The Economics of Fraternity

Condensed from a post by Hardscrabble Farmer.



. . . The word friend is a poor word to define something specific. You can ascertain only two absolutes from its use; not family and not a threat. It must be one of the oldest words in every language because it has always been important to distinguish between those who would do you harm and those who would not, especially in a world where cooperation was the key to survival. Since then we’ve come up with the modifiers that help us narrow things down- best friend, oldest friend, family friend, etc.

Younger people refer to BFF, something that usually isn’t, but we do it to remind ourselves of the important role that these people play in our lives. When a phone call comes in at 3 am from a parent, child or sibling we rarely turn back over and go to sleep. Instead our systems kick into high gear and we put rest aside and do whatever we need to at that very moment for whoever has called us in distress or need. People outside of our genetic line rarely get the same degree of response unless they have proven themselves over time, and we to them until they have come to be an adopted member of our extended family in a friendship that ranks much higher on our scale of relationships. . .

When economists do their thing and come up with all their theories about how things works, how people and nations and businesses all intertwine and become whatever it is that they call an economic system, they leave out huge parts of it that add up to something powerful and inestimable. There is a shadow economy that takes place in ways that dwarf black markets in illicit goods, that cannot be calculated on supercomputers regardless of the software and processing power they possess.

There is, as in all other things in life, a magnificent and awesome cycle, a reality that is based not on dollars and cents or decimals and ledgers, but on unwritten and undeclared drives that we all experience and share. There is labor and material, production and consumption, installations and failures, building an collapse and all of it repeating itself over and over, again and again, one generation after another. And all of this is tied to nothing more than the natural response to our inner most drive to be what we were meant to be- not consumers as our own government calls us- but friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and all the myriad connections between us that propel us to do and have things done for hour by hour, day after day for as long as we live.

I wonder what the value of this cooperative exchange that takes place wherever people give of themselves must add up to. It is far more than all the paychecks generated each week because it endures longer than any job description. It pays back more than any investment because it builds capital not just interest. It has more worth than the combined accounts of every market and corporation, every tranche and future, all the commodities and inventories on Earth because it cannot be bought or sold.

The laws of supply and demand have no effect on it, it cannot be seized or taxed, there are no regulatory agencies, no compliance officers and no enforcement bureaus that could do anything to limit or restrict it because it is given freely. There should be some kind of discipline or study that tries to make sense of it, this economics of fraternity, but that would be impossible because it defies that kind of understanding. That it is is all that is required and that we all participate as we are able is all that is needed for it to exist for as long as we survive.

Ahhh! Free Enterprise! Some things just can’t be measured, especially when it comes to the “free” work of those who labor based on heart, trust, and love. Just how much GNP value does the stay-at-home Mom REALLY add to the economy? Far more than is attributed, that’s for sure! Likewise friends helping each other in moving, remodeling a home, fixing up a junker car, etc.; just how much value added can be economically measured? Little to none!

Ahh, but the value to the heart and soul is immeasurable, if not economically definable! The posters on this blog are evidence of that type labor of love, yet there is no measureable GNP contribution, is there? Still, my life would definitely be poorer if it were missing. How about you?

I heartily commend HSF’s work, in its entirety. He has the touch of a master craftsman in his wordsmithing, taking the germane workaday world to a sometimes ethereal level. His personal story is interesting too. Standup comedian, Wall Street dynamo, back to the land dirt & syrup farmer from scratch, with wife & family, arm in arm. I am in awe! I treasure his long distance friendship. And his pure maple syrup is darned good too!

Categories: Political

2 replies

  1. Excellent post, Curtis. Your friend has truly enriched us with his words, and you’ve done your share by passing it along. Thanks!


  2. A truism if ever there was one. A really good friend’s value is inestimable; priceless, as is the love between true lifelong friends. Isn’t it interesting that some lawsuits place a value on human life in the millions, even for an individual whose earnings over a lifetime might only be a fraction of the awarded amount. They (the lawyers) dig up every possible attribute that could contribute to that value and inflate them to the nth degree. That’s the closest thing we have to a financial value to a family – but I don’t think that I’ve ever heard of anyone valuing friendship in a similar manner. Some businesses place a value on “good will” but that’s usually only a negotiating point when selling the business. It’s a difficult concept to nail down, but we all recognize it when it’s there.

    Interesting topic, Curtis, keep ’em coming!


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