Mike Munger on the Division of Labor


Listen to the EconTalk podcast Mike Munger on the Division of Labor and consider these questions.

1. The interview begins with the famous Adam Smith quote regarding "the extent of the market". Why is the phrase "the market" misleading? What does Munger suggest Smith's true meaning is here?

2. Compare the "virtues" of specialization with the costs. How does Munger relate this to the Aristotelian distinction between "value in use" and "value in exchange"?

3. How does Ricardian specialization compare to Smithian specialization?

4. Interviewer Roberts cites colonial Williamsburg as an example of a community with a great degree of specialization, yet one that is still very poor. How can this be? Did Smith account for such a circumstance?

5. Roberts and Munger disagree about "the inexorable progress of the division of labor". What is the substance of this disagreement? Do you believe "inexorable" is an apt characterization?

6. What sort of informational constraints do we face when we engage in trade only with people whom we like and/or approve of? Paraphrase Munger's comments regarding the role of impersonality in exchange.

7. Roberts and Munger discuss the trend of "big box" stores as compared to traditional corner or "mom and pop" stores. What does their exchange tell us about the role of technology in specialization? What are the "seen and unseen" ( la Bastiat) effects experienced by the affected consumers?

8. What is the "punch line" concerning division of labor?