Market Miracles, Cheeseburger Edition

Via the indispensable Jason Kottke, I found this interesting article on the difficulties of making something as ordinary as a cheeseburger from scratch.

Further reflection revealed that it’s quite impractical—nearly impossible—to make a cheeseburger from scratch. Tomatoes are in season in the late summer. Lettuce is in season in in the fall. Mammals are slaughtered in early winter. The process of making such a burger would take nearly a year, and would inherently involve omitting some core cheeseburger ingredients. It would be wildly expensive—requiring a trio of cows—and demand many acres of land. There’s just no sense in it.

A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors—in all likelihood, a couple of dozen—and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh. The cheeseburger couldn’t have existed until nearly a century ago as, indeed, it did not.

With the aid of technological progress, and the incredible coordinating abilities of the free market, a cheeseburger can now be had for a dollar. That is rather astonishing. It is also a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in times like these, whether we enjoy cheeseburgers or not.

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