BLACK & WHITE NEWS REEL NARRATOR Last time on Common Sense Soapbox, Bob to the Future! BOB You know what? This has inspired me! I’m going to become an enter-prenner, too! I’m going to start my own technology company! CHARLIE That’s great! But you’re going to need some startup money first. And I know some places that are hiring. BOB Hiring? Like, for a job? EXT. THE TACO MINES - DAY BOB, CHARLIE, and PENGUIN are standing in front of a big building with the the words "Taco Industries, Growing the Best Taco Meat in the Universe Since 2379" on the sign. There's also an alien guy with them. He's a classic big-eyed green/gray (ie. Paul or Kif Krokker). He's wearing a suit BOB Wow, Charlie... Thanks for getting me this job! CHARLIE No problem! I'd like to introduce you to my buddy, Steve. He runs this place. STEVE (speaking martian) Florkafloop bakka Bob. Steve shakes Bob's normal hand with his three long fingers. CHARLIE Ohhh, bakka floorkaflop! BOB Uh... CHARLIE Oh yeah, Steve just moved here. I'll stick around today to translate. BOB Whew. (turning to Steve) So, what am I gonna be doing here? STEVE Bop flookablip taco mot, makaboppa florkinbloop. CHARLIE (translating) Steve's sense of taste doesn't work the same way as ours does, so he needs you to supervise some robots and test the meat that they bring up from the mines. With your love of eating tacos and critical nature, you're a perfect fit! BOB I get to taste-test taco meat all day!? This future thing might not be so bad after all! (catching up) Wait a minute. Taco... Mines? SMASH CUT TO INT. UNDERGROUND TACO MINE - SUBTERRANEAN We see a wide, expansive shot of Taco Industries' flagship lab-grown meat mine. It's a deep cavern where stalactites of spicy, seasoned beef, chorizo, chicken, and al pastor pork hang from the ceiling of the cave. Robots are flying around, shaving off bits of meat and dropping them into buckets (ie. flying drones in Star Wars Ep. 2). They drop those buckets on conveyor belts taking shipments of meat up and out of the mines. At the back of the cave, we see a small structure with taste-test laboratory and management offices. Through a huge window, we can see BOB, PENGUIN & CHARLIE. Bob is working his first day in the taco mines. Charlie and Penguin are with him. BOB It’ll be haaaard work but once I’ve saved up enough money, I’ll be able to create my brilliant invention and get RICH! CUT TO: INT. TASTE TEST LAB - CONTINUOUS Inside the lab, Bob and Charlie are sitting at a long table with various hunks of meat, all carefully labeled at one end. Bob puts his feet up on the desk (not right next to the meat), already demonstrating how easy the job is going to be (while complaining, in typical Bob fashion, that he's working "hard"). Penguin sits at the computer screen in the background, tapping away at the keyboard -- he'll be the one actually doing the technical work of managing the robots. CHARLIE I’m happy for you! Charlie looks out the window at all the specialized activity. CHARLIE Isn’t it amazing that just producing one little thing like taco meat creates so many opportunities? BOB Yeah! Why is that, exactly? CHARLIE Well, because the more complicated and varied our economy gets, the more everybody starts to specialize! Everybody contributes their own unique skills to make great stuff like this. Division of labor is a beautiful thing! Bob takes a big bite out of a hunk of chorizo. BOB (savoring the meat) Mmmmmmm... I can't argue with that! CHARLIE In fact, one might even go so far as to say it’s the foundation of civilization. BOB That's a bit dramatic. CHARLIE Maybe... But without specialization, we couldn’t have one. BOB It seems kind of arbitrary, though... CHARLIE It’s anything but arbitrary! (Charlie points out the window) See those robots, over there? Each one is designed for a specific task, and because it can fulfill it better than the others, that’s what it focuses on! BOB But people aren’t robots, Charlie! CHARLIE Of course not! That's why we let people choose what they want to do! Penguin looks up from his typing in affirmation. He's wearing a hard hat now. PENGUIN Qwak! He goes back to clacking away at the keyboard. Boop beep. CHARLIE (acknowledging Penguin) That's right! Everybody has some skills and interests that nobody else has, and over time we all develop advantages for some kinds of jobs that other people don't have. BOB I guess. But what about people who are just starting out? CHARLIE Well... When people are inexperienced and don't have many skills, their comparative advantage is often to do jobs that don't require many skills. You know... Like rocket engineer. INSERT: Shot of a Homer Simpson-type oaf smashes a big red button and a rocket shoots up into the sky. Back to Charlie. CHARLIE In a healthy economy, our skills and interests play a huge part in the place we occupy in the workforce! BOB Ok... But what if you aren’t skilled at the things that you actually want to do? Should you have to do a job you don’t like? Why can’t everyone just do what they want instead? CHARLIE That sounds nice, Bob, but think about what that would really mean. Do you want to hire someone who doesn't know what they're doing just because they want the job? Would you buy tacos from a terrible cook? BOB Well... No... CHARLIE Look, we want to make sure everyone has as many opportunities as possible and that they're totally free to make their choices, but in a market economy it's the consumers who decide whether or not their work is actually good enough to pay for. BOB That makes sense. I suppose that means that people who do stuff they're really good at making things other people want are more likely to make money than people who just do whatever they want to do. CHARLIE Yep. And that's really the incentive we need to have if we want to have the right people doing jobs that create the most value for everybody. BOB So... People are more or less incentivized to take jobs based on how well that jobs allows them to serve others? CHARLIE Exactly! We all should be trying to do what we're best at, and let other people do the things they're best at. (changing gears) But this goes beyond individual people. BOB What do you mean? CHARLIE Entire nations - even whole planets - have their place in the division of labor. For example, we live in the taco capital of the world because of the giant taco mines Taco Industry scientists created here. INSERT: Some photos hanging on the wall show old-timey scientists and some news paper articles/headlines showing their big breakthroughs in taco technology. BOB Wow! I had no idea. CHARLIE It wouldn’t make sense for a country that’s great at growing lettuce and jalapenos but terrible at creating meat to try to do everything themselves. BOB So I guess they should focus on making great produce and buy their meat from us. CHARLIE That's right, Bob! That way everyone can have the best of both ingredients! BOB That sounds much more delicate and complicated than you’re letting on... CHARLIE It is delicate - this kind of complex trade requires a high degree of social cooperation. Today, billions of people participate in the market together, contributing their uniquely specialized skills. When that breaks down, everyone loses. The whistle robot blows. It looks like the bird from The Flintstones. The Penguin takes off his hard hat and packs up his briefcase. BOB Hah! The work days is OVER! Thanks for staying here and lecturing me on economics all day! CHARLIE No problem! By the way, here! WIDE We see Charlie, Bob, and Penguin (now looking like a fancy executive with a tie and briefcase. Charlie hands Bob a wrist-band like hers. When he puts it on, it goes "Ca-ching!". Bob got paid! BOB Paid already!? Time to start my own technology business! BLACK AND WHITE NEWS REEL NARRATOR: Next time on a very special Common Sense Soapbox… CLIP from Episode VII.

Common Sense Soapbox


About this show

Short videos with a punchy, comedic tone and entertaining Socratic characters taking on trending issues and important concepts from a classical liberal perspective, written & animated by Seamus Coughlin.

Bob Discovers the Key to Civilization

December 31, 2019

Bob gets a job as a taste-tester so he can get enough capital to start his own business, and learns that his skills at the company fill just some of the many valuable roles necessary to make the business work.

Division of labor and trade are critical to technological development and economic progress for whole civilizations and without it, people would still be stuck in the stone age.

Written by Seamus Coughlin, Jennifer Maffessanti, and Sean W. Malone
Animated by Seamus Coughlin
Edited by Sean W. Malone


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