28 Sep 2015

The $1500 Six-Month Sandwich


Chelsea German, at Cato, points to a demonstration of the argument for division of labor through marketplace exchange first advanced by Adam Smith:

What would life be like without exchange or trade? Recently, a man decided to make a sandwich from scratch. He grew the vegetables, gathered salt from seawater, milked a cow, turned the milk into cheese, pickled a cucumber in a jar, ground his own flour from wheat to make the bread, collected his own honey, and personally killed a chicken for its meat. This month, he published the results of his endeavor in an enlightening video: making a sandwich entirely by himself cost him 6 months of his life and set him back $1,500.

(It should be noted that he used air transportation to get to the ocean to gather salt. If he had taken it upon himself to learn to build and fly a plane, then his endeavor would have proved impossible).

The inefficiency of making even something as humble as a sandwich by oneself, without the benefits of market exchange, is simply mind-boggling. There was a time when everyone grew their own food and made their own clothes. It was a time of unimaginable poverty and labor without rest.

Via the Wall Street Journal.

3 Feedbacks on "The $1500 Six-Month Sandwich"


This is sort of misleading. He didn’t make “a” Sandwich. The production most likely produced enough for many sandwiches and those of us who continue to “grow our own” understand the fallacy presented here.

Not being able to go past this simple fact, the rest of the information should be taken with a grain of salt.


Shoulda gone with some wild critter for the meat. It may be cheating to use a domestic chicken. Hmmm, maybe it’s cheating to use any products of technology at all. How much could one accomplish starting naked in the forest with no help from anyone else? My first guess is that one could accomplish starvation.


I grew up poor and I believe the correct example the author was looking for was that in this situation a person makes a meal/sandwich out of whatever is available. We had some odd meals as a kid before food stamps and welfare. Potatoes and cabbage was common and meatless sandwiches too.


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