It's a Wonderful Loaf!
By Alice Temnick
Why don’t we wonder enough about the marvels of markets? How do markets enable peaceful, productive, global cooperation?
In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts introduces and reads his poetic tribute to the rich idea of spontaneous order, “It’s a Wonderful Loaf”. The poem and its animated video version are the backdrop for Don Boudreaux, Michael Munger, and Roberts to discuss the awesomeness of markets, and reasons that the concept is elusive for many people. Labor market consequences and price control disasters evidenced by Venezuela’s bare shelves are some of the topics that are touched on as common unintended consequences of government regulation.
1- Consider the examples of emergent order such as traffic, cities, language, law etc. What are other examples of “the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design” as described by Adam Ferguson in 1782? Are markets a unique example of this profound social process?
2- Is it the incredible complexity of markets or the human tendency to look for or assume conscious design around us that confounds the concept of spontaneous order? Or is it both? What single insight would you hope students gain from “It’s a Wonderful Loaf” when it is used as a classroom educational tool?
3- Does Roberts pose a strong argument in support of those who claim to believe in markets as a pricing mechanism yet still advocate for “all kinds of regulation”? What are other ideas for addressing those” left behind” by a market system?
4- How does Michael Munger’s argument for Basic Guaranteed Income support, complement, or allow labor markets and free trade to flourish?
5- If market processes were better understood, would market failures be dealt with differently? Would destructive price controls cease? What point is made to differentiate market imperfections as catalysts for innovation from market failures as negative outcomes to be remedied?