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Monday, November 2, 2009

Sustainability: The Path to Poverty

Author and economist Steven Landsburg examines the case of the $10,000 suit.
Here’s a lovely suit of clothes that can be had for, oh, about $10,000. It’s the result of a project conceived by Drexel University instructor Kelly Cobb to make a man’s suit entirely from materials produced within 100 miles of her home. According to an article by Paul Adams in Wired magazine, the suit was produced by a team of 20 artisans, requiring a total of 500 man-hours.

Let’s see, that’s 500 hours of skilled or semi-skilled labor by artisans whose time is probably worth something on the order of $20 an hour. For about $10,000 I can have one made for you.
Landsburg adds that the project couldn't find 8% of the materials with 100 miles, but estimates they could have done so, and it would only have taken them a year and a half. More evidence that self-sufficiency, or sustainability, or whatever catchphrase you want to use to discourage the free exchange of goods and services, is the path to poverty. Landsburg also wrote the landmark Armchair Economist, which helped spark the Freakonomics wave of readable economics books.

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