Note: This post was originally published on my author blog on 26 November 2015.
Today is one of the most revered or reviled days in shopping history, depending on one’s point of view. Bargain hunters awake early on this Friday after Thanksgiving to crowd stores, searching for holiday gifts at special prices, while the not-so-savvy sleep in and do their holiday shopping online.
It’s easy to let Black Friday’s overt consumerism reflect negatively on Western society, capitalism, and the free market system (or a mostly free market system, as we have in the US). It’s also easy to forget one simple truth: Without the individual freedoms recognized and protected by our Constitution, this official start to the holiday shopping season would not exist.
Economic Freedom and the Freedom of Choice
I have many, many good friends who lean toward a Socialist viewpoint. Some overtly tout Communism as the ultimate solution to the economic problems facing the poor.
Forget it. Communism doesn’t work. If it did, the Cold War would never have ended. Soviet citizens would’ve had the privilege of buying basic necessities whenever they wanted, including toilet paper, which was always in short supply. And North Korea wouldn’t have had to lower the height standards for military enlistees due to the government’s inability to adequately feed its residents. Can you even imagine a Black Friday shopping spree in a country trapped in a state of neglect and famine by its own government?
In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we still have proponents of the Communist system, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who insists that consumers don’t need multiple choices of consumer goods. One brand of pen will do very well, by his rational, and black is the only color we need, right?
I guess Mr. Sanders has never met an author who color-codes her organizer according to priorities, tasks to do, and tasks completed, among other things. I guess he has no sympathy for the values of individual freedom and choice, but others do, and it is among those that I will award my own vote in the upcoming presidential election.
Black Friday and Freedom
But I digress. The reason capitalism survives is because it works, and it works because it’s a largely voluntary arrangement between producers, suppliers, distributors, and consumers, based on the simple principle of supply and demand. Ideally, no one is forced into participation. New companies arise as consumer demand increases or new technologies and products are developed. And consumers have ample choices to meet their specific, individual needs. All of this takes place thanks to the relatively large economic freedoms we enjoy.
In the US, we are fortunate that our ancestors fought so hard to secure these freedoms for us and put them in writing, a guarantee we should never take for granted and should always diligently protect and defend. While Black Friday may be anathema to some (particularly those who dislike mornings and crowds), it’s not wholly without redeeming graces.
If nothing else, it’s a stark reminder of the legally protected and naturally inherent ideals on which this country was founded: That an individual has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, whatever form that may take, even if it includes choosing to stand in line to get that early bird special the day after giving thanks for blessings already held.