Data wrangling must pay well then, and/or your beer habit is of Oliver Reed proportions, because both those trades are not cheap around here. Probably £200-300/day labour rate.

  9. I wouldn’t expect anybody to get out of bed for less than £250/d.
    [The joiner who made my new windows, had a daily rate of only 160 for the fitting, but then as he took three weeks to do a one week job…]

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