What do Free Market Capitalists Eat for Breakfast?
Life in the Brown household is starting to regain some normalcy following the birth of our daughter Evelyn on May 31st. Of course, “normal” with three kids under the age of 5 is still “chaos” more often than not – but at least it’s chaos on some semblance of a schedule… some days. And while I’m yet to fully reengage my beloved morning routine (up at 5 AM for coffee, bible study, prayer, meditation, and LTP work until 7 AM when the rest of my family wakes up), I’m no longer desperately squeezing out every possible minute of sleep in the mornings like I was a month ago.
As chief breakfast maker in our family, I’ve kept breakfast pretty simple during these last seven weeks. But as my morning energy slowly returns, I’ve taken to cooking better breakfasts again: eggs, some kind of breakfast meat, and a little bit of fruit are the norm. (Yes, we prefer to eat high-fat, low-carb meals.)
Last Wednesday, I cooked up some scrambled eggs mixed with homemade crumbled sausage and shredded Colby-Jack cheese. It’s one of my favorites and the rest of my family likes it too. But my two boys are growing older (Benjamin is 4½ and Kedrick is almost 2), and with their growing ages come their growing opinions about everything… breakfast included.
When it came to breakfast last Wednesday, my boys’ opinions were clear: Benjamin preferred sausage over eggs and Kedrick preferred eggs over sausage. Each boy picked through his breakfast to gobble up the parts he liked best and left most of the rest on his plate. But one other thing was clear too: neither boy felt full after finishing his own favorite part of breakfast.
More sausage? More eggs?
Sorry boys, that’s it.
Although I didn’t have any more of either food left in the frying pan, a clear solution to this looming hungry kid crisis was obvious to me. But I like to encourage my kids to problem-solve, so I quietly stood back to see what would happen next.
Much to my delight, Benjamin noticed his own plate of leftover scrambled eggs (Kedrick’s favorite) and Kedrick’s plate of leftover sausage (Benjamin’s favorite). He proposed a trade in almost no time flat. Kedrick isn’t very verbal yet, but he excitedly nodded his head in approval of the proposed trade. Plates slid past each other on the breakfast counter, and my boys went back to eating. The whole negotiation was done in under 10 seconds. And this free market capitalist dad beamed with pride.
You Can’t Be Your Best If You Don’t Eat A Good Breakfast… As You Define It
It’s a pretty simple story of individual liberty and free trade. But the light it sheds on the beauty of each is real. Consider:
My boys are individuals with unique preferences. Accordingly, the value they place on things in the world around them differs. Benjamin values sausage more than Kedrick does. Kedrick values eggs more than Benjamin does. With their little dose of individual liberty (i.e. my lack of interference) last week, each boy was free to embrace and pursue his values without interfering with the other’s ability to do the same.
In fact, when each boy pursued his own interests based on his individual values, the breakfast counter microcosm world became a wealthier place because trade occurred – naturally and freely. In a very real sense, each boy was wealthier after the trade because each obtained something of greater value than that which he gave up in the trade.
Mutually Beneficial Trade
The breakfast trade did not occur because it was “fair,” but rather because it was better than fair: the trade was mutually beneficial. Both of my boys were better off because they traded their private breakfast property with each other freely (i.e. voluntarily, without coercion).
The Moral Righteousness of Inequality
Consider what resulted because of the breakfast trade: inequality. Benjamin had more sausage than Kedrick. Kedrick had more eggs than Benjamin. Free trade at the breakfast counter resulted in unequal outcomes – yet each boy was better off by his own assessment.
Fundamentally speaking, unequal outcomes are the virtuous purpose of individual liberty. We individuals are unique persons with unique preferences, values, abilities, talents, and interests. As such, our desired outcomes are different, so of course our outcomes will be unequal. (I’m no English major, but I do understand that “different” and “unequal” are synonymous terms.)
As far as equality is concerned, We the People should seek only to promote equal opportunity for individuals to exercise their liberty to pursue unequal outcomes.Unequal outcomes are the virtuous purpose of individual liberty. Click To Tweet
Do you want sausage? Or do you want eggs? And what are you willing to trade in order to get either one of them? Whether we’re chatting breakfast menus or life analogies, the point stands: individual liberty and free trade are absolutely exquisite. I hope we develop a better taste for both of them in 21st century American culture.
In what other ways do you see kids embracing and exercising liberty in their daily interactions with one another? Why might we adults complicate matters as we grow up? What other lessons about liberty can we learn from kids? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!