The Daily Drama of Bread Supply and Demand
Inspired by the classic essay, I, Pencil, Professor Russ Roberts of Stanford University, offers an engaging and timeless story to explain the economic processes we benefit from daily without realizing.
Professor Roberts wrote the poem, called It’s a Wonderful Loaf, as “an ode to the hidden harmony that is all around us. The seemingly magical ways that we anticipate and meet the needs of each other without anyone being in charge.”
No Bread Czar. No Minister of Flour.
In his introduction to the video, Professor Roberts explains:
“The variety and availability of bread at decent prices in cities around the world is an example of emergent order. The variety and availability and the pattern of prices emerges from the interactions of the enormous number of people who want to eat bread or bake it, along with the multitude of people who use flour for some other purpose or who are allergic to gluten, or who want trucks to deliver pizza rather than bread and so on.
Somehow, the actions of all these people fit together even though no one actor in this economic drama is in control. Day after day, the drama unfolds without a director or a script.
…The government’s legal system and public infrastructure underpin the process that allows the interactions between buyers and sellers to create the order that feeds the citizens of a great city.
But there is no bread czar. No minister of flour. No wizard of wheat. Yet, somehow, my desire for rye doesn’t stop you from getting whole wheat. Your desire for whole wheat doesn’t make life hard for the pizza lover. And there is beer made from the same grain to go with the pizza if you want it. The harmony of our daily lives happens without anyone being in control of the overall outcomes…”
Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. She is a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an adjunct fellow with CSIS. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught International Trade for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.