I looked at The Girlfriend and said, "Girlfriend!"
She said, "Yes, Boyfriend?"
"I have decided I like French nails!" I decreed.
"Really, why is that?" she asked.
"Because it goes well with your white lingerie numbers, plus they just look classy."
And sure enough within 48 hours she was downstairs with a French nail kit trying to do her own French nails.
While the operation to get my girlfriend to do something for me went smoothly, the same could not be said about her endeavor to do her own French nails. For not only had she never done them before, but doing one's own nails requires that one hand, by necessity, not be used. At best they came out "average." Lines not perfectly geometric, depth not perfectly uniform, the coating not perfectly applied, etc. But they were still cute and the fact she did it for me is all that really mattered. However, she was not personally satisfied with the results, and when the varnish and nail polish chipped and deteriorated away within 10 days, she went and had them professionally done.
I wasn't expecting anything much different, but when she returned the difference was jaw-dropping. The shine and sheen were perfect. The color spot on. And the craftsmanship in terms of precision and uniformity was obvious. The difference was blindingly obvious even to a boorish bachelor such as myself.
Curious as to how much this cost I said, "What did that set you back?"
And to my shock she said, "$30."
Immediately my SAEG(TM) mind went into action. The materiel The Girlfriend purchased to do her nails the first time was at least $10. Then a solid hour was spent doing them, followed by at least 20 minutes of incapacitation because she couldn't "touch anything" as they dried. But in what was no more than a 40 minute professional job, and for a mere $20 more in price she had far superior French nails when all was said and done.
But the amazing French nails did not stop amazing there. A full MONTH had passed and they were STILL in perfect shape, showing no signs of wear or chipping. And it is here my economic mind noticed just what testament to the powers of capitalism French nails were.
To simplify this important economic lesson we will do away with things like wage and opportunity cost (that will follow in the sequel to this post) and focus solely on the only unit of economic value - time.
The original outlay of time The Girlfriend had to spend on doing her own French nails was this:
26 minutes of labor earning the money to pay for the materiel
60 minutes actually doing the nails
20 minutes running around with a gay-esque hand pose as they dried
Total Investment - 106 minutes of life
The outlay of time needed to afford a pro to do her nails for her was this:
79 minutes of labor earning the money to pay the pro
40 minutes sitting time while her nails were done
0 minutes waiting for them to dry because they have an infrared drying device that cures the varnish
Total Investment - 119 minutes of life
However, while at first it may seem it's still better to "DIY," keep in mind when she did it herself, it only lasted 10 days. The professional job lasted three times that long. So assuming The Girlfriend would have to do her nails three times a month, the real effective costs are:
318 minutes (for a marginal job I might add) vs. 119 minutes for a professional job.
It is here we plainly see what is arguably the most important and powerful aspect of capitalism - the law of specialization. In allowing people to specialize in a trade or skill, not only do prices dramatically drop, but the quality of the goods and services dramatically increase. This increases people's purchasing power, as well as improves the quality of the goods and services we consume, increasing overall standards of living.
However there is a problem with specialization. It requires you be really good at something. It requires that you "excel" in something. And excellence is increasingly becoming a four-letter word in today's ever-more socialist society. And as society has decided to lash out, punish and tax excellence, it has ignorantly also lashed out, punished, and attacked one of the key engines of economic growth and human advancement.
The consequences of which are the topic of our next post.