Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Quote of the Day: On Milk…and More

If I may simplify for a moment, when the Swiss want wheat they produce watches; when Japan wants oil they produce cars. The magic of international trade does the rest.

Here in New Zealand, when we want Japanese cars, Swiss watches, Saudi oil and Chinese electronics goods we turn grass into milk. But think how much we take milk, and our friend the cow, for granted. Jeffrey Tucker reminds us:

Humankind lived 6,000 without a reliable source for milk. Milk spoils. It must be transported before that happens. Before trains and refrigeration, you were pretty much out of luck, unless you owned a goat or cow, or someone close by did. We underestimate what a seminal moment it was in the history of civilization for milk to be delivered to your doorstep back in the 1930s and 1940s. It was wonderful practice and culturally significant commercial institution, displaced only with the mass spread of electric refrigeration in the 1950s. If you think about it, we are only a few generations into a period in which people could reliably keep things cold in all months of the year. Milk was and is a luxury good.
    There was no plan. There was no government push. It happened because of private enterprise operating in the spirit of freedom: “people need stuff so let’s get it to them.”
    Now to the source of milk itself. It comes from cows. Modern socialists hate cows because they seem implausibly inefficient. They eat vast amounts of grain and grass, take up huge swaths of land that could be used for farming, and otherwise consume an enormous amount of resources. To keep one alive just to milk is a big expense, one requiring the accumulation of capital and long-term planning.
    Think of this: no central planner, a person who assumes that he or she knows better than the market, would ever approve of a cow. On the face of it, there would be no way to know for sure, in absence of market prices and a profit-and-loss system, that a cow should be allowed to live.

No central planner would ever approve of a cow.

Perhaps that’s why Russel Norman despises them.

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