I am writing this post on Sunday evening, and I have just finished my supper. For dessert, I had a fresh nectarine with vanilla ice cream. It was heavenly.
Full disclosure: Even though I am extremely fond of many other kinds of fruit, and I do not think that life would be worth living without the banana as a staple of my diet, I regard the nectarine as the queen of the fruits.
The one I consumed this evening came close to perfection: It had just recently ripened fully and had gorgeous colors, inside and outside; its flesh was firm, yet juicy, very sweet, but with enough fruity tanginess that its taste still lingers lovingly on my tongue.
As I enjoyed this heaven-sent delight, I thought to myself: This fruit was grown in Chile. Here I sit, in my home in southeast Louisiana, in a rural area, fifty miles from the nearest big city. Yet I am enjoying the fruit (literally in this case) of someone’s labors in a land many thousands of miles away. It’s not the first time I’ve done so, either, and I fully expect to repeat this experience many times in the future, should fortune decree that my life continue. Indeed, this kind of consumption is a daily occurrence for me, as it is for nearly everyone else in this country.
Yet, how often do we pause to reflect on the near-miraculousness of this manner of living? Fresh fruits delivered in the middle of winter even to remote places all over this country! Who arranges this vast and complex distribution so successfully? How is it even possible to organize all the people who had to cooperate peacefully in order to make my splendid dessert possible. I have no idea who planted the fruit trees, tended them for years until they matured, picked the fruit, packaged and transported it through successive stages until it was ultimately placed on display in the grocery store I patronize. Of course, every one of these unknown people had to have the cooperation, directly or indirectly, of thousands of others, who manufactured the equipment and materials they used, produced the necessary fuels and lubricants, kept the accounts, insured the properties, arranged the payments, and so on and on and on.
Many of us have read Leonard Read’s little classic “I, Pencil.” A story much like that of Read’s pencil might well be told of millions of articles of commerce, which not only enrich our lives, but, given the billions of people now living on this planet, make possible life itself for the greater number of us.
So, this little celebration of the magnificent, unfathomably complex market process that made my dessert possible, I might well call “I, Nectarine.”
Oh, yes. For my divine nectarine, I paid, as I recall, about 60 cents.
This first appeared in The Beacon.
Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. He is also a columnist for LewRockwell.com. His most recent book is Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government. He is also the author of Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 and Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society.