Once again the holiday season is here.
In all this hustle and bustle, it can be very easy to overlook many of the things we take for granted.
As I was out shopping on Black Friday, I began to reflect on what I was witnessing in the vast teeming throng. When you stop to think about it, what goes on is truly miraculous.
The day Black Friday itself is impressive.
No one ever declared the day after Thanksgiving to be a holiday, yet it is widely celebrated all over the country.
The government did not have to direct all of the nation’s retailers to have great deals and amazing giveaways, yet it happens and it happens on a vast nationwide scale.
And what takes place on this holiday called Black Friday that sets it apart from other holidays?
Firstly, it is very inclusive.
You don’t have to be a certain race or follow a certain creed. All you need to do is want to get great deals. It doesn’t matter what holiday you plan on celebrating or your religious belief.
People from all walks of life find themselves in close proximity and bump elbows with each other.
Compare this to most other holidays that are celebrated with one’s family in one’s own home.
There is nothing wrong with this, of course.
I, for one, love being in the privacy of my home celebrating things with family and loved ones but this is one of the few holidays where you must be out in public and with your fellow man in order to partake, but the impressive spontaneous order that has established Black Friday is nothing when you begin to reflect on what is actually going on.
Whenever you buy something at the checkout in the mall you are only the last in a huge line of voluntary interactions and exchanges that has resulted in the shirt or TV or iPod or whatever it is that you wish to purchase.
Thousands upon thousands of people have worked to make it possible for you to buy whatever you want to buy.
It is impossible to trace the long list of people involved in getting something on a shelf for you to choose in the department store.
Take a television, for example.
From the rare earth metals, likely from China or Mongolia, to the plastic on the surface, each component requires additional components to be produced in the first place.
Whether it was mining equipment to provide the various metals needed or massive oil rigs in the middle of the sea to provide oil to be refined for the various purposes for which it is required.
Once the television is assembled, there are still thousands of people involved in getting it from the factory to the store.
Trucks need built to ferry the product to the shipping port, ships are needed to get the TV across the ocean.
Gasoline is needed to power everything.
There are distribution centers requiring computers and programs to track and organize the dispersal of the TV to various stores and outlets where still more people and resources are required from janitors to sweep the floors to cashiers each needing tools that are themselves the product of thousands more people.
A simple TV requires the cooperation of thousands and thousands of people in order to be bought by someone.
Yet there is no central planner organizing this complex and mind boggling process. There is not an agency in charge of organizing and marshaling the vast resources and people needed to create a single TV.
Rather, these thousands of diverse people from all over the world are able to have their actions coordinated by capitalism to stock the shelves of stores all over the world.
I am astounded by this spontaneous order when I stop to think about it. Thousands of people are able to cooperate for their own self-interest in order to provide what I want to purchase on the shelf.
I find it very fitting and frankly beautiful when I reflect on the purchases made on a spontaneously ordered holiday like Black Friday.
The purchases represent the culmination of the thousands of diverse and different people’s efforts guided by the very same spontaneous order that has many of us waiting in line at 3 a.m. in the first place.