Political scientist Michael Munger wonders:
Why don't stores charge us exorbitant prices? Why don't our employers always withhold our health insurance, or cut our salaries in half, or cancel our vacations? Why do we get pay raises, instead of pay cuts? Is it because everyone loves us?
So many people I encounter, smart people, seem to believe that what makes people do good, or prevents them from cheating or acting badly, is personal integrity, good character, and regard for others. I'm not a psychologist, but I wonder if the reason is that they just have trouble with the idea of an intricately interconnected world where all of us are dependent on unknown others. How can we be dependent on others, and not be in their power?
The answer—markets create interdependencies without forcing subjugation, or even allowing abuse—was one of the key insights of Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. He said: "Observe the accommodation of the most common artificer or day-labourer in a civilized and thriving country, and you will perceive that the number of people of whose industry a part, though but a small part, has been employed in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation." In advanced market economies, we are all dependent on others in ways we may not even have thought of.
Of course, I would prefer the "Everyone loves Mikey!" explanation. If I am treated well, it should be because I am special. The fact that markets create dependencies without subjugation means that I am served well for the benefit of the server; other market participants are prevented from treating me badly not by their good character but by their desire for profits.