The Comparative Advantage Juice

(Photo: Digital Vision)

We came close to overturning comparative advantage last night with our new juice-squeezer. Using it requires peeling the oranges, which involves rolling them around, making two circumferential cuts, and then stripping the flesh out. Only then can the flesh be thrown in the squeezer. After doing this together, my wife announced that I was so incompetent that the elapsed time in the first three steps would be less if she did everything and I watched. What she really meant was, “Daniel, your marginal productivity is very low! (But it wasn’t negative: I was able to put the oranges in the squeezer, but she could have done that too, and the “assembly line” would have moved faster.)

How many household production activities are there where even the second cook “spoils the broth”?

robyn ann goldstein

Well, you know, harriet zuckerman always spoke of the cumulation of relative `advantage'. She got it almost right. I just did not see it as my own from the start.

In any case and as simmel put it, no one likes to be in a position of dominance. I found a way to keep it to a minimum until the work is completed. so the revolutionary change will almost seem seemless, as not to have occurred at all. Thus, I certainly do want to get the credit placed right where it is legitimately due. Heh, I am no different than any other scientist involved in this investigation (including comte, martineau, spencer.....and more recently parsons, merton and bensman...... . And no party stuff like einstein seems to have had to endure. NO way will I be put through that. Will publish or perish like everyone else. As for children. There are two kinds- real and intellectual. Both, I have reason to think, will be the beneficiaries of my estate as it should be and with all due respect .



That calculation assumes that the desired outcome is making the juice as efficiently as possible. If you measured the outcomes relationally, there is likely more value in doing it together even if you are slower, unless your wife wants to kill you after the first few oranges. I certainly include my children in tasks that I can do faster and consider it a valuable trade-off.

If you want the most efficient juice, buy it presqueezed.


As they say, show me an economist who mows his own lawn and I'll show you a bad economist.

Joel Upchurch

I would think an economist might think that if they need to walk for exercise, they might as well do it behind a lawnmower. It makes more sense than paying a gym membership to walk on a treadmill and paying someone to mow their lawn.

Of course, a really smart economist would ask if they really need a lawn.


...but of course, juice is not part of a healthy diet. It's much better to eat the whole fruit. The more processing you perform on any type of food, the more quickly available it is to your digestive system; the result is insulin spikes which directly cause high cholesterol.

Enter your name

Depends on the type of juice. The sort of "juice" that you're talking about squeezes some juice out of the fruit and throws away most of the fruit (including all the fiber). The sort of juice he's talking about appears to give him the whole fruit, just not in a solid form.

Fundamentally, a whole apple that you mash up with your teeth has the same nutritional value as a whole apple that you mash up in an electric blender.


Some years ago, my Uncle Howard was standing on a ladder picking cherries out of tree on his farm. After what seemed like a long time, he looked in his bucket to find that he had barely covered the bottom. He called out to his wife, "How much does a jar of cherries cost at the grocey store."

"Oh, about fifty or sixty cents."

To my knowledge, that bucket and that ladder are still sitting forlorn in that same tree.

If you have to do that much to juice something, you first need to consider just getting concentrated orange juice (which Consumer Reports claims tastes better anyway) need to act as incompetent as possible when doing the juicing, thereby triggering that inherent female gene known as "Oh, I'd be better off doing it myself!"

My wife, bless her heart, has such an overdose of this genetic "flaw" that she washes the dishes, fusses when I wash the clothes, make the bed, or what have you. Why, if I can't do it up to her exacting standard, she'll do it herself.

Fine by me. It DOES get done better than if I'd have done it...and I don't have to do it.

And they think women are smarter than men--ha!



Ah, I need to teach your wife the fine art of perfecting the hapless husband. With a husband and three boys, the oh, I just make a mess of it ploy just can't cut it with me.

I comment and cajole until a basic minimum standard is met. And then I decide I'm happy with the basic minimum.

When the boys were little, Daddy was in charge of bathtime. I found it was much easier not to watch that. They ended up alive, clean and happy, without any obvious dirt left behind, so I could be happy not watching how it happened. Certainly happier than either of us with me standing by making "helpful" remarks.


In a blunt answer to your question, at least all of them.


If you can call this a household activity - the bedtime preparations for our child. If there's only one of use, everything goes smooth. If the two parents want to cooperate, all kinds of problems pop up (like child escaping to other parent to brush tooth, etc).

Brian Salerni

I would have to go with deciding what to watch on TV. Unless both parties are excited for a particular show, this can get ugly. My girlfriend and I constantly bicker back and forth about the channels either of us stop on.

In the name of efficiency a device should be created, similar to Pandora radio, in which all the viewers can put their interests via remote control. That was the show is generated based on the group consensus and bickering can get thrown out the window...maybe...


I think the real issue is that you guys just needed to up production. You had a good amount of human capital, a nice piece of physical capital, but very few raw ingrediants. If you're just making a couple glasses of OJ your wife might be able to do all the prep and juicing before you're ready with the first orange.

But if you had started juicing way more oranges (I'm thinking 50lbs or so) than as long as you're not actually slowing your wife down, you could contribute some percentage of the total labor, and with practice your efficientcy would improve as well!


that is an very inefficient squeezer you got there ... there are plenty where you don't need to take the orange apart before ...

Sarah Beth

My fiance occasionally enjoys playing sous chef, but he has no experience in the kitchen. I actually taught him how to boil water. We thoroughly enjoy our sous chef evenings together--he is amazed to see how the bell peppers become little squares--but we both understand that they will not be especially speedy or productive.


A lecturer of mine had a nice way of putting it...

"Some people just have a comparative advantage in leisure!"


Sometimes the 2nd cook makes it better, with new and interesting suggestions :)


there might be some positive externalities to the juice making process:

"Why Overcoming Challenges with Others Can Trick Your Brain into Bonding with Them"

I realise I'm classing making juice as a 'challenge'!!


It occurred to me that if you are trying to produce children, having a second person involved not only is necessary for success, but makes it much more enjoyable. In fact, some would claim that having three "cooks" further enhances things.

Yes, I am blushing. But you asked.

Enter your name

I suspect that it depends to some extent on the cooks. For example: no matter what is being baked, it's faster, easier, and more pleasant with my baby sister present in the kitchen. We've baked side by side for decades. Communication can be as minimal as a nod or a half phrase -- the sort of situation in which "Where's the" is really more than adequate. It's like having an extra copy of myself.

To give an example, a while ago we assembled a fairly large and fragile layer cake. Afterwards, my husband said, "You remember when you two picked up those cake layers and flipped them on top of the filling? Did you notice that you didn't talk about how you were going to do that, when you were turning them, which direction you were turning them, or anything else?" He's right: the only words that passed between us were "We're ready to stack these" and "Okay." Lifting and flipping each layer took less than 15 seconds. The real communication was done with our hands -- and over the last 25 years, so that we both knew what the other was thinking.

On the other hand, most sorts of computer configuration or debugging are best done solo. There's only one keyboard.