Thursday, November 22, 2007

Talking Turkey

Three hundred million Americans. Fifteen people to a family gathering. Leaving out a few hard core southerners, some greenies and vegetarians, that could be ten million turkeys. That’s a lot of turkeys to be ready for one day in the year. (Roast New Zealand lamb with mint sauce is much nicer.)

In the old days, the American citizen grew his own turkey for Thanksgiving. This required a lot of planning and hard work. A turkey egg had to be hatched months before. Grain had to be grown and harvested. The turkey had to be fed and then killed and cleaned. Cranberries had to be pruned. Later they would be picked and made into jelly. Pumpkins had to be planted and hoed.

The post-modern housewife (oxymoron warning) knows nothing about grow turkeys. She does not know how to hatch a turkey egg or what a turkey eats. She does not know how to grow cranberries. For all she knows about turkeys, they might just fall from the sky. Yet on the week before Thanksgiving she walks into the supermarket and there is the exact turkey that she wants. She had not ordered a turkey in advance. She had not even told anyone that she would cook a turkey for Thanksgiving, but the turkey was there just when and where she needed it.

Actually millions of them in the thousands of places where people want them. How does this happen? The Department of Agriculture does not put out and order for ten million turkeys. Dick Chaney does not call on Halliburton to do the job. Congress never passed a law pork-barreling the production of turkeys. No, these millions of turkeys are provided right on time by the market.

Various market participants have independently taken the actions that are needed to get these turkeys to the tables. Months ago, turkey breeders made sure that millions of fertile eggs would be available just when the hatcheries needed them. The turkey hatchers made sure that millions of turkey chicks were born, just when the turkey growers were ready to start fattening them. Others put in place processing plants to kill and clean the fattened turkeys. All these agents responded to market information and the result was ten million turkeys ready for thanksgiving.

With all that demand you would expect prices to sky rocket, but that does not happen. The producers have produced so may turkeys that prices do not rise. In fact good specials are available for those who are willing to wait till the last minute. There are enough turkeys for some to buy to and give one to the poor. Some businesses give free turkeys to food banks and night shelters, so that the poor can eat turkey too. The only overpriced turkeys will be those that Halliburton supply to the troops in Iraq.

Christians often describe the market as an evil system that forces nice American people to become naughty materialists. This turkey business shows the market acting a servant of the American people providing them with what they want.

By now you will have gorged yourself on turkey and trimmings. You may even be feeling uncomfortable. Just remember that the market did not force you to eat that third helping. You chose to have those extra mouthfuls. (The post-modern man can cook turkey as well as his modernist mother).

The market took all the actions necessary over many long months to provide you with what you wanted when you wanted without you even telling anyone that you would want it. That is something to be thankful for.

Some homeless people will have missed out. Some families could not afford to buy turkey. But most Americans got the turkey they wanted, with no forethought or planning, except how to get the family together. That is something to be thankful for.

And if enough of you decide that you would prefer New Zealand lamb next year, the market will provide that too.

No comments: