13 4 mins 10 yrs

Truly, Waitrose is the place where miracles happen. You see, dear reader, I have this evening seen and done things of which most humans who ever lived could not have even conceived.

I drove to the supermarket and returned with hams from Germany and Italy, English bacon (hey, I loves me some pig), a cucumber, garlic and onions from Spain, Italian cheese, fish from Scotland, mushrooms from Ireland, French butter, Italian olive oil, Kentish tomatoes, UK blueberries and Greek yoghurt.

As Leonard Read so memorably explained, I have peacefully traded with uncountable numbers of people across time and space. I have benefited from the enlightened self-interest of scientists, engineers, mechanics, oilmen, farmers, drivers, nutritionists, pickers, stackers, builders, labourers and people in many more jobs I don’t even know exist. I have done all of these things for a few quid. (Imagine how many more miracles we can achieve without government inflation!) So tonight I have traveled faster than most humans could have imagined possible and will eat better than the pharaohs and emperors.

Leonard Read describes the miracle of a humble pencil and the mystery of how it comes into being:

“There is a fact still more astounding: the absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred […]

I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree […]

Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for instance, as the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by men acting freely. And here is the reason: Each one acknowledges that he himself doesn’t know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation’s mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. Now, in the absence of faith in free people—in the unawareness that millions of tiny know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to satisfy this necessity—the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental “master-minding.”

Well he should see what’s in my carrier bag. It’d knock his socks off.

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  1. Interesting little piece, we are truly blessed to live in the age we do.
    The world functions not because of the political classes, but in spite of them.

  2. Thank you for proving my point Pete, as you love to do!

    The miracle you speak is a miracle of the mixed economy, the only one that is any good.

    You benefited both from the forces of capitalist competition, and from regulation.

    UK and EU fair trade / antimonopoly and pure food laws, as well perhaps as those from other lands. The next time you see a regulator, thank him for his or her part in this miracle.

    Buy some American products when you see them too. Gotta get the economy going.

  3. I had flu over Chrustmas (and my birthday last March :(. ). My first attempt at solids was Boxing Day. So I had a trip to Sainsburys – not as upmarket as Waitrose.

    I’m not sure where my roast pork crackling joint, potatoes, sprouts, celery and butternut squash all came from but I know where it’s gong! 🙂

  4. Phantom: are you intentionally misinterpreting Milton Friedman’s economic principle expressed in Pete’s post?

    The miracle of the pencil is the miracle of “enlightened self-interest,” that is to say that perceived value per individual is the regulator of the market, not government.

  5. I don’t refer to Uncle Miltie here, though I’m know that he was a clever lad.

    I speak of the world we live in, where Pete and I benefit from laws and agencies that aim to a market where tainted food is not in the market. Thats good for all of us consumers, and it ultimately is good for the market itself.

    If I duck into a bodega some night for a can of Goya coconut juice ( I really drink that stuff ) I don’t know the guy who picked the coconut, those who shipped it here, or the practices of the bodega owner. I count on the evil US and NYC governments to keep things to a good standard, and they do just that for me, and us.

    Same deal when I am in Los Angeles, where for example thy do a good job at monitoring cleanliness in restaurants. It acts to promote trade.

  6. Buy some American products when you see them too. Gotta get the economy going.

    For sure – if it weren’t for the ‘consumer’ buying things he doesn’t need with money he doesn’t have, just how bad would things be?

  7. “..Same deal when I am in Los Angeles, where for example thy do a good job at monitoring cleanliness in restaurants.”

    Are you saying that we were too stupid to figure out restaurant quality in the days of yore, before the government in LA put large letter grades on every restaurant window after being paid a fee? lol!

    That said, I’d welcome some letter grades on government- run schools in Los Angeles. I think grading the government-run schools might shame them into delivering some quality rather than lining feather nests.

    This is where “enlightened self interest” would be most welcome. Parents should be able to choose their own schools without government choosing for them. Do you realize how quickly under-par schools would close if individuals were allowed to exercise choice?

    Just as pencils that break too easily or do not write well are tossed so would schools be tossed and replaced. …..without your Dearly Beloved Government mucking up the works.

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