Really wish I’d thought up that idea, but I’m not that insightful. Don Boudreaux makes that point in his post at Café Hayek: Everyday Millions of Strangers Are Working for You.
Here’s the question:
How much of what you eat, wear, drive, or use today did you make yourself?
For me, the answer is zero.
I didn’t make, grow, or construct anything I wear, eat, live in, or sit on.
For my father and his family the answer was a lot.
My grandparents raised all the vegetables they ate and slaughtered the animals (which they raised) that provided them daily protein. My grandma and aunts made most of the clothes the family wore and baked bread they made from scratch. My grandpa and uncles repaired everything that needed to be fixed and chopped the wood that heated the house and fired the oven.
On a cold winter day, the house got warm when grandma was up an hour or two before breakfast to get the oven fired up. I have a servant that fires up the furnace the moment that the temperature drops below the exact degree I specify.
The professor’s point is that there are millions of people who don’t know each other but are just trying to make a buck working together without realizing it to create every one of the items I eat, or wear, or use, or see inside my house during my daily life.
The change in the last 200 years
Prof. Boudreaux opens with an illustration of how radical the change has been in the last 200 years compared to the prior 2000. I’ll quote at length:
I’ve forgotten where I read the speculation that if Julius Caesar had been resurrected in 1795 and found himself walking with George Washington on the grounds of Mount Vernon and then with Lafayette in France, he would have regarded the late 18th century as reasonably fathomable. Obviously, he would have noticed changes from his own time – including, of course, the widespread use of gun powder. But the dominance of agriculture in the late 18th century would have made that era not terribly or radically unfamiliar to Caesar.
But then transport Caesar, Washington, and Lafayette to modern-day America and imagine their reactions: our world would be nearly unfathomable to them. Automobiles, jet planes, personal computers, television, space travel, electric lighting, air conditioning, telephony, refrigeration, indoor plumbing even for the poorest, anesthesia, antibiotics. All new. All marvelous.
As for me, I much prefer having millions of people working for me rather than doing mostly for myself. You can keep the ‘romance’ of ancient Rome or the farm my dad grew up on.
There’s no better time to be alive.