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Reflections on the Desert

I am attending this weekend a Liberty Fund conference organized by Andy Morriss, my co-blogger over at Market Correction.  This conference is held at the White Stallion Ranch near Tucson,  Arizona.

I’ve been to the desert southwest many times (although never in the Summer).  Each time I’m here I’m struck by its beauty and charm.  Part of what’s beautiful and charming, of course, is the landscape, weather, and flora and fauna.  For an east-coaster like me, saguaros remain quite exotic, as does the cloudless, cobalt-blue sky.  Equally exotic is the short-sleeve-shirt weather in February.

But at a deeper level it’s not just the natural beauty of the Arizona desert that is appealing; ultimately what makes today’s Arizona desert so appealing is that we humans have made it accessible and comfortable.

This desert, after all, is a place that receives precious little rainfall.  During the nights it gets quite cold and during the Summer days it gets scorchingly hot.  It has little natural shade, and almost no naturally arable land.  It’s not an environment naturally congenial for human habitation — and yet big cities thrive here and tourists flock here.

Air-conditioning, refrigeration, automobiles and 18-wheel trucks, harnessed electricity, irrigation technologies, screen doors, sun-screen, and countless other  bourgeois inventions — mostly products of the market-driven division of labor — make this desert not only habitable, but comfortable — so comfortable that it looks to us humans to be be a beautiful and wonderful place.  It would certainly not look, or be, that way to us if we were forced to live here without modern amenities.


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