Think of something wonderful– a piece of music, new technology, even love itself– at some point each one required an exchange between parties in order to become possible.  In fact, many exchanges were needed to make those into reality.

The world we live in today was brought about due to people exchanging goods, services, ideas and thoughts, hopes and dreams.  If exchange were to stop, life would soon become, as Thomas Hobbes put it, “nasty, brutish, and short.”  Even primitive, hunter-gatherer societies require exchange at some level in order to survive.  As human beings, we aren’t physically gifted.  We lack sharp talons or claws, razor-like teeth, the brute strength of our primate cousins, and numerous other things present in the animal world.  What we do have is the ability to understand, and to practice on a massive scale, the act of exchange.  What exactly is exchange then?

The Latin phrase O Admirabile Commercium comes to mind.  The phrase translates to “Oh Wonderful Exchange,” and is a reference to the exchange between Heaven and Earth that resulted in the creation of the Son of God.  In the minds of the Medieval and Renaissance worlds, it was simply the most wonderful exchange to have ever occurred, and was often set to music as a Motet by composers of the time.  For example, here is a modern rendition of 16th century composer Jacob Handl’s version of O Admirabile Commercium.  The motet is sung during Christmas time.

For libertarians who aren’t accustomed to the worship of an other-worldly, higher being, it begs the question: how exactly is a Latin phrase with a deeply religious connotation have anything in common with the world we know today?  Simple: look at the last word, Commercium.  What frequently used word is incredibly close to that?  Commerce.  The two share the Latin roots comis which means “friendly, or kind,” and merc meaning “reward, wages, hire.”  The basis of commerce is exchange, or a kind reward for the parties involved.  This is very much like the birth of the Christ Child, which was, and to many still, a great exchange, or kind reward.

Outside of libertarian circles, libertarianism, or more simply, liberalism is often cast as a “dog-eat-dog” world of brutal competition, where only the strong survive.  To the progressive, liberals only care about the well-to-do, and to the conservative, liberals want to embrace the chaos of the unknown.    Of course libertarians or liberals in the original sense of the word don’t envision a world of chaos and mayhem, where only the well-to-do thrive.  Rather, the world envisioned is one of peace and harmony.  A world in which all of humanity is seen with dignity and is valued, even if it is something small.  It is a world, based ultimately on love and respect for one-another.

Love and respect require each other in order to properly function.  There can be no love without respect, and no respect without love, much like there can be no free market with property rights, and property rights need a free market to operate most effectively.  Many libertarians often struggle to get the message across to people who don’t consider themselves to be libertarians, despite libertarians frequently being incredibly intelligent, and creative people.  They can write a thousand page work on why taxation is indeed theft, and that humanity would be best served with little to no government, yet they seem to struggle to get other people to adopt similar beliefs as them.  Part of that problem, I think, is a focus on the negative, aggression, for example, rather than love and respect.  Nobody wants to be around a negative person, it’s rather depressing.  Libertarians often have a hang-up with the negative parts of life, and it ends up hamstringing them when they try to communicate their beliefs to others.  Focus instead on all the good that happens, despite the bad things that happen in the world– obtrusive government bureaucrats constricting trade for example.  Try taking that approach, rather than other, and see how far it gets you, and of course never forget: O Admirabile Commercium, Saecula Saeculorum, Amen!