My son is awesome. I don’t mean the “Take that dads everywhere, my kid is better than yours,” kind of awesome. More of the “Dang, my wife and I are lucky as heck that he’s so happy and easy-going,” kind of awesome.
We honestly couldn’t have asked for more in our entry into the world of parenting. At nearly six months of age, he is a pure blessing, through and through. If we were to never have another child, that would be okay. We are thankful for J.R.
That said, we know we want another child. Having siblings was a big part of my childhood, and it is still a big part of my adult life. Chantel feels the same. We hope that J.R. and our child-to-be will enjoy the special bond that so many siblings get to share.
We talk often about our future child. Which is kind of crazy, given that he or she doesn’t exist yet. No social security number, no heartbeat, no name. To us though, this little person is real. I don’t need to know what my child’s face will look like to begin loving him or her for a lifetime.
Moreover, my daughter or son is not alone. Our “Tomorrow’s Child” will join the billions of future girls and boys who will grow up to be women and men on this remarkable planet. Generations of people with hopes and dreams are coming, and I want to honor them by leaving a healthy home for them.
So what does this have to do with a flaw in the free market that I teased at in last week’s post? A lot, actually. And I can reduce it all to four simple words: the market ignores them.
In a basic free market, consumers and suppliers are able to enter the marketplace how and when they want. If you want to make pencils and sell them to the world, you can do that. If you want to buy a skateboard, go for it. If you want to buy ten skateboards, or a thousand for that matter, ain’t nobody gonna stop you!
To work properly though, markets need something called “scarcity,” which means there isn’t an unlimited supply of what’s for sale. This is part of what allows prices to be set in markets. Think of the air we breathe – it’s basically unlimited and takes no effort to acquire (you’ve done that a good dozen or so times since you started reading), so air doesn’t enter the market.
When something is scarce though (and desirable), people can go buy it. All of it. Even if that means it gets used up and removed from existence. Just look at Pacific bluefin tuna, which are estimated to be at 4% of the population they would have if humans weren’t overfishing them. That species might disappear in the years to come, never to be known by future generations.
Sure, it might be impossible for the free market to give a voice to my child-to-be. In addition to lacking that heartbeat and name, my child also lacks a bank account. And so the market turns a blind eye.
Which, in my book, is a flaw in the system. Ideally, the free market would have some mechanism by which the interests of future generations are protected. It would have some emergency brake to stop excessive consumption that might leave future generations with less than they deserve. But alas…the free market leaves us (or at least me) wanting more from it.
I know that I’ve been pretty critical of the free market this week and last. Next week though, I promise to have some nice things to say. Stay tuned.