Christmas is not only a time for rejoicing and celebration, but also a time of gratitude for what we have. In times such as these, in which all of us have been affected by the circumstances related to COVID-19, this is all the more important. It’s for this reason I would like to point out that it’s not only Christmas today, but every day. What do I mean by this? To answer this question, I’ll provide a lesson from my mother.
My mother was born in a town called Carini, in the Province of Palermo, Sicily. She was born and grew up in a home with no car, no television, and no air conditioning. After she migrated to the United States in 1971, see never thought of returning to her hometown, and always reminded us how wonderful life in America is.
It was 30 years today that she imparted on me a lesson, one that I will never forget and that I only fully appreciate now. It was an important lesson of economic development and the blessings of a free society that she taught me, even though my mom never made it to high school. She would reflect on her own childhood, telling us that the smell of oranges would remind her of Christmas.
What’s baffling about this story is that, even before my mom was born and to the present day, Sicily remains the largest producer of oranges in Italy, and a major producer of oranges and other citrus fruits worldwide. You’d think, in spite of the poverty within which she was raised, she would enjoy oranges on a more regular basis. Yet, today, most us enjoy (or can enjoy at little cost) and take for granted what had been a luxury that was consumed during Christmas, even amongst those residing in a part of the world where they were grown in relative abundance.
My intention here is neither to secularize nor undermine how special and joyous the Christmas season is. Rather, it is to express gratitude and place in perspective what the beneficial consequences of economic development are, and not to take for granted how new in the history of humankind our way of life is, even during times as hard as this. The point here is that one of the fruits of economic development, and the institutional preconditions that facilitate it, namely private property and freedom of contract under the rule of law, not only provide the framework to practice religious freedom, but also allows the masses of the population to get just not a smell, but a taste of Christmas every day.
Rosolino Candela is a Senior Fellow in the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and Associate Director of Academic and Student Programs at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University