The old saying that no man is an island is an absolute truth. If we all had to survive on what it was that each of us can make, grow, construct and cook, our lives would be miserable. Most people would die within a few months. Can you make the petrol for your car, the spare part that’s required, the window to replace the one that broke? Can you perform emergency surgery, repair a tooth, make some warm clothes? Our societies are structured as they are so that we can interact with others and aggregate our specialities and skills.
The natural existence is that of a free market because it is a system of mutual cooperation. Cooperation is the manifestation of agreement – it is agreement in action. Agreements come about because certain actions are perceived by the participants as being in their best interests. Agreements are the beginning that leads to cooperation. Cooperation leads to the production that results from combining all the skills of those participating in the agreement.
The competition associated with Capitalism is sometimes misrepresented as being some sort of dog-eat-dog phenomenon. It is not. It is competition to see who can cooperate most effectively across the broadest area of existence – of who can garner the most amount of agreements. The most efficient and harmonious cooperation leads to the lowest costs of production and, all else being equal, the greatest success in satisfying people’s needs and wants. Capitalism in action is the expression of the greatest social virtue.* Yes, we are individuals, but Capitalism demonstrates that we are interdependent individuals. Capitalism is the most noble expression of our common humanity.
To suggest that there is either competition or there is cooperation is a false dichotomy. Competition in business means ultra-cooperation; try making a car on your own from scratch. But, as Leonard E. Read demonstrated, there is no need to be that extreme to make the point – try making a pencil on your own from scratch.
* Socialism is the complete absence of social virtue in that it is force, not agreement. That is why Capitalism produces prosperity and Socialism produces starvation.