This, for example, is bullshit…
Maybe, but I can’t see that you’ve earned this assertion by means of argument, at least not as presented here.
(1) People like yards.
Sure. And people also dislike their jobs, and like cheap fresh produce.
People also typically like gardening work more than their jobs up to some point of labor-intensiveness, after which they start liking gardening work a lot less.
Given all this, the question is one of trade-offs among alternative uses for land and labor — whether people’s desire for (say) maintaining a grassy yard as a consumption good is strong enough, on the margin, to outweigh the countervailing benefits of small-scale biointensive vegetable gardening on the same land and with the same labor-time.
No doubt this will in fact be different for different people: some people really like yards; other people really hate their jobs; etc. But of course Kevin is not suggesting that, given the choice, all workers will prefer to transform some marginal units of lawn into marginal units of a kitchen garden as a means of reducing work hours. Nor is he even claiming, in the passage quoted, that any workers will withdraw entirely from the wage system in favor of gardening. What he does suggest is that, given the choice, some (significant number of) workers will prefer to trade out some (significant amount of) marginal wage-work, yardwork and yard-land in favor of marginal increases in garden-work and garden land. Of course, it’s easy to throw around isolated bits of data about what people “like” and don’t “like” in the abstract without considerations about opportunity costs, substitute goods, or division of the stock into marginal units, but given that Kevin’s point was about people’s preferences over alternatives on the margin, I can’t see how that gets any serious economic work done by this kind of response.
You might then ask, “Well, why don’t they already do what Kevin suggests? Seems like people’s revealed preferences tell us all we need to know about the trade-offs involved.” Which would be true — (1) if decisions were being made under conditions of adequate information (so that there is no need for, say, “mutualist propaganda” to offer information to people currently dependent on wages for their food about available alternatives which they may not have known about), and (2) if those preferences were revealed in a free market, where (among other things) substitute goods aren’t subsidized by the government, the wage-system isn’t made artificially difficult to escape by government-imposed needs for ready cash on hand, research and dissemination of information aren’t artificially skewed towards the needs and interests of competing business models, necessary inputs (notably, a patch of land, space to compost, etc.) aren’t made artificially expensive by government price-fixing and government-imposed restrictions on use; etc.
But they aren’t.
(2) The claim that it’s cheaper for families to grow their own than to buy from a store amounts to a denial that there are gains from specialization plus a denial of economies of scale (a Carson specialty), …
Well, no, what it amounts to is a specific application of a denial that gains from specialization and economies of scale are (1) unlimited (2) homogeneous across all goods and all producers.
Whether the application is apt or not is something that depends on more data than you can get from a one-paragraph pull quote (and is something that Carson discusses at length throughout his work on questions relating to, e.g., cottage industry and home food production). But the principle being applied is that there’s an equilibrium point at which marginal gains from specialization are outweighed by marginal costs (transaction costs, heterogeneous preferences for marginal labor-time, etc.), and an equilibrium point at which marginal gains from economies of scale are outweighed by marginal costs of scale, and that this equilibrium point may be different for, say, low-wage service sector workers than it is for highly-paid professionals, and may also be different for tomatoes or chili peppers than it is for pickup trucks or jumbo jets. Remembering which is not “totally incompetent,” but rather a prerequisite for actually doing any kind of serious economics in the real world.
I’m pro-gardening, but I’m smart enough to know that my investment doesn’t begin to cover my opportunity cost.
Maybe the kind of gardening that you do, and the alternative uses of your time that you have in mind, are different from the kind of gardening that Kevin has done, and the alternative uses of his time that he has in mind.
Or maybe that’s a bad example because cars would not exist in freed markets because we’d travel attached to inexpensive homemade kites which the corporatist conspiracy has brainwashed us into believing are impossible!
Is this kind of rhetorical broadside at ridiculous cartoon versions of your interlocutor supposed to be funny?
Because it sure isn’t necessary to make the point you’re trying to make, and it’s also neither particularly fair nor particularly reliable as a way to get out a relevant response to the argument your interlocutor actually made,rather than other, different arguments that he didn’t make, but which you find easier to lampoon.