Freedom Discussions

The Calling: The Everyday Marvels of the Market

from FFF

CapitAlismThose of us who live in largely market-based economies can too easily take for granted what we might call the everyday marvels of the market. We find ourselves with things that would have amazed and mystified people just a couple of generations ago. If we think of the marvels the market delivers, we normally think of technology, but fancy technology is hardly the only everyday marvel, or even the most important.

Even the most basic of human wants reveals these marvels. A simple trip through the grocery store in even the smallest of towns reveals a variety of fruits and vegetables that goes far beyond what was there even a generation ago in anywhere but the fanciest supermarkets in wealthy neighborhoods. Items I never even heard of as a child are commonplace in rural America. More miraculous is that these items are available in the dead of winter, having traveled in some cases thousands of miles to get there. Few of our ancestors, even 60 or 70 years ago, would have had access to that variety in the middle of winter.

Of course Leonard Read’s “I, Pencil” (and the marvelous video version recently released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute) points to the marvel of the undesigned order of the marketplace, and the power of the story comes from the fact that the object of the narrative is so commonplace.

Perhaps it’s because so many of these marvels are in the form of everyday objects that it is so easy for people to overlook how amazing they are. The processes that make these marvels possible result from step-by-step learning in the marketplace. But just as historians tend to focus on larger-than-life figures — unfortunately, mostly politicians and warmongers — so do we tend to see economic progress in the form of the big technological advances, whether it’s space flight or the latest advance in computers. In reality, both history and economic progress are the story of accumulating small changes — everyday marvels that add up to a transformation of human society.

I spent part of a meeting earlier this week seeing a demonstration of a new student desk that my university is buying for a number of classrooms. In some ways the classroom desk is a simple bit of technology, and if one were looking only at the big picture, classroom desks might not seem to have changed much over time. However, this desk is a marvel of engineering and, more important, consumer-friendliness. After all, humans and their classroom needs have changed.

The desk part of this chair-desk combo is much bigger than older ones, which makes sense since it now has to hold laptops and other electronic devices. The chair is bigger too, reflecting the larger size of the average college student. The desk connects to the chair with a metal pipe that enables the desk to rotate easily from right to left. The desk can also be rotated behind the chair and used as a shelf. The whole thing is on casters so that it can be moved easily around the classroom; and when the desk is joined with three others, they make a 2×2 table for four. The unit also has two cup holders on either side, much like seats in a car, and the chair comes in an upholstered version. It has everything but seat warmers!

This desk is not a great leap forward in technology. It’s made with materials that have been around for a long time. Compared to earlier desks, it simply has a few changed features that better serve the needs of current users. But those “simple changes” illustrate another everyday marvel we overlook too easily: the market provides people with the knowledge and incentives to discover and implement the small changes that add up to everyday marvels.

And those everyday marvels indeed add up. As the economic historian Deirdre McCloskey argues, on the low end humanity is 119 times wealthier today than it was 200 years ago. Humanity on average consumes 8.5 times as much and lives twice as many years as adults. Plus, there are seven times as many of us. Multiply that through and we have 119 times more adult-years of consumption than 200 years ago. That’s not 119 percent, but a factor of 119, or an increase of 11,800 percent. That’s what lots of little bits of progress can add up to.

So don’t overlook the everyday marvels and the little bits of progress that we can too easily take for granted. They are the real power of the market, and when you add them all up, you get the amazing story of human progress.


Militant Libertarian

Site owner, philosopher, certified genius, and general pain in the establishment's ass.

1 Comment

John and Dagny Galt

Whew, where to begin.
(Some search-terms added for your convenience)

We do not live in any resemblance of a market-based economy.

Imagine, if you dare, to consider the mind-blowing possibilities were there to actually be Freed-Markets.

Unshackle your mind and let’s begin.

Imagine totally Voluntaryist, Freed-Market Agorism.

Imagine unfettered barter/exchange/trade.

Imagine using the trade-lubricant(exchange-medium/money/currency) of your choice.
Search-terms: wiki money, medium of exchange, unit of value, fiat, intrinsic

Gold, Silver, Bitcoin, Egold, Liberty-Dollars, BerkShares, Ithaca-Hours, anything/everything.
Search-terms: wiki alternate currencies, local currencies, private currencies.

Imagine all participants being totally satisfied with each and every Voluntary transaction.

Imagine all exchanges began and ended without looters/bureaucrats/enforcers waiting under every rock to extract the highwayman’s toll, ounces of blood, pounds of flesh, dollars and cents, always your irreplaceable time at the very least.

What would your life be like if you weren’t blocked, tackled, and shackled at every turn/play/attempt?

How would your family differ? How would your home differ? Business(es)? Properties? Education? Recreation?


The author references grocery stores so you might wonder what would differ in the Freed-Market. We can jump in the Blue-Box with Dr. Who and travel back a brief 100 years for a perfect example. As you step out of the Box you’ll note the absence of drug-trafficking gang-violence as those substances are found on the grocer’s peaceful shelves.

Now we’ll take a sideways trip to an alternate-reality with the crew of Fringe where the Freed-Market exists and visit a grocer there. The grocer’s shelves hold a vast cornucopia of products/produce from across the planet. Perhaps more interesting to note are the reasonable prices on both locally-sourced items and those from across distance oceans and continents.

High-speed rail transports people, products, and produce at an incredibly low price per unit and per mile. These rails even connect continents and provide faster movement than cargo/passenger-ships and much more economical movement than cargo/passenger-aircraft.

All along the rails and roads are the people/homes/businesses/communities/etc that contribute to them and benefit from them. The railways and roadways are impeccably installed and maintained and many eyes keep constant watch over them. Security is of the highest caliber and vested in communities all along the routes.

Back to the article, the author references “I, Pencil” and indeed that commentary references so much that surrounds us. Further thought on the pencil asks just what about it might change in the Freed-Market? Who knows? Ideas? Anyone? Longer? More eraser? Different lead? Perhaps we might even ponder why the wood-wasting pencil even still exists since mechanical pencils save wood and last decades, even centuries.

Is a wooden pencil an entry-level-pencil? Since it is less-expensive than a mechanical pencil we don’t mind giving them away at times…or perhaps it isn’t as expensive to replace when someone walks away with one? Would more people choose mechanical pencils if EVERYONE completely respected and observed property-rights?

What other improvements might we imagine in a perfect climate of Life, Liberty, and Property with Peace, Prosperity, and Plenty in a world of Students and Advocates of the Philosophically-Mature Non-Aggression-Principle(NAP) aka Zero-Aggression-Philosophy(ZAP)?

Have we fried your noodle yet?

Moving on we focus on the “new student desk” referenced. Do we even need to go there? Some questions come to mind.

Who is paying for the desks? Who is using the desks? What happened to the desks currently in use? Are the desk users forced at threat-of-gunpoint to attend the location and use the desks? Are the humans present in some claimed/supposed geographical/physical region/jurisdiction forced at threat-of-gunpoint to pay for these desks? Are they forced to pay for buildings? Buses? Teachers? Janitors? Fuel for the buses?

Mary Ruwart does an EXCELLENT job in her works and you should definitely spend some time at www-her-last-name-dot-com.

Here is Gary North at The Tea Party Economist regarding the government gunpoint public indoctrination centers aka public schools and why they will and must go away.

So there you have it, the wonders and benefits that we HAVE observed IN-SPITE-OF the atrociously UNFREE marketplace!

There are a few core actions that would VASTLY change our landscape RAPIDLY and definitively for the betterment of all and these cannot happen soon enough for all humanity and our progeny.

Aggressively advance Voluntaryist Agorism in all avenues of life.

You can start making a REAL difference right-now/today/this-minute by using more GENERIC, ANONYMOUS, CASH.

You can pass out CDs, DVDs, thumb-drives, pamphlets, books, tapes, etc. with Freedom/Liberty/NAP/ZAP content.

Just sharing Mary Ruwart’s website with your contacts might be the tipping-point for the planetary revolution! How will/would you ever know? Who pushed the Free State Project past the tipping-point? What about NORFED/Liberty-Dollar? Ron Paul 2008/2012?

With respect to the millions of recent firearms purchases by those who might have spent that money on other, more necessary items…

How much did Ruby Ridge factor in?
How much did Waco factor in?
How about Kent State?
MOVE bombing?

What would Gandhi do?
What would Joe Stack do?
What would Jesus do?
What would Chris Dorner do?

Judge Andrew Napolitano?
Actor Wesley Snipes?
Angela Keaton?
Irwin Schiff?


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