Monday, August 17, 2009

Free Enterprise

There are certain things that just feel good to do. One of those things, for me, are farmer's markets. I like being a vendor even more than being a customer. It is gratifying in that way that very basic human technologies feel right - you sense the echoes of thousands of years of doing this. There is nothing self-alienating about it; on the contrary, one of the big by-products of a farmer's market is a very rich sense of healthy human connections. It is community development in the very best sense. Casual, voluntary, not a government program.

Too often "community development"programs are just so seriously boring.

My daughter loves farmer's markets as well. She is working on getting the skills to do a transaction by herself. It's a fantastic learning environment. She will have a better intuitive sense of how a healthy economy actually works at 9 than I probably had at 19, maybe even 29.

There is a lot to be said for decentralized local food production, but for certain essential items of modern existence a "global" system is the way to go. There is no question that large-scale commodity production and distribution is much more efficient for a lot of things, if not everything.For instance you just can't grow wheat efficiently in Hawaii. Too humid, too much slope, acid soils etc. But everybody like bread - and automobiles and cell phones.

But our global system teaches us all to be stuck-in-self-gratification-mode consumers or beast-of-burden producers. It turns money into a math game untied from the human societiesthat money is meant to serve as a tool. We become opaque to ourselves, we don't even know how what we consume relates to what we produce, or what exactly it is that we produce. We lose the ability to make mental connections - to see our society or even our communities as a whole, and to believe in ourselves.

The kind of free enterprise that a farmer's market encourages is a beautiful antidote to the global system and the mindset that comes with it. It's a lot of fun and full of yummy things, too.

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