Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/73

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The Humanity of Trade

Its function is not only to transfer ownership from one person to another, but also to direct the current of human exertion; for the price indicator on the chart of the market place registers the desires of people, and the intensity of these desires, so that other people (looking to their own profit) may know how best to employ themselves.

Living without trade may be possible, but it would hardly be living; at best it would be mere existence. Until the market place appears, men are reduced to getting by with what they can find in nature in the way of food and raiment; nothing more. But the will to live is not merely a craving for existence; it is rather an urge to reach out in all directions for a fuller enjoyment of life, and it is by trade that this inner drive achieves some measure of fulfillment. The greater the volume and fluidity of market-place transactions the higher the wage level of Society; and, insofar as things and services make for happiness, the higher the wage level the greater the fund of happiness.


The importance of the market place to the enjoyment of life is illustrated by a custom recorded by Franz Oppenheimer in The State. In ancient times, on days designated as holy, the market place and its approaches were held inviolable even by professional robbers; in fact, stepping out of character, these robbers acted as policemen for the trade routes, seeing to it that merchants and caravans were not molested. Why? Because they had accumulated a superfluity of loot of one kind, more than they could consume, and the easiest way of transmuting it into other satisfactions was through trade. Too much of anything is too much.

The market place serves not only to diffuse the abundances that human specialization makes possible, but it is also a dis-

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