Monday, May 25, 2015

Different people make a difference

Free market apostles say capital is blind. It flows to the most efficient producers. That’s if maximizing capital is the only variable of people’s economic decisionmaking.

People belie that theory by declining marginal savings or marginal utility gains in favor of interacting instead with others whom they commune with socially, ideologically, religiously, nationally, or otherwise. For transactions aren’t truly faceless. Your money goes to people, and people are not solely economic units. They have affiliations they intend to build up, as you do. Not all those affiliations are consistent with each other in aim or substance. Some discrimination, or difference seeking, is inevitable.

Goods in and of themselves are neutral, but people aren’t. Different people in different places can manufacture, assemble, distribute, buy, and sell goods that have minimal cultural impact. Relocate those people to relocate economic activity in your backyard, and they will make their new place their home. In a community, different people make a difference. The tradeoff is the social costs.

Does this sound familiar: “You can take the man out of [blank], but you can’t take [blank] out of the man”? This pride of place is well and good if you’re breaking in newcomers to “how things are done here,” but suicidal if you’re moving to a new place with different customs. If I could have made Maryland more like Texas while I lived there, I would have. Just think what a million Texans would do to a state like Maryland. It wouldn’t be Maryland anymore, it’d be Virginia!

When people are traded like goods, nations abet their cultural obsolescence. Conserving local identity is worth more than a few cents per widget on economies of scale’s diminishing returns.

Related: “Economic anonymity.”

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