Last night I was at a social event with some theatre friends. One person there is widely respected as by far the best tech person in theatre throughout the region -- knowledgeable, creative, industrious, and pleasant to work with. He is also quite possibly a better actor than I might ever hope to be.
I laughed that the only reason I have a role in the upcoming play "Mr. Richardson Was Jesse James,"* was because my friend is such a good tech person and will be doing tech work through the two-week period of the London Fringe Festival.
It's a clear example of what economists call "comparative advantage". He's a better actor and a better tech person than I am, but he can't do everything, so I get some opportunities. He's absolutely better than I am at both (economists call this an absolute advantage) but comparatively he's better at doing tech work. That's his comparative advantage. And my comparative advantage is at acting, even though he could well be a better actor than I am.
Scarcity of his time, means he must choose how to use his time; he can't do both acting and tech work. So he chooses to do the one at which he has a comparative advantage. And so do I.
I know I'm not the best economist in the world, not the best writer, not the best actor, not the best horn player, not the best sportscaster, etc. But I have had comparative advantages in some of these things at various times in my life, meaning I've always been able to enjoy doing them. And as I age some more, it seems altogether reasonable that my comparative advantage will shift to something else.
And that's what trade and exchange are all about -- exploring and adapting to shifting comparative advantages.
*"Mr. Richardson was Jesse James", a play about the summer Jesse James may have spent in Princeton, Ontario.
London Fringe Festival
SHOW DATES AT THE PALACE THEATRE:
Wed June 1st: 6:30pm
Fri June 3rd: 8:00pm
Sun June 5th: 1:30pm
Tues June 7th: 9:30pm
Thurs June 9th: 6:30pm
Sat June 11th: 2:00pm