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How Many People Does It Really Take To Make A Pizza? Economics Says It's Way More Than You Think

Who doesn’t love to have a good pizza? Since its humble beginnings in Italy, the pizza has spread across the globe far and wide, becoming a staple in many American cities and a favorite dish for many Americans. Even I love to eat pizza — with toppings of course. A cheese pizza is just plain and boring.

But ask yourselves this: How many people does it take to make the pizza we hold so near and dear to our hearts? You’re probably guessing that it only takes one or two people. However, the answer couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The production of a pizza involves tons of people across different industries, jobs, and disciplines. Let’s think about the dough. First, you need the farmers who harvest the wheat. You also need the people who ship the wheat to the mill in order for it to be ground into flour. Next, you need the people who work at the mill to turn the wheat into flour. That’s already quite a bit of people, and the line doesn’t stop there. In order to make a pizza, we also need dairy farmers for the cheese, tomato farmers for the sauce, the people who turn the milk into cheese, chefs, the people who ship the ingredients to restaurants, and all the people who create the tools that are necessary for all of these processes, such as ovens, farming machinery, the equipment at the mills, and the vehicles used to ship the ingredients. All of these people have a role to play in creating a pizza, and they are bound together by a large, cooperative, and spontaneous group effort. Rather than a singular, cohesive group working together, think about it more like a large, interconnected web.

Making a pizza is way more complicated than people think.

But why do people participate in such a large, even global, group effort? It’s not because they particularly like pizza — instead, the primary motivation for these people is the money they earn from their wages. These people are motivated to do what they do because, at the end of the day, they get paid for it, allowing them to sustain themselves and purchase goods that they want. Therefore, this makes money the ultimate incentive.

Because money is the ultimate incentive, it creates spontaneous order and cooperation since we carry out our tasks to get paid, ultimately allowing other processes to be fulfilled. For example, a tomato farmer harvests tomatoes because he gets paid for it, allowing the chef at a restaurant to use the farmer’s tomatoes to make the sauce for a pizza; as a result, the chef also ends up being paid for his work. This sort of dynamic is known as the invisible hand, an economic theory that describes the forces of the market. According to this theory, many people work together out of their own self-interest (wages) to achieve something that was not their original intent (pizza). This is the driving force behind the free market.

Adam Smith: The man who introduced the concept of the invisible hand

Phew! Who knew making a pizza was so crazy? Maybe the next time you have a pizza, you can all appreciate the countless number of people who helped create the tasty meal before you, as well as the invisible hand that orchestrated it all — I know I will. I might not be so grateful, though, if I somehow find myself eating a cheese pizza — that’s just a sorry excuse for a pizza.


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