The Wonder of Economic Freedom
By David Henderson
I was reminded of this by Don Boudreaux’s latest. In it, he cites a nice short piece by Robert Higgs and a great comedy riff by Louis C.K. Listening to the comedy sketch reminded me of what I wrote in a chapter titled, “The Joy of Capitalism” in my book, The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey.
I’ll quote two passages:
Consider clothing. In 1960, when I was 10, we spent Christmas with another family. One of their daughters, Dru, a precocious 5-year-old who had a crush on me, chased me around their house until my pants split. So I walked home, changed pants, and returned. Dru chased me again and my second pair of pants split. I was out of options–two pairs of pants were all I had. Fast forward to today. When a newly married friend recently showed me proudly how neatly his wife had organized his clothes closet, I commented, “We are so incredibly wealthy.” He had 5 to 10 suits, about 20 nice shirts, and the same number of nice ties. Even a friend of mine whose income of under $15,000 put him just above the poverty level had 6 to 10 pairs of pants and about 20 shirts all neatly stacked or hanging in his closet. When I was a child, I had one pair of shoes and one pair of Converse sneakers. Now children, even those in lower income brackets, often have more than two pairs of shoes, and the shoes are of much higher quality.
Think of what we can do nowadays, even those of us with modest incomes. If we miss a movie when it’s in the theaters, we don’t have to wait, the way we used to, until either it comes around again (unlikely) or is shown, years later, on TV, interrupted by ads and missing some of the best parts courtesy of network “censors.” Instead, we can see the uncut version at our convenience on a video recorder that costs less than the earnings from three days of work at the minimum wage. We can rent the movie for a price that is often less than half of what we would have had to pay to see it on the big screen. I know we often take this for granted. One of the joys of capitalism is that we can take its awesome productivity for granted. But it’s good, every once in a while, to have some wonder about the many things that are wonderful. A lot of “wonder robbers” out there think it’s not “cool” to have wonder. But don’t ever let anyone rob you of your sense of wonder. If you’ve already lost it, here’s your chance to reclaim it.