While most members in my household are currently trying to rest up before heading out to shop in a few hours, I am wide awake due to time zone traversing conflicting with my sleep schedule. I don’t plan to be a part of the festivities today, but I wanted to share some thoughts.
While many will decry the materialism of today, I want to offer a slightly different view. I am of the opinion that commerce and trade are far more wonderful things than for which they are given credit. When one really thinks about it, the institution of trade is one of the greatest creations of mankind, for it is through it that all other creations are able to exist. It is the essential means for creating the prosperity by which we are able to do any thanksgiving at all. Indeed, even something as simple as a pencil requires the division of labor and trade to create:
As the video explains, it is the voluntary actions within the market place that makes amazing things possible. It is meaningless to say, “You didn’t build that,” if what you are attempting to point out is that someone didn’t accomplish everything he or she has without the help of others. The fact is, everything that exists was created by the efforts of many.
In addition to this, trade is the facilitator of peace. As Frederic Bastiat said, “When goods don’t cross borders, armies will.” Look at the countries with whom the US government inhibits trade. Then look at the countries the US government considers unfriendly or enemies. See a correlation?
Thus, trade increases wealth and encourages peace. Isn’t that awesome?
However, also coloring my thoughts right now is a book I began reading while in Thailand, called Revolution in World Missions.
It is written by an Indian missionary who talks about his creation of Gospel for Asia, a group which supports indigenous missionaries, among many other things, in SE Asia. A very relevant thing he writes about is the wealth of American Christians. He said that they would try to impress him with their large, expensive church buildings and universities; what would really impress most Indians, he says, is the ubiquity of running water, reliable electricity, and an integrated road system. An embarrassing story is that after he gave a speech to a church group regarding the dire needs of missionaries in Asia, he was given donations and then that group took him to eat. The sad part is more was spent on the meal than was given for the missionaries. Prior to creating Gospel for Asia, he felt called to aid those back in the mission field while he was in America. He sold his car and many other belongings, along with foregoing certain luxuries, in order to give more to them. He trusted God that his own needs would be met.
I find this in stark contrast to the general attitude of Black Friday, where people (members of my family included) admittedly will buy things they don’t really need simply because “it is such a good deal.” I will probably be the recipient of some of these things come Christmastime. But I would much rather the funds go to those who need it and would appreciate it more.
To conclude, I will say that freedom is a wonderful and necessary thing in life. Properly defined, it should be maximized to the fullest extent. But we have the freedom to do things that increase human flourishing and decrease human flourishing. Is it good for us to deprive ourselves of sleep in order to buy things we don’t need? Are we really saving money if we buy things we would never have bought at a higher price? Stay healthy out there and please think about those who do not yet have the same wealth you enjoy. Thanks for reading.