The Corner

Fruitcake Follies

Because we have handed over the running of our society to lawyers and

accountants, we are fast approaching a point where only a lawyer or an

accountant can perform ordinary daily tasks.

Case in point: fruitcakes.

Every year around this time, I get a mailing from Holy Cross Abbey in

Berryville, Virginia, asking if I want to buy one of their fruitcakes. You

bet I do: I l-o-v-e fruitcake. Every year I fill in the form and send it

back, with an order for two fruitcakes, one for Thanksgiving, one for


This year the letter duly arrived. The forms, however, have got an order of

magnitude more complex than they used to be. They have, in fact, got so

complex, the monastery has included a sheet showing “models” of how the form

should be filled out, depending on precisely what you are ordering, and

whether or not you are a Virginia resident. (There are six models


After struggling with this for a while, I gave up and just called the

monastery by phone. A friendly brother took my details and placed the

order. Then we had the following conversation.

Me: “Have a lot of people complained about the complexity of the forms?”

He: “Well… we’ve had a few… but we just started sending out these new


Me: “They sure are complicated.”

He: “Things are getting more and more complicated all over.”

Me: “I know. It’s getting to be too much. Maybe I’ll come join your


He: “Oh, we have our own complexities…”

If even religious retreats are under the thumb of the lawyers and

accountants, what hope is there for our civilization? We are doomed,


John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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