Saturday, February 19, 2011

Comparative Advantage in Everything

From the NYT account of "niche plastic surgery:"
Dr. Holly J. Berns, an anesthesiologist, feels as if she is on a seesaw when she travels from Dr. Yager’s office to suburban clinics. On Long Island, she said, “they’re doing everything they can to get the fat taken out of their buttocks.” In Washington Heights, “it’s the opposite — they just want their rear ends enlarged and rounded."
Two words: "comparative advantage:"
Under a system of perfectly free commerce, each country naturally devotes its capital and labour to such employments as are most beneficial to each. .... By stimulating industry, by rewarding ingenuity, and by using most efficaciously the peculiar powers bestowed by nature, it distributes labour most effectively and most economically; while, by increasing the general mass of productions, it diffuses general benefit, and binds together, by one common tie of interest and intercourse, the universal society of nations throughout the civilised world.  It is this principle which determines that wine shall be made in France and  Portugal, that corn shall be grown in America and Poland, and that hardware and other goods shall be manufactured in England.
--David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation 81 (Everyman Edition, 1973)

A vanful of glutes lumbering across the Throgs Neck Bridge.  The mind reels.

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