The ten thousand or so active editors, and a vast population of infrequent contributors, demonstrate the beauty of collaboration in producing Wikipedia. But everyone cooperates by way of market interactions, whether that is their intent or not. There is also a far greater degree of collaboration, which embodies staggering diversity—and that diversity is only limited by restrictions imposed from without by threat of force.
In markets, every participant’s preferences and values are incorporated into the results. Everyone who chooses to buy does so voluntarily, reflecting the fact that they place a greater value on what they receive than what they give up. Everyone who chooses to sell does so voluntarily, reflecting the fact that they, too, place a greater value on what they receive than what they give up. And those market relationships move goods and services to more highly valued forms, locations, and time periods, as well as to owners who place higher values on them, which are the only changes all self-interested parties mutually agree to. That is far vaster field of social cooperation than Wikipedia. And everyone who uses the prices that result as information about the tradeoffs others are willing to make—that is, everyone—benefits from it.
Because markets reflect the choices—and therefore the preferences, abilities and circumstances—of their participants, they also reflect the changes that impact them, communicating information by way of relative price changes. While Wikipedia is far more nimble than other reference sources in incorporating new information, markets incorporate vastly greater amounts of useful new information far more quickly.
The peaceful nature of market interactions is all the more amazing in view of the fact that unlike Wikipedia, markets do not advance a single goal. They do improve social cooperation, but that cooperation is in service of individuals’ widely disparate, often conflicting, particular goals. For example, we all desire food, clothing and shelter, but we do not want the same kinds of food, clothing, or shelter, nor do we want them at the same time or in the same place or for the same individuals.