≡ Menu

Super Market

Here’s the heart of an e-mail of earlier today from my student Chris Mufarrige (link added):

I am currently walking through the newly opened Wegman’s near my house. WOW. I was thinking of you because if there was ever an example of uncaptured increases in wealth, Wegman’s would be it.

My fiancé is already yelling at me to stop emailing, but honestly one is a king when shopping here. Reminds me of a Matt Ridley video…

Chris is correct.  One of the unseen and unappreciated virtues of a modern market economy is that it arranges for each ordinary person to have working for him or her, every day, 24/7/365, hundreds of millions – literally hundreds of millions – of individuals spread around the globe.  Each and every ordinary American or Canadian or German or Dane or South Korean can command, with the income earned in just a few hours of work, a meal as tasty and as filling as could be enjoyed in the 16th or 17th century only by a monarch and his or her courtiers.  Indeed, many of the thousands of different meals readily available to an ordinary American spending just a few hours worth of income on products sold in a modern American supermarket are more nutritious than that monarch’s meal.  The modern American’s meal also is likely more tasty; and certainly that meal is made possible by a range of food choices that would have left the likes of Elizabeth I and Peter the Great apoplectic with envy.

In this way, as in countless others, market-driven innovative capitalism has made the lives of the vast majority of the denizens of the modern world far richer (and easier, more comfortable, and healthier) than were the lives of kings and queens and potentates of old.  These sovereigns of old each had working to serve his wants and whims at most only a few tens of thousands of different people.  But each of us ordinary moderns has working to serve our wants and whims us hundreds of millions (and on some occasions billions) of different people.

For those of you who doubt this claim, consider the house or building in which you live, equipped as it likely is with running hot and cold water, flush toilets, electric lighting, central heat and air-conditioning, an electric- or gas-powered range and oven, a hard roof and floor, and a refrigerator, freezer, and pantry stuffed with fresh and packaged foods from around the world.  Ponder the vast number of strangers whose efforts were spent to make these riches real for you.  And ponder here not only those strangers who, to make your lifestyle a reality, contributed their physical efforts (such as farmers, grocers, and electricians) but also those strangers who contributed their financial efforts (such as venture capitalists, bankers, and suppliers of insurance).  Hundreds of millions of people working daily to enrich your life.  Regal, isn’t it?


Next post:

Previous post: