Recipe for a Good Meal
MAY 01, 1958 by LEONARD E. READ
‘Twas a Sunday morning. The two of us had given no thought to any eating for the day except the conventional orange juice and coffee and the unconventional sautéed chicken livers and bean soup for breakfast. Let the rest of the day take care of itself! Then the not too-unconventional thing happened: three guests for dinner!
What to do? Westchester County abounds with restaurants of moderate quality. Why not the five of us dine out? That’s the expedient even if the expensive thing to do —sort of the escapist way. But to the gent who likes to cook, this is also to run from a challenge; it is to accept commonplace check-writing while rejecting exciting culinary creation.
An inventory of the refrigerator revealed some staples but nothing in the way of main-course fare except a cup of canned tuna and perhaps a cup and a half of left-over fricasseed chicken — not much of a start for a table of five. Yet, it was this paucity of supplies that presented the challenge. The Chinese approach came to mind — a little meat for flavor and many vegetables for good diet and bulk.
Two utensils were brought forth from the gadgetry closet and placed on the stove. One was an enameled cast iron casserole, an art of the French, Dutch, and Belgians — lost for years — in production again as the finest cooking ware there is. The other was a large, shallow, steel bowl used in Chinese kitchens for numerous kinds of cookery and called a "woc."
A tablespoon each of butter and flour went into the casserole for a roux. To the well-blended roux was added one cup of an excellent chicken stock made by a gal in Connecticut, and a cup of Campbell ‘s consommé. This was further thickened with a mixture of cornstarch and water, giving the glistening effect found in all Chinese sauces. Added were two tablespoons of soy sauce, one heaping teaspoon of brown sugar, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. The heat at this point was turned off under the casserole.
Now to the woc. Four slices of bacon were chopped and sautéed, the reasonably crisp pieces being scooped into the casserole. A half teaspoon of finely chopped garlic was half cooked in the woe’s bacon grease, all but a modicum of it spooned into a small dish for use as needed in a series of rapid sautéing.
With the heat high, the 11/2 cups of cut-up chicken were quickly browned and added to the casserole. Added also, and without any cooking, were the cup of tuna and a can of bean sprouts, rinsed and drained. Two bunches of scallions were chopped and half cooked and added to the casserole. The same with 1½ cups of sliced mushrooms. The final sauteeing job for the woc, and all together, were: one-half green pepper, chopped; two cups celery, chopped; and one can water chestnuts, sliced. These were not thoroughly cooked by a long shot.
It is important that all vegetables be crunchy and not mushy.
Well, there’s the concoction, call it what you will. I merely turned on the heat under the casserole, mixed it with a kitchen fork, brought it to simmer, and served it over rice in soup plates. I announced to my four hoped-for admirers: "We’re in business."
Anyway, this dish came off first-rate and it was pronounced "Delectable!" Wanting at least to affect modesty, and seeing an opportunity unobtrusively to make an economic point, I demurred by saying: "I had very little to do with this Chinese hash. Many tens of thousands of persons had a hand in its making." This remark evoked more in the way of astonishment than did the savoriness in the way of "ums" and "ahs."
I tried to explain: "Consider the persons who made my utensils, the ones who found out how to enamel cast iron, all of those who had to do with the facilities of manufacture. Who grew and milled and packaged the rice? From whence came the vegetables, and who brought them to market, and who had a part in all of the transportation and communication apparatus? The gal in Connecticut who processed the chicken stock had a part in this dish, as did the fishermen who caught the albacore and the folks who made their equipment. Reflect, too, on all those who saved, thus providing the capital for all of the enterprises. Think of the army of people who brought the gas to my stove. Above all, bear in mind that not one ingredient used in this preparation was grown, mined, fabricated, or transported by me. Numberless thousands, perhaps millions, through space and time, lent their services for this which you declare delectable."
"But," retorted one of my guests, "it has always been thus. What you speak of as if it were a phenomenon is really commonplace. Aren’t you making much ado about nothing?"
"Indeed, I am not. To get a full appreciation of my point, you should read Weaver’s Mainspring. There you will get the history of freedom and its meaning to you as a person. You will see that most of the people of the world for all time have been faced with famine and starvation; that in most countries, regardless of how backward, a certain few have always been able to command the services of others. The historical rarity is where persons, in moderate circumstances like ourselves, exercising no coercion over any others, can obtain the services of millions in exchange for some minor specializations of our own. The abundance we are experiencing at this table is no longer necessarily confined to kings and commissars and monopolists, the special privileged, or successful thieves. The formula is known that can make a meal like this the fare of anyone who is willing to work. It is this formula that constitutes by far the most important part of this or any other good recipe."
"What is this formula in its briefest form?"
"Adherence to free market, private property, limited government principles."
"You have carried brevity too far. Can’t you expand on your principles?"
"Not adequately during a dinner hour. In essence, however, it is simply to leave everybody totally free to act creatively as they please, to let anyone and everyone exchange their goods and services with whomever they please on whatever terms can be mutually agreed upon, to let the fruits of one’s labor be one’s own, and to limit government — society’s agency of force — to the protection of everyone equally in these freedoms."
"Do you mean that government should not play Robin Hood?" "That is precisely what I mean. Political Robin Hoodism is like taking 20 points from the student who got a grade of 95 and giving the 20 points to the one who got a grade of 55. The first will produce less because his incentive has been removed. The latter won’t produce because he has become the object of something for nothing."
"You go too far in limiting government. Imagine the chaos there would be in a complex society like ours if government were not managing the economy at all."
"When you say I go too far, you are really saying you favor some predation, providing it is legal, and that I am wrong for being opposed to all of it. And as to government management of the economy, could you manage it or organize its management? Let me make this easier for you. Could you have directed the creative activity that went into the making of the woc that sautéed our food? Or that went into the other ingredients employed by us today? Could you direct just one person in invention, discovery, ingenuity? Why, directing your own self in this respect is a bigger chore than you can fulfill. And what makes you think that voting you into or appointing you to some political office betters your capacities? By doing this, we would make you less capable. If we give you power to direct us, that will corrupt you. Examine yourself and your limitations, add a dose of corruption, and you will see the true nature of an authoritarian, the one who presumes to direct the creative lives of people within a society. And, remember, everyone else, no matter how skilled in other ways or how well educated, is just as incompetent as you are when it comes to controlling the productive lives of others."
"But, under your system how are the poor fed?"
"You are now witnessing the answer. The principles I have but casually touched upon have been practiced in the
"Why, though, do you dwell so passionately on the subject? Your talk would imply that liberty is precariously held; that it’s something we are in imminent danger of losing."
"We are in danger of losing liberty. You and millions of others are taking liberty for granted, so much so that you embrace authoritarian ideas as long as they are legally clothed and "democratically" implemented. Only now and then can a skilled expositor of the free market, private property, limited government concept be found. Socialism (authoritarianism) — liberty’s opposite — is on the increase, and dangerously so."
"I did not know this."
"Without an understanding of liberty, you couldn’t possibly know this."
"Anyway, I enjoyed your dish." "Well, thanks. And, please don’t
think I have been talking irrelevantly. I only want you to know the whole recipe and to realize that numberless thousands of others were `cheffing’ for you this day. Here’s a toast to their health and happiness, all of them, with a wine from California — and to the folks through the ages who brought it to perfection and to our table."
Ideas On Liberty
We find relatively high wages in a country where the productivity of the workers is high. Where we find an extremely low level of wages, we can be sure that the productivity of the workers is low. Here, of course, we are speaking of real wages —what the wages will purchase — rather than of money wages. In a country experiencing great inflation, money wages may climb to astronomical heights and yet buy very little.
Why there is such a tremendous difference in the production of workers in different countries can be summed up very briefly in the one word, tools. The term tools includes plant and equipment, as well as the actual machines the worker operates. A man who has good tools with which to work is more productive than one who has poor tools.
To provide the tools for the workers, a part of the past production of individuals must be saved. There is no other way. Workers compete with one another for the use of tools; the more plentiful the supply of tools, the better each worker’s chance of being highly paid for using them. Workers who use their organized power to frustrate production, thus preventing the saving for new tools — new capital — tend to cut off their only avenue to progress.
W. M. Curtiss, The Tariff Idea