When I think of the words division of labor, I harken back to my days as a child when my father would make a duty roster for all of us kids to follow. Each of us had different jobs on different days to be what he called “Fair”. As an economist I now know that this method is lunacy and madness. Because I was horrible at doing the laundry, and my sisters were horrible at doing the dishes, when it was our respective turns the dishes would turn out dirty and the laundry would be faded and wrinkled. If my father understood basic economical concepts such as comparative advantage and efficiency then he would know that allowing us to trade jobs as we saw fit would be in everyone’s best interest. I would be able to do the dishes and make them impeccable, while the laundry would be cleaned and pressed in half the time. This was not to be so, our dissatisfaction with our jobs was atrocious and it gave an incentive to just avoid doing the jobs we hated so much.
When I observe people grouping into areas of labor that they are best suited to I call that division of labor. The spontaneous act of self-interest to pursue ones comparative advantage is what drives this division and truly determines who should be doing what. When someone intervenes and tries to command the division of labor I believe this is dangerous and can upset the process of pursuing comparative advantages. Since it is through the time saved when capitalizing on comparative advantage that improves the standard of living, controlling the division of labor is going to diminish the overall standard of living by default. Since no one has the informational capabilities to understand another’s true comparative advantages then it makes sense that no human could ever accurately depict the needs of labor.
Just as my father, places like communist Russia and colonial India they made the mistake of trying to control the division of labor and suffered. Do not make the mistake of controlling a process which you do not comprehend or fully understand, the repercussions can be quite disastrous.