Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Connectedness of Individuals

Will Wilkinson has a piece berating Barack Obama’s recent commencement address at Knox College that included an excellent point illustrating how the modern market economy, rather than being a cacophony of individuals all battling out for their share, is really one where we are intensely interconnected and dependent on one another:

To provide citizens with a bigger stake in the market through ownership is to integrate them more fully
into a web of mutual support that is vastly more intricate and organic than the pattern of government transfers could ever be. People in societies like ours, who grow none of our own food, make none of our own clothes, and would not know how to build shelter if our lives depended on it, are truly "in this together."

The level of implied and unspoken trust we put in our fellow human beings in modern society is indeed staggering. Most of us are dependent on other people for almost ALL the basic necessities of life, yet few of us really have substantial worries about whether or not we will be able to find food and shelter. As Wilkinson notes:

Market societies -- ownership societies -- are wealthy because they rely on and reinforce a high level of social trust and norms of cooperation.

And what’s incredible about it all is that all (or at least most) of the cooperation we observe in our society is purely voluntary. Mutually beneficial trade - it really works.

Incidentally, this also brings up the question: who would you have more faith in bringing you a reliable and interesting food supply – individuals and private corporations like we have now, or the government?


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