Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Adam Smith & My Supper

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.

Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol 1, 1776

Adam Smith was the father of modern economics and the first proponent of free market, laissez-faire capitalism. He promoted free trade as the world, then experiencing its first massive expansion in wealth as a result of global trade, began to move from mercantilism towards something approaching his vision. So what does that have to do with my supper?

I just had a quite filling repast -- fresh green beans and a bit of diced sweet onion cooked with a slice of bacon, marinated in the bacon fat, then spiced with cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, and black pepper, all washed down with a cup of tea flavored with lime juice and heather honey. Delicious, filling, and . . . only possible because of globalism, capitalism and trade.

The only thing local was the sweet onion. From whence did all else come?

Green beans - shipped fresh from somewhere in Central America

Bacon - probably Virginia

Cayenne Pepper - probably Mexico

Black Pepper - probably India

Paprika - probably south central Europe or perhaps Turkey

Salt - probably Minnesota, with its huge salt mines

Green Tea - China

Lime Juice - Florida

Heather Honey - Scotland

All of the above came in containers made variously of glass, plastic, cardboard and metals from all over the world.

All came to a store near me by transport using fossil fuels.

All of that allowed me to make a meal that probably cost me about $1.25 to make. And the thing of it is, the price could have been far cheaper were not our band of capitalism still stunted by cronyism, protectionism and over regulation.

All of the people involved in bringing the supper to my table tonight did so out of their own enlightened self interest. And I bought all of the things that went into my supper not out of any feeling of benevolence towards the sellers, but out of my own self interest and with trust in the quality of goods from each supplier / producer.

Aren't global trade and capitalism wonderful things? As Ayn Rand once wrote:

Capitalism has been called a system of greed — yet it is the system that raised the standard of living of its poorest citizens to heights no collectivist system has ever begun to equal, and no tribal gang can conceive of.

So tonight, as I enjoy a simple, cheap and fine supper, I wonder what the masses are having in the socialist bastion of Venezuela? Or for that matter, what the deeply misguided and hypocritical Occupy protest veterans are dining on?

For anyone who needs a refresher in capitalism, there is no finer reference than Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and purchase a copy.

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