Monday, April 21, 2014

The Free Market Wins

My family partook of the typical Easter egg hunt yesterday at the request of the children.  We usually do not setup this event around our house unless we're at the Grand parents where it was a tradition.  In our home, my wife and I have tried to shed some of the trappings around the holidays that distract from the meaning of the event being observed.  Two things motivate this, an aversion to things that create clutter and a desire to elevate meaning and reflection over things that promote greed and consumption based happiness.  We are firm believers that joy is found in Christ, and that happiness is fleeting.  The emphasis is on a strong foundation which provides a joyful outlook which produces conditions for happiness. Teaching our children to follow this path is not without challenges, but often the challenges provide opportunities to educate.

My usual anxiety with an Easter egg hunt is the emotions that swell when children are sent out to scavenge on the day of our Lord's resurrection to find the most loot.  Bickering, complaining, crying... bleh!  But I decided this year, since the children put the work into coloring the eggs with only a tiny bit of help on mixing the dies, and since they requested it, we would have an egg hunt.  My wife even hid the eggs and some sweets in the front yard so all I had to do was sit back and observe.

It wasn't long before the youngest had found about 9 of the dozen dyed eggs and the oldest had found 7 of the 8 sweets.  Tears flowed at the injustice and the oldest proposed a limit on how many eggs you could gather.  My ears perked up.  I asked: "do you propose forced equality?"  It took a while for that question to process on the receiving end and the sentiment took even longer to fade, but the desired effect was had.

Shortly after that, the youngest was bemoaning the injustice that the oldest had the majority of the sweets.  I re-framed the situation to help them think it through. "So you're competing in the market place and your opponent is better than you at finding sweets.  What is it you would propose to make things better for you?"  I got a quick reply (our youngest human-in-training is a sharp one) "Make a rule that [oldest] can't stay out in the yard as long."  

My somewhat triumphant reply came quickly: "Do you know that you just embraced crony capitalism?"  Blank stare. "You just petitioned the government to make a law that favors you and punishes your competition.  Is that what you want?" Deep thought ensued.

Both of these exchanges turned tearful wailing into some personal reflection, which was better than I had hoped. The best part, in my mind, was the last exchange we had.  

Sitting in the living room, the issue of who had how much of what came up again.  So I proposed a scenario to put it in perspective for them.  To both: "When you have an oversupply of something, you have more than you need.  That means you can sell some of it for something you want or need."  Eyes lit up.  To the youngest: "what price would you set on your surplus eggs?"  The oldest piped up with an offer "I'll trade you 1 sweet for 3 eggs". Hastily, the youngest accepted the deal.

I pointed out that they had just negotiated and executed a contract. Whatever, Dad.  My wife was delighted that I inserted some economics education into the midst of the moaning and whining. 

I'm starting to see two things as I get older.  As a parent, every struggle our kids face is an opportunity to learn.  What they learn from their struggles is up to us to provide and shapes their character.  The second is as the title suggests - the free market provides the answers to a lot of struggles.  Moreover, when you apply Biblical truth in how we should treat one another - Love God with all your heart mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself - you can derive good, fair answers that are the right answers from free market principles.  

I believe this goes to show that we can apply the same approach to more issues with broader scope if we could let go of the things we cling to, like overly large and complex legal codes and behemoth governments to execute them.  The Bible and the free market provide simple and straight forward approaches to dealing with life.  If we all were committed to peaceful coexistence and creative problem solving, I think the need for many of the burdens and shackles we willingly accept would diminish greatly.