Freakonomics: The $140 Scarf
Isn’t it puzzling that so many middle-aged Americans are spending so much of their time and money performing menial labors when they don’t have to?
Just as the radio and phonograph proved to be powerful substitutes for the piano, the forces of technology and capitalism have greatly eased the burden of feeding and clothing ourselves. So what’s with all the knitting, gardening and “cooking for fun”?
Why do some forms of menial labor survive as hobbies while others have been killed off? (For instance, we can’t think of a single person who, since the invention of the washing machine, practices “laundry for fun.”)
Why do knitting devotees buy $40 worth of yarn for a single scarf and then spend 10 hours knitting it? Even if her labor is valued at only $10 an hour, the scarf costs at least $140 — or roughly $100 more than a similar machine-made scarf might cost.
Read more here of the Freakonomics column in today's NY Times.