The Forgotten Daily Miracles of the Market
Don Boudreaux: It's become an article of faith among lots of people that recent events prove (or at least suggest) that markets don't work very well.
But the vast majority of market exchanges and relationships work smoothly and to the advantage of all participants. Indeed, the market works so well and so consistently that it creates ever-higher expectations among the broad populace. When these expectations are dashed, if only for a handful of persons and if only rarely, the market is deemed to have failed.
But despite the current downturn, the market continues to work well in its typical silence. Do you have trouble today finding gasoline to buy? Are your local supermarket's shelves not stocked with food, wine, and (watch for it soon!) Easter candy? If your cat eats your socks, will you have trouble buying several new pair? If your car's battery dies this afternoon, must you resort to bicycling or public transportation because you can't replace your dead battery? If you're bored this evening with nothing to do, is there no movie you can go to or no DVD you can rent? If you miss your mom in Minneapolis or your boyfriend in Boston, can you not call them on your cell-phone -- or even buy a plane ticket and go visit them?
Robert Higgs: I am writing this post on Sunday evening, and I have just finished my supper. For dessert, I had a fresh nectarine with vanilla ice cream. It was heavenly. The one I consumed this evening came close to perfection: It had just recently ripened fully and had gorgeous colors, inside and outside; its flesh was firm, yet juicy, very sweet, but with enough fruity tanginess that its taste still lingers lovingly on my tongue.
As I enjoyed this heaven-sent delight, I thought to myself: This fruit was grown in Chile. Here I sit, in my home in southeast Louisiana, in a rural area, fifty miles from the nearest big city. Yet I am enjoying the fruit (literally in this case) of someone’s labors in a land many thousands of miles away. It’s not the first time I’ve done so, either, and I fully expect to repeat this experience many times in the future, should fortune decree that my life continue. Indeed, this kind of consumption is a daily occurrence for me, as it is for nearly everyone else in this country.
Yet, how often do we pause to reflect on the near-miraculousness of this manner of living? Fresh fruits delivered in the middle of winter even to remote places all over this country! Who arranges this vast and complex distribution so successfully? How is it even possible to organize all the people who had to cooperate peacefully in order to make my splendid dessert possible. I have no idea who planted the fruit trees, tended them for years until they matured, picked the fruit, packaged and transported it through successive stages until it was ultimately placed on display in the grocery store I patronize. Of course, every one of these unknown people had to have the cooperation, directly or indirectly, of thousands of others, who manufactured the equipment and materials they used, produced the necessary fuels and lubricants, kept the accounts, insured the properties, arranged the payments, and so on and on and on.