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Snow Day Economics


Recently I confided to a friend that, given the givens, I was stepping up my extra-curricular economic education for my children, because I think they need to understand what we are really talking about when we complain about taxes and tyranny. I know they won’t get it at school. Unfortunately, Liberal Facism and the works of Adam Smith, Hayek, Friedman, and others are not really appropriate for preteens, who, on a good day, will read fiction instead of I-chatting or watching Hannah Montana. I did order copies of most of Ayn Rand’s works, for which I have probably too high hopes with the 13-year-old.

He sent me this poem. (More of a ‘pome.’) It is a useful way to make a point or two to the young. Anyway, I made mine read and discuss (‘Mom, you’re kidding. This is so dorky…’) before allowing them to do what they wanted. (Sledding, then Iron Man, for the millionth time.) I am perfectly certain that Corner readers can match or better this work.

by R.W. Grant

This is a legend of success and plunder
And a man, Tom Smith,
Who squelched world hunger.
Now Smith, an inventor, has specialized in toys.
So, people were surprised
When they found that he instead
Of making toys, was BAKING BREAD!

The way to make bread he'd conceived
Cost less than people could believe.
And not just make it! This device
Could, in addition, wrap and slice!
The price per loaf, one loaf or many:
The miniscule sum of under a penny.

Can you image what this meant?
Can you comprehend the consequent?
The first time yet the world well fed!
And all because of Tom Smith's bread.

A citation from the President
For Smith's amazing bread.
This and other honors too
Were heaped upon his head.

But isn't it a wondrous thing
How quickly fame is flown?
Smith the hero of today --
Tomorrow, scarcely known.

Yes, the fickle years passed by:
Smith was a millionaire,
But Smith himself was now forgot --
Though bread was everywhere.
People, asked from where it came,
Would very seldom know.
They would simply eat and ask,
"Was not it always so?"

However, Smith cared not a bit,
For millions ate his bread,
And "Everything is fine," thought he,
"I am rich and they are fed!"

Everything was fine, he thought?
He reckoned not with fate.

Note the sequence of events
Starting on the date
On which the business tax went up.
Then, to a slight extent,
The price on every loaf rose too:
Up to one full cent!

"What's going on? the public cried,
"He's guilty of pure plunder.
He has no right to get so rich
On other people's hunger!"

(A prize cartoon depicted Smith
With fat and drooping jowls
Snatching bread from hungry babes
Indifferent to their howls!)

Well, since the Public does come first,
It could not be denied
That in matters such as this,
The Public must decide.
So, antitrust now took a hand.
Of course, it was appalled
At what it found was going on.
The "Bread trust," it was called.

Now this was getting serious,
So Smith felt that he must
Have a friendly interview
With the men in antitrust.
So, hat in hand, he went to them.

They'd surely been misled;
No rule of law had he defied.
But the their lawyer said:
"The rule of law, in complex times,
Has proved itself deficient.
We much prefer the rule of men!
It's vastly more efficient.
Now, let me state the present rules,"
The lawyer then went on,
"These very simple guidelines
You can rely upon"
You're gouging on you prices if
You charge more than the rest.
But it's unfair competition
If you think you can charge less.

"A second point that we would make
To help avoid confusion:
Don't try to charge the same amount:
That would be collusion!
You must compete. But not too much
For if you do, you see,
Then the market would be yours
And that's monopoly!"

Price too high? Or price too low?
Now, which charge did they make?
Well, they weren't loath to charging both
With Public Good at stake!

In fact, they went one better
They charged "monopoly!"
No muss, no fuss, oh woe is us,
Egad, they charged all three!

"Five years in jail," then the judge then said
"You're lucky it's not worse.
Robber Barons must be taught
Society Comes First!

Now, bread is baked by government.
And as might be expected,
Everything is well controlled:
The public well protected.

True, loaves cost a dollar each.
But our leaders do their best.
The selling price is half a cent.
(Taxes pay the rest!)


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