A Society of Mutual Benefactors

Today, we add our seventh, permanent guest contributor to the TFMetals arsenal...the late, great Puck T. Smith.

Long-time Turdites will recall "Puck" as a wise and gentle soul who considered TFMR as a refuge from the madness that surrounded him at his home near Washington, D.C. Sadly, Puck was diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer back in February and he passed in April.

Fortunately for all of us, he had maintained his own blogspot site which you can find here: http://pucksmith.blogspot.com

To honor his memory and to keep his "work" alive, I've decided to occasionally copy and paste some of my favorites from his site. We begin today with this beauty, which he, himself, had copy and pasted from a book entitled "It's a Jetsons World", by Jeffrey Tucker.

Thanks again, Puck, for being such a valued part of TFMR. R.I.P.

TF

A Society of Mutual Benefactors

An excerpt from It's a Jetsons World.

By Jeffrey Tucker

Checking out at the grocery store the other day, I paid for my sack of rolls. The checkout person handed me my bag.

"Thank you," I said.

"You're welcome," she replied.

I walked away with a sense that something was wrong. Do check- out people usually say, "You're welcome," and nothing else? Not usually.

Usually they say, "Thank you," same as the customer says. (Remember, we are talking about the American South, land of politeness, here.)

I was left with an inchoate sense of: "Hey, I did something for you too."

When do we say, "You're welcome"? We say that when we give a gift (a good or service) to a person without receiving anything in return. For example, I might hold a door for a person. That person says, "Thank you," and I say, "You're welcome." Another time might be at a birthday party when the recipient of a gift expresses thanks.

These are one-way examples of benefaction. We are giving but not necessarily getting anything tangible in return. What makes the case of the commercial exchange different? Why do both parties say, "Thank you"? It's because each side gives a gift to the other.

When I bought those rolls, this is precisely what happened. I saw rolls available and I decided that the rolls were worth more to me than the $2 I had in my pocket. From the store's point of view, the $2 was worth more than the rolls being given. Both parties walk away with a sense of being better off than they were before the exchange took place.

The checkout person is there to facilitate this exchange and speak as a proxy for the interests of the store. The store was receiving a gift of money (more highly valued than the rolls) and I was receiving the rolls (more highly valued from my point of view than the $2 I gave up to get them).

This is the essence of exchange and the core magic of what happens millions, billions, trillions of times every day all over the world. It happens in every single economic exchange that is undertaken by virtue of human choice. Both sides benefit.

Each side is a benefactor to the other side. This system of mutual benefaction, unrelenting and universal, leads to betterment all around. It increases the sense of personal welfare, which is to say, it increases social welfare when everyone is involved in the activity.

To be sure, a person might change his mind later. I might arrive home with my rolls and discover that I'm out of butter and that I would have been better off buying half as many rolls and using the rest of my money to buy butter. I might decide to drop bread from my diet. I might conclude that rolls are really not that tasty. All these things can happen.

Such is the nature of the universe that the future is uncertain and human beings are inclined to be fickle. But at least at the time of the exchange, I believed I was better off, else I would not have made the exchange in the first place. I walked away with a sense of gain. The store owners had the same sense of gain. We both expect to gain, which is enough to recommend the exchange system, since no social system can guarantee a happy outcome for every action.

Now, if all of this seems obvious and not even worth pointing out, consider that most philosophers in the history of the world have missed this point. Aristotle, for example, reflected at length in his Nicomachean Ethics on the issue of economic exchange, but he started with the assumption that exchange takes place when valuation is equal or commensurate. But what about cases in which it seems obviously incommensurate, such as when highly valued and rare physician services are traded for something widely available like corn? Aristotle believed that the existence of money serves to somehow equalize the exchange and make it happen, when it should be apparent that money itself is only a good introduced to make exchange more convenient.

The problem he faced was his initial premise that economic exchange is based on the equal value of items in the exchange. This is just wrong.

If two people value goods equally, an exchange would never take place, since no individual could be made better off than before. If exchange is based on equal value, people are merely wasting time engaging­ in it at all. Exchange in the real world is based on unequal valuations of goods and expectation of being made better off. It is a matter of two people who give each other gifts in their own self-interest.

The discovery of the correct theory of exchange had to wait until the late Middle Ages when the followers of St. Thomas Aquinas saw the logic for the first time. They saw that economic exchange was mutually beneficial, with each party to the exchange seeing an increase in personal welfare, subjectively perceived. Therefore the action of exchange on its own becomes a means of increasing the well-being of all people. Even if there is no new physical property available, no new innovations, no new productivity, wealth can be increased by the mere fact of exchange-based human associations.

As with many postulates of economics, this seems very obvious once you see it but it is evidently not obvious at all. In fact, I've observed that many people's underappreciation of the contribution of the market order is rooted in the perception that buying and selling stuff really amounts to nothing wonderful at all. It is just a swirl of churning and burning for the sake of nothing in particular. Society could easily do away with it and be no worse off.

I have a hard time figuring out what people who believe this are thinking. Let's say that I proposed abolishing gift giving. Wouldn't it be obvious that society would be worse off if I got my way? We would no longer enjoy the material manifestation of the appreciation of others, and we would all be denied the chance to show others our appreciation of them.

Well, if it is true, as I've argued, that an economic exchange is a two- way gift, an instance of mutual benefaction that is pervasive throughout society, it becomes clear that society would be completely sunk without as many opportunities as possible for economic exchange. Anyone who champions the well-being of society should especially celebrate commercial centers, stock markets, international trade, and every sector in which money changes hands in exchange for assets or goods. It means nothing more than that people are finding ways to help each other get by and thrive.

As sixteenth-century Spanish theologian Bartolomé de Albornoz, known mostly for his opposition to slavery, wrote,

Buying and selling is the nerve of human life that sustains the universe. By means of buying and selling the world is united, joining distant lands and nations, people of different languages, laws and ways of life. If it were not for these contracts, some would lack the goods that others have in abundance and they would not be able to share the goods that they have in excess with those countries where they are scarce.

However, if we do not quite see the underlying logic of exchange and how it works to help everyone, it is easy to underappreciate what market trading means to society. This is a tendency in the circles that discuss issues of social justice. The market is rarely given the credit it deserves for helping humanity improve its lot. In fact, the market is nothing but the cooperative interaction of humanity in improving the commonweal.

The fallacy of value equivalence in exchange has been refuted for some 500 years, and yet it keeps reappearing. Economics is one of those sciences that require careful thought. It can't be quickly intuited from a handful of moral postulates. It must be studied and understood with deductive tools and patient delineation of a wide range of concepts. It is because of this that economics as a science was so late in developing. But it is not too late for us to understand.

The understanding of economics leads to a direct appreciation of the contribution of free markets to the well-being of all. If you read something that seems to disparage the market economy, it is more than likely that a fallacy such as the above is at the root.

At some point today, you will undoubtedly engage in some economic exchange. Use the opportunity to reflect on what a glorious dynamic underlies it. You can say, "Thank you." The person who takes your money can say, "Thank you." Such opportunities account for most of the peace and prosperity we enjoy this side of heaven.

 

22 Comments

soonerborn's picture

First

First posts are soooo stooopid.

Excalibur's picture

Proud

Proud to near the top of this post from the much missed Puck

¤'s picture

Nice gesture TF

Puck T. Smith...Gone but not forgotten.....by many....worldwide.

I'm sure Puck would find this pretty cool. :-)

Zoltan's picture

RIP Puck

You are missed.

Z

csquared13's picture

RIP Puck. 

RIP Puck. 

thesandbox's picture

to Puck

.............

procog's picture

Proud Two

Brought tears to my eyes remembering Puck.  Well done TF.

القراع عصفور's picture

awesome!

thank you Puck!  thank you Turd!

i think i'd like to expand on this line of thinking as well...  anything that takes from the mutual benefit part of the trade will disincentive the entire exchange.  taxes and regulation costs come to mind.  economists call this leakage.

ReachWest's picture

A Thanks to Puck

A great piece. Glad that Puck posted it to his blog and TF reposted it here.

Such truth and simplicity.

Terabyte's picture

Thanks Turd....

...for posting that article.  It speaks directly to one of the most irritating things that happens regularly in my life.  I have come to the place where, when the person taking my money says nothing, I will say "you're welcome", and most generally they still say nothing, or in rare instances will look at me as if to say "what the hell was that all about?"

I won't even go into the economic aspect of it, but I'm thinking about printing that out and carrying a copy of it with me to present to the owner or manager of a shop when that occurs.  Maybe it's still not too late to teach a few manners and some gratitude to the great masses. 

TomMack's picture

timeless

and thoughtful.  that was Puck.

s.hawk's picture

Thank you for this

Thank you for this.  It was nice to smile about Puck.

Turd Ferguson's picture

PayPal

MODERATOR

I've gotten a lot of feedback from folks requesting gold membership through PayPal.

We haven't yet set this up but, if you're dying to cross the wall, I can do one-time, annual subscriptions through the PayPal button. Just include your TFMR username in the PayPal memo section and we'll set you up manually.

Thanks everyone for all the support!

Bugzy's picture

Puck was extremely well read

As for a mutual benefit or a fair price: I suspect the answer is; from whose perspective?

For the two individuals involved the trade, from THEIR perspective they must have both perceived a bargain (gain) (assume trade was freely entered into). However, from a third party, onlooker perspective, the two exchanged items would appear to have equal value.

As for trade adding to society: Yes, if it is for satisfying needs. One is thirsty; exchanges fish for water or coin for water.

However, when one speculates, (stock market) I think we enter a different game. As both seek an increase in financial wealth (usually) and as it is a zero sum gain, then as one wins, the other looses.

So we move from WIN-WIN

To

WIN-LOSE

and as this game is often not a free market either and I suspect, it does not add to society but rather, detracts from it.

Man, I do miss Puck. Would have been good to have shared over a few beers.

ag1969's picture

Puck T. Smith....

...was the reason I kept reading TFMR.  The way his mind worked was just incredible to me, and I miss him greatly.  I wish I had the ability to think about a subject and arrive at amazing conclusions in the way that he did.  There have been many people whom I have respected in my days, and there are quite a few here, but Puck thought about things in a different way than everyone else, and had an amazing ability to put his thoughts into words. 

It is kind of strange to me to have such a mental attachment to some dude I did not know personally and met at a blog, but I am guessing that a lot of you feel the same way:  Like you lost someone who made you think in a way that no one else ever had, and really did not know what the proper way was to say goodbye to him.

I think this is a great thing Turd.  I also think that Puck would have been proud that this is the way you chose to honor him.

Like DPH said, gone but not forgotten.

Turd Ferguson's picture

Thank you

MODERATOR

Not sure how long Google keeps a blogspot site up after it has become inactive. My goal is to peel off one or two a week to preserve them here.

Response to: Puck T. Smith....
Zoltan's picture

@Turd Old Blogspots

Why don't you copy a bunch now and keep 'em on file.  Love to see Puck live on here at TFMR.

Z

Bollocks's picture

Ummmm

I never read this sort of stuff from Puck - I appeared here too late.

Thanks Turd for finding this and posting it up. My response to something that he said here and stuck out for me - no criticism of him - just my observation after reading it:

"If two people value goods equally, an exchange would never take place, since no individual could be made better off than before."

And

"The fallacy of value equivalence in exchange has been refuted for some 500 years, and yet it keeps reappearing. Economics is one of those sciences that require careful thought. It can't be quickly intuited from a handful of moral postulates. It must be studied and understood with deductive tools and patient delineation of a wide range of concepts."

Puck doesn't address NEED. The true value of something cannot be studied and be understood through deduction. Using thought to try and arrive at something concrete to hold on to is a recipe for disaster. It always ends in failure.

Need is what drives existence - existence being what we wake up to each morning. Everything else is desire, in the mind, the pursuit of which always ends in disaster because it's not here now - it's always in an imaginary future.

Observing the difference between the truth of need (now) and desire (something in the future) removes the carrot that's driving the donkey on, and on, and on.

Deduction results in something that will always dissolve, be seen as false, in time.

So, that's my response to Puck's wonderful message. I shall agree to disagree.

Thought never solves a thing. It's one step away from reality, which is now, where I am, now. But few look at that. The majority are too immersed in thought.

Occasnltrvlr's picture

"Thought Never Solves A Thing"

Dear Bollocks, I have always enjoyed your posts, and, I hope, in contradiction to prognostications, shall continue to.

Thought solves my boredom, and my feelings of...well, lots of feelings.  I spend a lot of time thinking of the places I've been, the things I've seen, the things I've done, and some of the people I've met.

And, typically, it solves...well, lots of feelings.

Sure, all of that is still "in my head", so maybe it all counts as thoughts and counter-thoughts.  But some of those thoughts are reflections upon the meeting of needs.

Perhaps "need" is only obsessive thought?  I am hungrily thirsty, but can take one more step with no water.

Sorry, I'm a rank amateur at this philosophical stuff.  Finding myself without two coppers to rub together would change my feelings, I'm sure.

SIlverbee's picture

Please Turd

Can you open a new thread which is just for metals talk. Whilst I am sure the guest posts are a bonus it would still be the core to keep a main street thread alive. Its sort of the point of the site?

SilverSurfers's picture

Intoxicants

Added to missive:

The drugs used by various Americans effect the brain centers. Sexuality also affects the brain centers as well. Because Drugs and Sexuality affect the brain centers in such compulsive ways, they are combined together as intoxicants. These intoxicants, in a generalized order include caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana (aka pot), bisexual promiscuity, barbiturates (aka downers), amphetamines (aka uppers), prostitution, cocaine (Nasal Opiates), homosexuality, psychedelics (LSD, mescaline, and peyote) and lastly, heroin (Injection Opiates). The discussion of victimless crimes includes both drugs and sexual behaviors as compulsive intoxicants.  These compulsive intoxicants can be characterized as an intoxication complex having on one horizontal axis, the listed intoxicants in the order presented, and on the vertical axis, the degree of societal harm, presenting a graph of dots, because engineers communicate most effectively using graphs. What one will find is a general strong correlation, with a generally upward biased mean line of the plotted points on this Victimless Crimes Against Society graph. Sexual behavior is considered a drug because love is the drug I'm thinking of.

Roxy Music, Love is the Drug

To be continued ...

USA Victimless Crimes against Humanity

SilverSurfers's picture

Ads

Still going parabolic

Gross Google Statistic Highs, Americans Taking Notice
2012 Presidential Run, 12,300, 018,300, 18 (2009-2012)
2016 Presidential Run, 28,100, 098,700, 51 (2013-2016) (Updated Periodically)

I will have 12 Advertisement, all to political organization, two of which are Silver Circulators and Gold Bugs, one of which is designated for TFmetalsreport.com.

I offered Turd free advertisement for a subscription, looking for a yes or no, and got back something confusing, so I just paid the 100$ and mailed in the money order to Shirmock Austin Texas. I bet turd will wait for the money order before he activates the gold membership. LOL, but that is fine. Im used to being treated as good as gold in the bullion world, but hey, trust takes time. Anyway, TF will get free advertisement on my political blog, which is going parabolic, and there is a potential to make turd allot of loot. People can contribute to the campaign, but I will not conduct paid advertising, as its not about commercialization, or making money, but providing information and education, and saving the country. 

And they are all free and as follows:

1) Libertarians
   http://www.lp.org/
2) Greens
   http://www.gp.org/
3) Constitutionalists
   http://www.constitutionparty.com/
4) Tea Partiers
   http://www.teaparty.org/
5) National Riflemen
   http://home.nra.org/
6) California Republicans
   http://cagop.org/index.asp
7) California Democrats
   http://www.cadem.org/home
8) Wall Street Occupiers
   http://occupywallst.org/
9) Green Peacekeepers
   http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/
10) Gold Monetarialists
    http://www.lemetropolecafe.com/
11) Silver Monetarialists
    http://www.tfmetalsreport.com/
12) Libereens
    http://www.totalitariandemocracy.com <--- Me in two week :)

but currently here:

http://totalcontrol.blogtownhall.com/

USA 1960s Guns and Butter

I recall well the 1960s, where LBJ escalated the Vietnam War while pushing his corrupt society.

That was a significant turning point in the crooked payed road, where the American CAN DO spirit was trashed, and self reliance was ruined for all times, as Americans started asking what can the government do for me, and voted accordingly, with dead JFK rolling in his grave just a few years therein.

There never should have been that issue of GUNS or BUTTER, but rather the federal government should procure the GUNS, within tax receipts as desired, and the states should procure the BUTTER within tax receipts as desired, but where women were paid to have babies out of wedlock, and the federal budget was busted funding war providing crippled veterans so as to further the debt enslavement of all Americans.

The 1960s, and LBJ's war and corrupt society was a huge acceleration down the payed road of Totalitarian Democracy, and the enslavement of the pandered Americans as tax mules and state dependents.

LBJ's corrupt society ranks among the top 4 in its decadent push into the Totalitarian Demise of America.

TFMetalsreport.com and lemetropolecafe.com are the Monetarialists, with teachings regarding the FRN v Constitutional money, and though there is no political group on that focused front, two bullion sites serve the purpose of providing education to the public at large, where yours is also a member.

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