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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Free Goodies from the Bakery

If I arrive early enough in the morning at my local bakery, I can see vans pulling up out back marked with the signs for a local food bank. The drivers meet friendly employees who help load bags and bags of bread of all kinds, bagels, pies, and all sorts of pleasing goods that only yesterday sold for high prices. There are hundreds of dollars worth of baked items here.

Yet the baker charges nothing. He is pleased to see the food go to a good cause. It feeds the poor. Meanwhile, inside he is busy baking more for today's sales at market prices. This happens daily across America. Why? They don't advertise this. They just do it.

Even charity must make some degree of economic sense. Their profits from sales yesterday were high enough that they can afford to see the surplus move out the door. And perhaps the baker wants to sell only the freshest products. Sure, he could discount his day-old goods, but then the discounted day-old bread might compete with their higher-priced fresh bread.

Whatever the reason, you can be sure that the baker's charitable motive (which is real enough) is also mixed with good business sense. Is that wrong? No! His profits keep him in business so that he can continue to bake surpluses and see them go to a good cause.

The bakery's economic sense in no way conflicts with its owner's charitable sense. To give food away amounts to a mutually beneficial exchange that helps the food bank, the poor, the bakery, and even the customer who enjoys knowing that the bread he or she buys is always fresh.

It is a curious mental experiment to think back to the bread lines in Russia under communist rule. The system that set out to give bread to all ended up creating vast shortages; the system that has no national plan for bread production ends up having more bread than can be given away.

Which system is more compatible with liberty, justice, and prosperity for all? ... .

-- Rev. Robert A. Sirico
"President's Message," Acton Notes
September 2006, http://www.acton.org/


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