Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For me, it encapsulates all that is fundamentally good in humanity through its celebration of gratitude. Being genuinely thankful is an underappreciated skill, and it is sometimes difficult to remember all people to whom we should be thankful. In a free society, this gratitude should encompass a wide variety of people, many of who we do not even know. Nonetheless, we owe them our thanks for working to provide the things we take for granted and rely on every day.
I say ‘in a free society’ not because you have to be free to be thankful, but because freedom is what truly allows gratitude to blossom. At the end of a free transaction, both parties can legitimately say thank you. If I buy something from the store, a mango, for instance, I can be grateful for all the people and all the effort that brought that mango to me. I can be thankful that the mango is offered on terms I find acceptable – I value the mango more than the money I give for in.
From the opposite end, the store can be thankful that I took the mango off their hands, since the money was of greater value to the store than the mango. Both the store and I are better off. We both can give thanks.
In an unfree society, this is not reliably the case. If I am forced to buy a mango, whether I want one or not, whether I would rather buy something else or save my money, or whatever, then I am not clearly benefitting. I may benefit, I may not. If someone is forced to sell, they may find it beneficial, or they may not. Since force is involved, we can’t tell for sure.
Freedom amplifies gratitude. Freedom encourages mutual respect, camaraderie, and fosters true cooperation. Without freedom, we can never be sure if someone is associating with us because they prefer to, or because they have to. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful to everyone who helped me, directly or indirectly. It is likely that if I searched the chain of people that contributed to me being able to type these words, I would end up with a list comprising virtually every being on the planet. I am grateful to you all.