One of the more annoying things that happens to you when you settle down, and start providing housing for yourself and others, is finding that “science experiment” in the refrigerator. It’s hard to decide whether it’s more annoying when someone else “creates it,” or when you do. Nonetheless, when you find it, it must be dealt with, and the resultant stench alone is enough to make it an undesirable chore to dispatch it.
It’s not hard to end up with spoilt food in the house, and it doesn’t take long for it to happen either. Obviously, the more perishable the food, the faster it will turn into something inedible. Even more “stable” foodstuffs however, will still relatively quickly transform into waste.
This matters to the main subject of this piece for at least one reason. It is that, even with relatively sophisticated storage media, many foods will only last so long before they’re no longer good for consumption. That means, one of the more important things that happens in a society (and that helps to make that society successful) is the production of food.
Even if there is a surplus of food each and every day a society is in existence, it is still essential that there be people around to do the work of producing more. And we’re not just talking about preparation. There are many things that must occur before that stage. There’s farming. There’s the keeping of livestock. There’s feeding and watering (and yes, obviously at least watering applies to plants as well as animals). There’s protecting from things that would eat what you’re growing. There’s adjustments to environment. There’s reaping. There’s delivery to markets.
Then comes the preparation for consumption.
After that, there are yet more necessary things. There’s warehousing, there’s aggregation in many instances, there’s delivery, and often at least one more “preparation cycle.”
Even with all I’ve listed here, we’re likely not at the “halfway point” in terms of who’s involved in just getting food to consumers (if we’re considering total persons involved).
All of this must happen in some measure on an ongoing basis. There are parts that may be “seasonal.” There are other parts that may not need done every day. In the long run though, most if not all food production is “cyclical.” It must be done over and over again.
Food producers are not alone. Houses fall down, they are burned to the ground, they become untenable.
Cars get old and cease to function for various reasons—as does public transportation.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that for just about everything, this is the “way of things.”
What this means is, there must always be people who do the things that need done.
As I said in a previous entry on my blog, reckoning the value of the various aspects of keeping a society supplied is far from an easy task. This is the reason money or currency came into existence.
A person need not “keep tabs on” what I’ve done for them in order to be aware what they ought to do in return for me. Further, I may not have done anything for person x, but I may need his or her services. If I can hand him or her a “promissory note” that says they will be able to get some thing or things they want at their leisure, and others are willing to accept that note as payment in kind, life becomes a great deal easier.
The next problem then is, what about people who don’t work or at least, who don’t do things for which others are willing to give them such promissory notes?
The simple answer, is charity. That is, others helping them to continue to at least survive.
Thing is though, there’s a “problem” with which we must deal. It can be summed up in two words, human nature.
It turns out there are a good many folks who will take advantage of the work of others, and not work to provide anything tangible to anyone. If you think that doesn’t matter, try being one of the people who day in and day out, continues to produce so society at large has the things the denizens thereof want and need.
You see, it’s not a question of, “Can I provide for those who refuse to work?” The question is, “Should I do so?” And that’s not because I desire to see others suffer or die. It’s because, when you have able folks who refuse to help to provide for the needs of a given society, there will always be a “drain on” those who do. To make things worse, that number is far larger than most folks realize.
The question one might ask oneself is, “Am I doing that unproductive person any favors by providing for him or her, when he or she refuses to do anything for others?”
Then comes the question of “value.” How is it decided what something or someone is worth? As Dr Thomas Sowell is prone to say (paraphrasing here), “Value is an agreement between the provider of a given good or service and the consumer of that good or service.” Put simply, if the buyer and the seller don’t agree on the value—or as many would term it, the “price”—of a given commodity, the transaction need not occur (and generally, it will not happen in that scenario).
The concept of value applies equally to labor, for there are a good many folks who have no other contribution they can make to the functioning of the society in which they find themselves. Their labor, therefor, is the thing that must be valued, and for which payment must be made. How much is that labor worth? That is something that must be decided not by the “employer” hiring the “emloyee” and the person hired, but by those “buying” the resultant product(s) of that labor.
A baker cannot charge so much for his or her exertion, that if the cost is divided over the number of loaves produced, the bread so expensive that consumers are unwilling to pay for it.
The point is, though they’re not all that causes society to be successful, two things to contribute to the success of a society are, the labor of the members of that society, and the willingness to accept the value of the labor of others, and compensate them accordingly.
Barring society having these two attributes, it will commonly fail.
Thanks, as usual, for reading, and may your time be good.