Kevin Brancato has this really good post on opportunity cost, in response to a tv segment he recently saw on whether performing household chores yourself is financially “worth it”.
This analysis made me cringe, not just because one cannot really separate the financial from any other aspect of value, but because the methodology used by the talking head assumed that each hour of human life has equivalent potential financial value–which is untrue for most of us.
How can any economist know enough about the specific lifestyles and work habits of people to tell them whether mowing their lawn–instead of hiring the neighborhood kid–makes financial sense? Anybody who makes any decision must take the particulars of his circumstance into account. It is the particulars that will decide each and every case. No formula or methodology can remove the need for specific data.
Amen, brother! Add to that comparative advantage and specialization, and the personal and subjective nature of assessing them, and you see why each individual is in the best position to evaluate whether or not it’s worth it. In a sense, what the commentator observed is what we called revealed preference — financial evaluations of the choices that we have made, and have thus determined are worth it by definition.
Although I must take some tongue-in-cheek umbrage with his moral, although my husband may not:
Moral: Don’t let economists tell you who should mow your lawn, or when to mow it–your wife should tell you that. If your wife is an economist, I empathize.