Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks for Capitalism, The Invisible Hand, the Miracle of the Free Market and No Turkey Czar

You probably didn't call your local supermarket ahead of time and order your Thanksgiving turkey this year, did you? Why not? Because you automatically assumed that a turkey would be there when you showed up, and it probably was there when you showed up "unannounced" at the grocery store to select your bird.

And the reason your Thanksgiving turkey was waiting for you? Because of "spontaneous order," "self-interest," and the "invisible hand" of the free market - "the mysterious power that leads innumerable people, each working for his own gain, to promote ends that benefit many." Even if turkeys appear in grocery stores every Thanksgiving only because of the "selfish greed" or "corporate greed" of turkey farmers and/or supermarkets, it sure works for me.

In a 2003 Boston Globe column titled "Giving Thanks for Capitalism" (available only in the paid archives) Jeff Jacoby explains below why he is thankful for the miracle of the invisible hand that makes turkeys automatically available so efficiently at Thanksgiving:

"The activities of countless people over the course of many months had to be intricately choreographed and precisely timed, so that when you showed up to buy a fresh Thanksgiving turkey, there would be one -- or more likely, a few dozen -- waiting. The level of coordination that was required to pull it off is mind-boggling. But what is even more mind-boggling is this: No one coordinated it.

No turkey czar sat in a command post somewhere, consulting a master plan and issuing orders. No one forced people to cooperate for your benefit. And yet they did cooperate. When you arrived at the supermarket, your turkey was there. You didn't have to do anything but show up to buy it. If that isn't a miracle, what should we call it?

Adam Smith called it "the invisible hand" -- the mysterious power that leads innumerable people, each working for his own gain, to promote ends that benefit many. Out of the seeming chaos of millions of uncoordinated private transactions emerges the spontaneous order of the market. Free human beings freely interact, and the result is an array of goods and services more immense than the human mind can comprehend. No dictator, no bureaucracy, no supercomputer plans it in advance. Indeed, the more an economy *is* planned, the more it is plagued by shortages, dislocation, and failure."

It is commonplace to speak of seeing God's signature in the intricacy of a spider's web or the animation of a beehive. But they pale in comparison to the kaleidoscopic energy and productivity of the free market. If it is a blessing from Heaven when seeds are transformed into grain, how much more of a blessing is it when our private, voluntary exchanges are transformed - without our ever intending it - into prosperity, innovation, and growth?

As economist Steven Landsburg wrote in "Armchair Economics" about the invisible hand: "It is something of a miracle that individual selfish decisions lead to collectively efficient outcomes."

23 Comments:

At 11/26/2008 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US doesn't have free markets. Maybe you didn't get the memo.

 
At 11/26/2008 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the people that didn't earn enough money to be able to afford a delightful turkey this year because they lost their job at GM? There is no incentive to help them, so screw them right? Thank God for this remarkable capitalism where people only produce for incentives.

 
At 11/26/2008 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"where people only produce for incentives"

like government employees who produce nothing - but demand gold plated wages and benefits.

right.

you're an idiot.

 
At 11/26/2008 11:11 AM, Blogger The Daily Pander said...

Anonymous:

Without capitalism there never would have been a GM from which to have been laid off in the first place. Moreover, without capitalism the ensuing scarcity would make virtually EVERYONE turkeyless tomorrow. If one wants more turkeys, one wants more capitalism (with a side dish of government to deliver turkeys to those who, through no fault of their own, can't get turkeys).

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!!

http://rightsideproject.blogspot.com

 
At 11/26/2008 11:26 AM, Anonymous Fred said...

Sometimes that invisible hand gives you a slap upside the head.

I worked for American Motors in the mid 70's when they disintegrated. I found other jobs and careers in the intervening years. I'm doing fine, thank you.

One of my friends, now gone and missed, was a Dakota. She had a few words for people who by choice were stuck on the reservation. She said, "I'm sorry, the buffalo are gone."

For GM employees, too, an old way of life is gone and won't be coming back.

 
At 11/26/2008 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well at least the Daily Pander wasn't a complete ass about relaying his message. Can't say the same for Anon 11:08, though. I hope you choke on you turkey.

 
At 11/26/2008 11:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and what about the mentally disabled? No incentive to helping them... screw them! Have to love this capitalism. Oh and orphans should proabably just die in the street, they don't gain incentives for anyone either.

 
At 11/26/2008 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

National Review, Jan 22, 1990 by Bennett Owen
Excerpt…
And Grandpa provides yet another piece of political humor - the six miracles of socialism:
- There is no unemployment, but no one works.
- No one works, but everyone gets paid.
- Everyone gets paid, but there's nothing to buy with the money.
- No one can buy anything, but everyone owns everything.
- Everyone owns everything, but no one is satisfied.
- No one is satisfied, but 99 per cent of the people vote for the system.

 
At 11/26/2008 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 11:26

choke on their turkey?

so it's "do as i say, not as i do"

typical crap from a whiner

 
At 11/26/2008 11:53 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

Anonymous 11:38

That is very good.

Do you have a link to the entire article?

 
At 11/26/2008 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 90% of Americans who have seen their real wages being stagnant since the 90's are also feeling thankful.Income inequality in America is the second highest in the world under Brasil.The 1% of Americans receive 22% of income and top 10% almost 50% the highest since 1929.Social mobility is at its lowest level for two generations and much lower than European countries like Sweden.The golden era of trickle down economics is over.Conservative superich must understand that and prepare for the storm.Anglo Saxon model has gone bust...

 
At 11/26/2008 4:14 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

Do socialists have anything to be thankful for? As far as I can tell, if they are thankful creatures they hide it pretty well.

So, what say you, my socialist friends? What are you thankful for?

 
At 11/26/2008 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Socialist are thankful that capitalists produce things they can steal and then redistribute

 
At 11/26/2008 6:09 PM, Blogger Jack McHugh said...

And if you want a pencil to write down Aunt Jean's recipe for pecan/candied yams soufle', capitalism will provide that too, also with no pencil czar needed.

 
At 11/26/2008 9:41 PM, Anonymous Ralph Short said...

Basically, voters for socialists or marxists are the weak, lazy, stupid and the fearful. The leaders of course are just the power seekers and panderers of that group of people.

Anonymous 10:58 am, maybe they should have saved up enough at 75 bucks an hour to buy a turkey. And, if they have good skills and if GM goes down, they might even get a job so they can afford a turkey next year too.

I agree with Anonymous 11.08, you are an idiot.

 
At 11/26/2008 11:03 PM, Anonymous poor boomer said...

Actually, I didn't call my local supermarket and order a Thanksgiving turkey because I can't afford one.

I can't afford a turkey because I'm paying two-thirds of my income to rent a room in a house with nine people.

Why am I paying so much for housing and so little for food?

Because we have a free market in food but not a free market in housing.

 
At 11/26/2008 11:06 PM, Anonymous poor boomer said...

Anonymous said:

What about the people that didn't earn enough money to be able to afford a delightful turkey this year because they lost their job at GM?
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I would say it's their own damn fault for not having saved for a rainy day when they were making a pile of money at GM.

If I had had HALF their compensation I'd be wealthy today. So it's very difficult for me to feel sorry for them.

 
At 11/26/2008 11:13 PM, Anonymous poor boomer said...

Ralph Short said:

Basically, voters for socialists or marxists are the weak, lazy, stupid and the fearful. The leaders of course are just the power seekers and panderers of that group of people.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Just curious, who do people who work hard for minimum wage vote for?

Who SHOULD they vote for?

 
At 11/27/2008 4:12 AM, Blogger 1 said...

"The US doesn't have free markets"...

Thanks to liberal Democrats... Did you send them a card thanking them for the condition?

"What about the people that didn't earn enough money to be able to afford a delightful turkey this year because they lost their job at GM?"...

Well here's your chance loser to shell out some of YOUR money and buy a turkey for your fellow loser...

"The 90% of Americans who have seen their real wages being stagnant since the 90's are also feeling thankful"...

Hmmm, according to which credible source or are you making it up as you go along?

poor boomer whines: "Actually, I didn't call my local supermarket and order a Thanksgiving turkey because I can't afford one"...

That's because you are a loser who's made to many stupid decisions in life to afford a turkey...

Try some dumpster diving out behind your local Denny's...

"Just curious, who do people who work hard for minimum wage vote for?"...

Losers like themselves...

 
At 11/27/2008 6:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 90% of Americans who have seen their real wages being stagnant since the 90's are also feeling thankful"...

You can just google it.Even using the higly unreliable CPI which underestimates real inflation real wages have been stagnant.What has increased is debt as a percentage of disposable income.Supply siders and stupid conservatives think that inflation is growth household saving rate at 0% is good as people invest their money instead of keeping them in a bank debt and leverage is good as it increases return on capital. Corporate profits have peaked income inequality has peaked the amazing excesses of the new superich are over.Save capitalism from capitalists and conservatives

 
At 11/28/2008 3:48 AM, Anonymous poor boomer said...

1 said:

poor boomer whines: "Actually, I didn't call my local supermarket and order a Thanksgiving turkey because I can't afford one"...

That's because you are a loser who's made to many stupid decisions in life to afford a turkey...
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^6

Okay, wise one, tell us some of these "so many stupid decisions" I have made.

I stayed in school, I got excellent grades, I never did crime or drugs or any of the other "culture of poverty" things.

 
At 11/28/2008 3:53 AM, Anonymous poor boomer said...

1 said:

"Just curious, who do people who work hard for minimum wage vote for?"...

Losers like themselves...
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Alas, I've been voting overwhelmingly Republican the last ten years (voted Libertarian before that) and none of them got elected.

Should I vote Democrat? They get elected but don't seem to do much good.

 
At 12/01/2008 4:41 PM, Blogger flintcitylimit said...

Capitalist turkeys are full of hormones and a 3 percent solution of basting solution--probably salt and lard. I like those free-range heritage turkeys raised on communal farms in Vermont. . .but I didn't make the wonderful choice in life to order one in time. Life is just full of choices to the conservative mindset, isn't it.

 

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