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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happiness Economics Says: Quit Your Job and Start Pickling

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 8:16 AM

Should you become a food artisan like Wholesome Bakery's Mandy Harper? - KIMBERLY SANDIE
  • Kimberly Sandie
  • Should you become a food artisan like Wholesome Bakery's Mandy Harper?

Every decade has its cult occupations, the subject of a million daydreams​ of the "I'm going to tell my boss to shove it and go [become a DJ / start catering / set up a used-book stall on the banks of the Seine]" variety. 

In San Francisco, at least, right now the fantasy job seems to involve fermenting saffron-fennel kraut to sell to thousands of appreciative aesthetes. The artisan-food movement has receive more than its share of mockery, and there's been some concern that newbie chocolatiers and pickle-makers are flooding a market that can't support them all. But one finance writer believes that artisan food makers aren't quixotic or doomed -- they're the future of the American economy.

Yesterday, in the New York Times, Adam Davidson wrote a piece defending small-scale, craft producers -- whether of pickles or rocketry propulsion housings -- as smart entrepreneurs. He writes:

...As other countries move into mass production, the United States, even in the depths of economic doldrums, has a level of wealth that translates to fewer people willing to do dreary, assembly-line work at extremely low wages. More significant, we're entering an era of hyperspecialization. Huge numbers of middle-class people are now able to make a living specializing in something they enjoy, including creating niche products for other middle-class people who have enough money to indulge in buying things like high-end beef jerky.

Davidson even cites happiness economics (can you think of a more American field of study?), which argues that so many of our basic needs are being met that we can afford to get paid less to do something we like better. 

So go ahead! Get some investors and kraut away. Not only are you increasing your happiness quotient, you're propping up an economy now dependent on mass-produced goods imported from China and Indonesia. 

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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