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Friday, 26 August 2011

How Stuff is Made

There is a TV programme with this name. It's presented by Robert Llewellyn, aka Chrichton in Red Dwarf. It's great. Tonight's episode featured railway sleepers, manufactured out of recycled bottles and tyres; and tissues – how each time you pull a tissue out of the box, the next one presents itself, ready to be pulled.

Each tissue costs you next to nothing. But the resources which make this possible cost a King's Ransom! A mind-blowing investment to enable you to blow your nose. Premises, computers, energy, steel, paper, plastic, glass and ingenuity, each one of which has many higher order production processes to make it possible. A single tissue requires the cooperation of hundreds of thousands of people. They don't know each other; they speak multiple languages; they worship at different shrines. Wow!


But respect for whom? Each of those myriad people? Some may be personally admirable; the majority are as ordinary as you or me, deserving of no more special respect than I am. I am made in the image of God – but so is everyone. We deserve no credit for that.

The ingenuity of the people involved is special. We are creative (some of us) because we are made in God's image. Tolkien says we are "sub-creators". What a privilege.

We ought to learn to respect the mechanism which makes all the above possible. It can be summarised as Human Action, the title of Ludwig von Mises' greatest book.

Von Mises was an agnostic – likewise his great disciple, Murray Rothbard. Had he been a Catholic, he might have called it, God's Grace as Revealed in Human Action.

Catholics believe that God's Grace is revealed every morning, as the sun rises. Catholics should also believe that God's Grace is revealed in the so-called "hidden hand" of individual personal choice.

When creative human beings produce, essentially for their own benefit, they can't help benefitting their fellows. Thanks be to God!

There are those out there who will wonder if I am out of my mind. Either pray for me or show me my error in a comment.

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