In the last post, I talked about using a bank machine in a foreign country as an example of cooperation among strangers. Transactions like that happen a billion times a day, and all this activity seems to take place without anyone controlling it. To me, that’s a modern miracle. To people who believe somebody needs to be in charge, it’s a nightmare. “But what if … ? What if … ?” they say.
I consider the ATM a miracle. Let’s say I’m traveling outside North America — at an Israeli outpost close to Lebanon, for instance — and I run out of cash. I look around and find a store down the street that has an Automated Teller Machine. I stick my card into it, choose between English, Hebrew, and Arabic, then, after a pause that’s only slightly longer than usual, the machine gives me a handful of shekels. Talk about massive amounts of co-operation among strangers!
A number of times over the past few years, I’ve heard commentators speculate that we’re facing the end of capitalism.
The Nobel Prize-winning Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek said the tragedy of capitalism is that it was named by its enemies. Capitalism isn’t actually about capital, it’s about cooperation — an infinitely expanding system of trading among strangers.