Friday, January 20, 2006

My Time Machine is Broken

Yesterday, our dishwasher broke. Apparently, an olive pit was small enough to get into the mechanism but big enough to jam the impeller. The plastic piece that attaches to the motor had its threads stripped, and now the motor runs without impelling anything in particular. (Cheap plastic parts. But if the piece had been metal, would it had have burned out the motor instead of wearing out the piece?)

Now I am experiencing a taste of 1940s-era housework, before the miracle of 1950s major appliances. I am travelling back in time. I would prefer not too.

If I had my economist hat on, I would write a post about the effect of capital and technology on household productivity. I'm sure the effects are huge. I could cite literature that monetizes the effects. I could find out what choices the expanded household production possibilities frontier makes available, and see how home workers reallocate their time when capital washes the dishes instead of labor. (One answer: the price of using a clean dish goes down, so more dishes are used overall. Which is a bad idea when the dishwasher suddenly goes down.)

I would do all those things, but right now, my increasingly scarce labor needs to be allocated elsewhere.

Here is a tentative ordering of the most important household appliances:
1) Refrigerator
2) Dishwasher
3) Clothes washer/dryer (who wants to walk to a laundromat?)
4) Microwave (outdoor grill can substitute for range)
5) Air conditioner
6) Range
7) Vacuum cleaner

Maybe I'm missing some, or maybe they're in the wrong order. Perhaps I should asks my friends that are currently undergoing a kitchen/bath/shower renovation, and have nothing. Comments are open.

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