Saturday, February 3, 2018

My Hero Lucio



By Robert Higgs

I live in a very remote place, even by Mexican standards. The nearest fair-sized city, Chetumal, is about 125 miles away, and one needs about two and a half hours or more to get there by car. Nearby shopping is extremely limited. A few grocery items may be purchased in the village of Xcalak. The closest gas station is in Mahahual, about 43 miles from my house, where one may also buy hardware and building supplies. Living here in Xcalak would be a very Spartan experience were it not for Lucio, from whom I buy fresh produce and other foodstuffs three times each week at my gate (and for another grocery seller, who comes on the days when Lucio does not).

Lucio lives in Bacalar, a town about a hundred miles away. Three times each week he rises at 4:00 a.m. and
goes to the New Market in Chetumal, where he buys a fairly extensive variety of foodstuffs. He then hauls them to Xcalak and peddles them in the village and along the beach road where I live. He usually arrives at my gate around noon. If we want something he does not ordinarily sell, we ask him to bring it, and he usually manages to do so on his next trip. He is a keen merchant: he quickly learns what items one is interested in buying, and he remembers items he hasn’t been able to get recently and calls them to the customer’s attention when he has them again. He conducts this trade from a pickup truck that is far from the latest model, and whenever he fails to come as usual—which is a rare occurrence—it is always because the truck has broken down. As a rule he is extraordinarily reliable and punctual. (The latter is not something always on display in the land of “Mexico time.”)

I have written from time to time at The Beacon about the amazing goods I have bought from him, goods that originate in many cases thousands of miles away. It is not uncommon, for example, for Lucio to bring cantaloupes or grapes that were grown in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where I grew up. He sometimes has strawberries from the Watsonville area of California. Right now, I am consuming green, seedless grapes from Peru and nectarines from Chile. I like to imagine all the people who have contributed in the long series of stages that stretch from the time a farmer undertakes to plant a particular crop: the people who supply him with inputs, lend him money, purchase his outputs, and transport them in many cases thousands of miles by various modes of transportation, people who likewise rely on input suppliers for fuel and the services of ships, airplanes, trains, and trucks; people who after a series of transactions that pass the goods from one middleman to another finally put them in Lucio’s enterprising hands, from which I acquire them and—at the very end of the long, complex chain—consume them with pleasure. Remarkably, the items Lucio sells me arrive in good shape despite their long trips to reach me. He does not bring poor-quality goods.

Now, you may be thinking: why are you going on and on about such utterly mundane transactions? Why are you celebrating this Lucio guy, who after all is pretty much the same as countless millions of other merchants around the world? But that mundaneness, mis amigos, is precisely the point. We have all come to take for granted the multitude of producers and middlemen who make the markets work for the enjoyment, and often for the very survival, of billions of consumers in every part of the world. If this indescribably complex global process of production and exchange, all carried out spontaneously by people who find one small part of it worth their undertaking, is not a miracle, then what is a miracle?

So say what you will about my hero Lucio. He makes life enormously easier and better for me and my wife, as he does for my neighbors in this remote place, and he does not get rich in the process. He works very hard and very responsibly for a return that may bring his family a modest middle-class living by Mexican standards, if that much. He bears the risks of buying goods without being guaranteed a sale later on. He endures long, thrice-weekly trips on (in places) dangerous or punishing roads. He grins and bears the extortionate mordidas of local officials who extract their pounds of flesh just because they can. And he keeps going, and going, and going—he’s a veritable Energizer bunny of produce supply. Call him what you will; I call him a hero.

So, let us raise a glass to Lucio, and to the millions like him throughout the world. Peace is better than war; prosperity is better than poverty; commerce is better than conflict; and people like Lucio make the good things of material life possible. After all, the actions that go into a worldwide market order don’t just happen; individual entrepreneurs have to make them happen. They deserve all the celebration we can give them.

The above originally appeared at the Independent Institute.

18 comments:

  1. So he lives in the libertarian paradise of Mexico? These are the people we should import via open borders into the US so we can make America Mexico again?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Re: The Lab Mismanager,

      --- These are the people we should import via open borders into the US so we can make America Mexico again? ---

      There's no "We", you Communist filth. Immigrants, by definition, are not imported. They're invited in, by THE MARKET. That thing that Fascist Black Shirt Mike Pence insinuated shouldn't be trusted? Yes. That.

      Delete
    2. If the immigrants don't vote for Stateism, why do the Dems send the voter registration buses into the favelas?

      Delete
    3. This might have been asked already, but is the Lab Manager the new handle of Jerry Wolfgang?

      Delete
    4. Re: Marmite,

      --- why do the Dems send the voter registration buses into the favelas? ---

      Because they love to register people.

      Delete
    5. "They're invited in, by THE MARKET."

      And if the distortions were removed from the market the invitations would be fewer. Just think what would happen if there wasn't a minimum wage and what is currently the dependent american underclass suddenly found itself required to work for a living if they didn't want to starve? Things would change pretty quickly.

      Delete
    6. "There's no "We", you Communist filth. Immigrants, by definition, are not imported. They're invited in, by THE MARKET. "

      Which one? There poop hole countries clearly don't have one, so they have to come here to muck things up.

      There are too many rules and such regarding hiring minimum wage just being one of them.

      Delete
    7. Re: The Lab Mismanager,

      --- Which one? ---

      The one that seems not to need you. That one.

      If you must know, everyone is The Market.

      --- There are too many rules and such regarding hiring minimum wage just being one of them. ---

      So much for "them immigruntz lower our wages!"

      Delete
    8. Sweet, R2D2 brings up “our” late lamented former commenter, Jerry Wolfgang! Where did he go? Maybe he self-deported from our august digital environs.

      Delete
    9. @Jimmy Joe Meeker

      “And if the distortions were removed from the market the invitations would be fewer.”

      I strongly suspect that this is NOT the case, and that curtailing state interference in the economy would enable MORE economic transactions across borders.

      And that would be a GREAT thing, btw.

      Delete
    10. Re: Jimmy Joe Meeker,

      --- And if the distortions were removed from the market the invitations would be fewer. ---

      Under what theory, J? The less intervention there is, the MORE trades there will be, not less. As long as there is an unmet demand, there will be a supply.

      --- Just think what would happen if there wasn't a minimum wage ---

      Those of us who know economics already know what would happen. It would make entry-level jobs more accessible to inexperienced and unskilled workers. That wouldn't mean the Law of Comparative Advantage would be invalidated.

      --- the dependent american underclass suddenly found itself required to work for a living if they didn't want to starve? ---

      Don't forget that welfare and unemployment insurance and other forms of state-managed charity are merely political tools and that politicians will seek to curry favor with voters through various such schemes, all fundamentally similar, and so it doesn't in the end affect the economics of immigration. The Market will continue to seek immigrant labor, whether the hipsters who buy lobster dinners with their EBT cards decide to work or not.

      --- Things would change pretty quickly. ---

      Indeed but not in the way you hope. Whether YOU like it or not, immigration is a Market phenomenon, driven by human action, self-interest, greed and demand, and it always will be.

      Last thing: I am talking about immigration and not refugee importation. Immigration is individual human action; refugee importation and resettlement is political action based on political goals. Just to keep things clear.

      Delete
  2. A great story. An important reminder.

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  3. As a Peace Corps "volunteer" -- we were paid, of course -- in Jamaica, I met many Lucios. These folks allowed me and my wife to purchase the best toilet paper from the US and enjoy Hersey's chocolate bars, etc., all the while living in a small Jamaican town, far from US markets.

    Since we became regular customers, these "higglers" would save items they knew we wanted and try to satisfy needs we never expressed. Not so much because they liked us -- though I believe we shared a strong sense of mutual like and admiration. But because the higgler in the stall next to them was eager to "steal" our business and provide for our specific wants.

    In the end, it was the market -- in a broad sense -- that created an atmosphere of peace and understanding.

    Note: Lab Manager is a pig. The hate consuming his heart comes out in his every post.

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  4. Agreed, great story! Need to celebrate the forgotten man as much as possible.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is EXACTLY what has gone wrong in Murica. The sole proprietor is dead and gone and big business is paying to make sure it doesnt come back.

    This story underscores why I laugh manically at the pundits that talk open markets and capitalism. You cant get there from here

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The sole proprietor is dead and gone and big business is paying to make sure it doesnt come back. "

      Good point! Even your local air conditioning installer or plumber is hooked up with bigger pockets. A number of smaller businesses are often subsidiaries of GE, Schlumberger, Weatherford and I'm there are examples in other sectors of the economy.

      Delete
  6. 75% of the immigrants from Mexico and Latin America are on welfare.
    Source: https://cis.org/Report/Welfare-Use-Immigrant-and-Native-Households

    So much for the assertion that they are here because of the market.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Re: Marmite,

      ─ 75% of the immigrants from Mexico and Latin America are on welfare.
      Source: https://cis.org/Report/Welfare-Use-Immigrant-and-Native-Households ─

      That report was debunked by the CATO Institute's own analysis, Marmite. The CIS is an anti-immigrant outfit that plays fast and loose with the data. The use of "households" is nothing but an aggregation scheme meant to massage the data to over-report the use of "benefits" (yes, they count anything you can think of as a 'benefit') by immigrants by lumping those immigrants with American Citizens. Yo do nothing to your credibility by pointing out to a report that NO ONE ELSE has validated. At this point, trusting the CIS is like trusting the Southern Poverty Law Center's own list of "extremist hate-groups".

      Delete

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