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The Economics of Style

Updated on June 8, 2021
Chuck profile image

A part-time college economics & finance instructor who began his career in banking, Chuck frequently writes on money & economics online.

There are Many Definitions of Style

The word style has many different definitions but many of them refer to the form and appearance of something. Phrases like a classic style, she has a good sense of style, something is in style, a new style, changing the style, etc. all refer to the appearance of something. All of us like or dislike various styles and all of us display our own styles in the way we dress, decorate our homes, conduct ourselves, etc.

Now a style may take the form of a fixed visual image such as the decor of a room or it may also take the form of an observable pattern of action such as ones leadership or management style.

Style, like other things in our lives is something that can be improved upon and developed. Since the beginning of time, humans have always taken control of their environment and tried to improve it.

Economic Concept Of Division Of Labor Can Apply To Style Choices

However, controlling and improving one's environment is a big task which takes time. Since the task of controlling the environment is virtually limitless in terms of the possibilities, while time is very limited, we are forced to make choices. Since we can't be or do everything, we must choose and prioritize.

Herein lies the dilemma. A person would like to be able have a beautiful home, be a great manager, develop a cool jazz playing style, dress stylishly, have wit and charm, etc. etc. All of these and more can be developed by a person. But, developing takes time and time devoted to improving one's management style is time not available for improving the jazz style. Choices must be made and priorities set. Making choices and setting priorities means that some things get left out in terms of the available time devoted to them.

However, humans are creative and, in addition to devoting our creativity to things like producing great art, we have also devised ways of producing more with less. The secret here is what economists refer to as specialization and the division of labor. This is nothing more than you doing your thing and me doing my thing and then sharing the results. Thus, one person can specialize in developing his or her accounting skills while another develops their decorating skills. The accountant then hires the decorator to make her home beautiful while the decorator hires the accountant to maintain his financial records. In this case each can focus on developing one skill while enjoying the benefits of two skills.

Specialization And Division Of Labor Enables Everyone To Have More

Specialization has helped us in other ways as well as some people have specialized in the production and preservation of knowledge. Trial and error is one way to learn and we all use this method to some extent. However, trial and error can consume huge amounts of time which could be applied to other endeavors one wants to pursue. Fortunately some people choose to specialize in the process of experimenting, recording and transmitting of knowledge which allows other humans to learn and develop multiple skills in less time than using the trial and error method.

Thus, our accountant, in addition to the option of hiring the decorator to decorate her home or the more time consuming alternative of experimenting until she finds the right mix of color and style that she wants in her home, can take a class, read some books or search the Internet for information that will allow her to accomplish what she wants the first time without having to go through the trial and error process. This may take more time than hiring the decorator but will cost less in terms of money.

Marriage Is A Great Example Of The Economic Division Of Labor Concept

In a previous Hub, which I wrote a tongue-in-cheek style Hub for the first contest that HubPages ran in 2006. Entitled How to Select a Kitchen Paint Color, I suggested that the easiest and best way to get the right color was for a man to let his wife do this. Of course I acknowledged that men can also be good at this but that, in general it is women who have the touch when it comes to creating atmosphere in a home while, left to themselves, men tend to be satisfied so long as the home provides shelter from the elements.

Among the many other benefits of marriage that I have found is the division of labor, in terms of both talent and physical work, between my wife and I. In the case of decorating and dressing styles she can make excellent choices in a fraction of the time it takes me to make a mediocre choice.

I read John T. Molloy's book Dress for Success years ago when I first started working and that gave me a formula which enabled me to choose proper clothes for work. However, after marriage I let my wife choose most of my clothes for me saving me the hassle of shopping and making decisions in that area. I also look better when standing in front of a mirror.

The same with decorating. While I pushed the cart around Home Depot selecting paint brushes and other supplies she chose the colors for the rooms in our home. In no time at all we were set. The division of labor worked out well for us as I calculated the budget for the process, she choose the colors and I did much of the painting.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2008 Chuck Nugent


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