How We Create the Wealth of Nations
Chapter 16: Consumption and the Home
In this chapter, we simply survey some of the forms of common innovation that are found in the home. This is not an exhaustive list, and does not need to be, for I am sure that the reader can fill in the gaps for him/herself. COMMON INNOVATION IN THE KITCHEN A good place to start a discussion of common innovation is in the domestic kitchen. One of the simplest and most common forms of common innovation is found there. The subtitle of Valerio’s (1988) cook-book captures this perfectly: I piatti ricchi della cucina povera.1 The creative but impecunious cook turns ordinary and inexpensive ingredients into a delicious and nutritious meal. Note that it is the common innovation of the cook in the domestic kitchen that adds this value – not the investments of agribusiness, nor the innovations of the food industry, nor the innovation of the supermarkets. This does not in the least deny the importance of high quality raw materials. Nor does it deny that there are innovations in the food supply chain. Nor does it deny that ‘rich dishes’ can also be created by professional cooks in restaurants. And nor does it deny that the domestic cook may be guided by recipes from cook-books, television programmes, and so on. While this example is good place to start, some may think this is utterly trivial.2 Certainly, if we compare the innovative effort expended in a single domestic kitchen with the innovative effort involved in creating a new generation of personal computer or a new generation of airliner, then the former does seem very modest indeed. But that is not the appropriate calculation: it ranks innovations in terms of their technological complexity and cost, rather than their contribution to R-wealth creation.
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