The Wieses are just the first in a long series of people who, by caring about themselves, make sure I get my steak. Wanda Nelson keeps the packing house clean. Rosanke delivers propane. Other people slaughter the cattle and butcher the beef; they rely on people who make their knives, their overalls and their protective gear. Then there are the people who make the plastic that seals the meat, who run the machines that do the sealing, who pack the meat in boxes, make the boxes, inspect the boxes, and run the freezer facilities. Still other people track orders by bar code, which means they need the people who make the bar code machines. Eventually, packed steak is delivered to Randall Gilbert, a truck driver, who hauls it to New York.
No one person made my dinner possible. It took thousands of people to get me the food. And none of them did it for me. As economist Adam Smith put it, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."
Rosanke and the others don't particularly care if some TV correspondent gets his steak, yet they cooperate to make it happen, motivated by self-interest -- what many call greed. Think about that next time you listen to my colleagues sneer at the "greed" and "selfishness" of private business. They don't realize that the institution they celebrate, government, is far less effective at serving humanity.
"In a free market, you get more for yourself by serving your fellow man," said economist Williams. "You don't have to care about him, just serve him. I'd feel sorry for New Yorkers in terms of beef. If it all depended on human love and kindness, I doubt whether you would have one cow in New York."
Does anything get done based on "human love and kindness"? Well, a nonprofit group called City Harvest collects donations of restaurants' surplus food for the poor. But where does that food come from? Greedy people like Virgil Rosanke produce it, and greedy restaurateurs buy it. Kindness can only give away the goods self-love provides.