Most of us take for granted the abundance we experience every day. It’s a privilege to be able to take these things for granted. We should reflect on the amazing wonders of the modern world, brought to us by the God-given creativity of strangers, that allow us to be so blissfully ignorant. Let’s take a moment to be grateful for them.
The tragedy of poverty is the lack of necessary goods and services that allow one to survive day in and day out. Poverty constrains choices. The transition from surviving to thriving is brought to us not by our own devices, cleverness, or intellectual prowess. It’s not about rugged individualism. It’s brought to us by being able to rely on strangers for the things that we need and want.
The best way to help the poor out of poverty is to foster trade and innovation. This can only happen when each of us has enough leftover assets to trade with others. Think about life in a poor, rural setting. I can only trade my vegetables, grains, or domestic livestock for the vegetables, grain, or livestock of someone else if I can cultivate enough to trade. Trade is about having enough leftovers – profit – of our own so that we can trade with others who must also have leftovers – profit – of their talents. This gives everyone more. Leftovers beget more leftovers. Profit begets more profit. This frees us to hone our skills and have more time left over to serve others and enjoy life.
Here are five things most of us do that demonstrate how much abundance we have. Engaging in these activities is the result of sheer profit.
Have you ever thought about the number of leftover calories you must have each day to hit the gym? Think of people who train for marathons or triathlons or just want to hit the weights or elliptical to try and shed some pounds. These activities, which many of us dread, signify the abundance of calories available to us at such a low cost that we can spend them, in our free time, running for pleasure.
We Eat Ice Cream
It’s not an accident that this point is related to the first point. The abundance of calories in wealthy societies results in excess weight around the waistline. Ice cream is pure indulgence. It’s a cool, sweet, creamy treat. It’s unnecessary for survival and lacks any key nutritional ingredients that we can’t acquire elsewhere. It’s just delicious, and we can enjoy many flavors and styles of ice cream for pennies on the dollar .
We Wash Our Cars
I admit that there are days when I see people in line for the car wash and I don’t understand it. Why is it important that our car looks clean on the outside? This is not very important to the longevity or performance of our vehicles, yet we do it. Right after a snowstorm, windstorm, or spring rain has cleared, people line up at the car wash, or they stand in their driveway using running water and soap to hand-clean their car. This signals that we have extra water and extra time, and that we get the privilege of caring what the car looks like. Go to the poorest parts of the world today and you’ll see wooden bikes and rusted cars. No one considers washing them a good use of energy because there aren’t enough leftover resources to do it.
We Own Pets
Unlike more primitive times, most of us don’t own dogs and horses as a part of our working farm (most of us don’t have a working farm, either). We have dogs and cats and horses just for fun. These are God’s creatures, and for many it is a pleasure to welcome them into their families. We can only do this because we have enough leftover food to feed them or purchase specially-made pet food for them, and we take them to highly-trained veterinarians when they are sick. We are so wealthy that we can afford to extend quality of life concerns to our pets.
We Fly in Airplanes
We say we do this out of necessity, but in reality, there is nothing life-saving about getting to a business meeting across the country in person. Without airplanes, the trip would take weeks. The irony is the body language of everyone at the airport. Aside from the kids who are thrilled to be there, everyone seems annoyed. The security line is too long, our bags are too heavy, the Wi-Fi isn’t fast enough, and the food is not our favorite. But the luxury of this experience, not accessible to even kings and queens just several hundred years ago, should inspire us. The numbers are difficult to come by, but it is estimated that only six percent of the world’s population has taken a flight. We should turn our annoyance into immense gratitude that we get the privilege of taking an airplane, for business or for pleasure, because it profits our time.
This list is a small representation of the goods and services we get to enjoy, in many cases for pure pleasure. They are available to us because we are able to depend on and rely upon strangers. We should be grateful for the talents of others and the market process that brings them and their benefits to us.