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Production of Goods and Services, Specialization and the Division of Labor

gardening services, carpenters, economic system, electrical appliances, bankers

In earlier centuries, especially in frontier areas, families in the United States were much more self-sufficient, producing for themselves most of the goods and services they consumed. But as the U.S. population and economy grew, it became easier for people to buy more and more things in the marketplace. Once that happened, people faced a choice they still face today: In terms of time, money, and other things that they could do, is it less expensive to make something themselves or to let someone else produce it and buy it from them?

Over the years, most people and businesses realized that they could make better use of their time and resources by concentrating on one particular kind of work, rather than trying to produce for themselves all the items they want to consume. Most people now work in jobs where they do one kind of work; they are carpenters, bankers, cooks, mechanics, and so forth. Likewise, most businesses produce only certain kinds of goods or services, such as cars, tacos, or gardening services. This feature of production is known as specialization. A high degree of specialization is a key part of the economic system in the United States and all other industrialized economies. When businesses specialize, they focus on providing a particular product or type of product. For instance, some large companies produce only automobiles and trucks, or even special parts of cars and trucks, such as tires.

At almost all businesses, when goods and services are produced, labor is divided among workers, with different employees responsible for completing different tasks. This is known as division of labor. For example, the individual parts of cars and televisions are made by many different workers and then put together in an assembly line. Other well-known examples of this specialization and division of labor are seen in the production of computers and electrical appliances. But even kitchens in large restaurants have different chefs for different items, and professional workers such as doctors and dentists have also become more specialized during the past century.

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