We’ll start with a classic:

Two men are standing beside the road watching the new backhoe dig a hole. “Look at that. Think of how many men with shovels could be working if we didn’t have that thing,” says the first man. The second one says, “Hey, think of how many men with spoons could be working if we didn’t have the shovels!”

Take the following with a grain of salt, as I’m no Steven D. Levitt, nor a Malcolm Gladwell, and certainly not any Thomas L. Friedman.

I think that the One Laptop Per Child program, an initiative to get easy-to-use, open source personal computers to children around the world, has the potential to completely change the world’s economy for the better. As little economists, we’re all taught somehow or another that:

  • Tools have throughout human history multiplied our ability to accomplish tasks. Technological change is responsible for the majority of our economic advancement over our ancestors.
  • The most advanced tools to date (that don’t fly around in space or kill people) are computers, which create and distribute massive amounts of information worldwide, and allow people to create and organize that information in useful ways to increase productivity.
  • Specialization of Labor makes the members of a cooperative market more effective at creating wealth than the same number of people operating on their own.
  • A free labor market dictates the cost of labor in proportion to the need for that type of labor. Specialized skilled labor tends to be a non-commodity, and wages are higher for those working in specialized fields. This is why income and education are directly correlated.

See where I’m going with this? Become a software developer. Just kidding; you can already do that if you want to, or you may have already. (If so, congratulations.) The important thing is that we get more software developers, more graphic artists and writers and musicians and paper pushers and bean counters. Let’s let everyone have a computer to write instructions for and pay the ones who can do it in a useful capacity.