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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Nature Hedging Its Bets

The temperature has been highly variable. The very day when I wrote about how cold it was, in the afternoon it was suddenly very warm again. I now can see that nature is hedging its bets, allowing some plants to carry on as if winter is almost upon us, while others behave as if it is spring.

This morning, Bow chose to go outside, But yesterday he did not, preferring to wrap himself in a blanket. I talked about how cold it was with the delivery lady, but she said that, actually, it was rather nice out. In the afternoon, I went for a walk, and I saw that the yellow butterfly was going about its business as usual, and there were still plenty of purple thistle flowers to accommodate it.

I try to draw closer, but the yellow butterfly merely flitted off, landing on another thistle flower further away.

Everywhere there were new flowers that had just now bloomed.

A blackberry bush was blossoming as if it had every intention of very soon bearing a berry.

There were tiny ants on the little flowers sprouting in the grass,

Small yellow flowers, looking a little like bidens, came up from the cut grass. And on the fruit trees, while most of the branches looked dead, a lone blossom opened here and there. Nature is hedging its bets. The plants and the insects don't know for sure which way things are going, so they are investing in one outcome and its opposite, hoping to survive in the long run.

I think this is something about natural selection -- and the economy --  and freedom of choice --  that is often misunderstood, It's not necessary that we all know exactly what the future holds. Survival of the fittest is not about getting better and better, nor is it about having foresight about future changes in the environment. It is about whoever happens to be best suited in a particular event, under specific circumstances, doing well. And nobody needs to know in advance who that lucky survivor is going to be.

Suppose that we don't know for sure  what is the best diet or the best health care plan or the optimal solution of every problem. Isn't it good that different individuals make different choices? Nobody can know for sure which decision will turn out to be best, but at least we will not all perish for the same reason due to centralized planning. Somebody will do well, even though we may not know who. Maybe all the chimpanzees in America are about to be rounded up and sent to concentration camps from which they will never emerge and where they will not reproduce. In that case, it is good there are also chimpanzees left in other countries. But supposing all the chimpanzees in the wild are killed by the native populations among whom they live? Isn't it good that there are captive chimpanzees in North America, and in Europe and Asia, too? Do we really want to put all our eggs in one basket?

Who is to say what will happen? It is better to hedge our bets. A free economy does not work well because people are smart,  and they make wise choices. It is not even a certainty that those who make a fortune do not do so in some small measure due to luck. Freedom of choice works well, because not everyone is doing the same thing. Not all are making the same mistakes, and so some will thrive, no matter how many others go belly up. If we don't allow that to happen, then we force everyone to go down together.

A deer I saw yesterday after dinner
If global warming keeps us from having a winter at all, then the cherry trees and serviceberry and the blackberry bushes will produce lots of fruit, and the wildlife will prosper.

And if it grows cold, and we have to wait till next spring, that will be fine, too. Either way, there are some who are already preparing and investing in the future. Some will win, and some will lose, but life as we know it will go on.

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