Saturday, December 23, 2006
By Stefan Molyneux
So this afternoon, when my son comes home from school, he’s carrying a cat-cage. He throws his books on the kitchen table and flashes me a smile, heading to the fridge.
“Hey son,” I ask, “Where’d you get the cat?”
“Oh” he says, opening the fridge door, “it’s my date’s.”
He takes a swig of milk. “Yeah. For the prom tomorrow.”
“Ohhh-k. Why do you have her cat?”
“Uhh, well, for insurance.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“Well I’m not sure she’s going to show.”
“What happened? What did she say when you asked her?”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, she’s all: it’s sooo totally inappropriate. She wasn’t into.”
I shook my head slightly, trying to make sense of my son. “So – you… took her cat? Because she said no?”
“Uh, Dad, no, what do you think I am, crazy?”
“Uhhh, no… But you do have her cat.”
“Well sure! She said she didn’t want to go to the prom with me, and I told her that she did, but she just didn’t know it yet, and that going to the prom with me was the right thing to do, and so I would have to make her do it if she didn’t want to.”
“What? What kind of… Where on earth did you learn that that was a good idea?”
“From my political science class.”
“Your political… What? How on earth does that make sense?” I took a deep breath. “Step me through it.”
He smiles. “Sure! So my political science teacher tells us we choose the government, and then the government gets to tell us what to do. Right?”
“Yeah, that’s the theory I guess…”
“So I asked her: hey, what if we don’t like what the government tells us to do? She says, well, we have to obey the government anyway, but we can protest, or vote for someone else in a few years or whatever. And then I said: what if the government orders us to do something we really disagree with – can we say no? She says, not really, you have to obey the government. Why? I ask. She says: because you have chosen the government. But if we have chosen the government, why would it need to force us to do things? It’s like– if I go to a store to buy an iPod, and say to the guy, I really want this iPod, here’s my money, and he pulls out a gun and says: you totally have to buy this iPod, or I’m going to shoot you.” He shakes his head. “What kind of sense would that make? If I want to buy the iPod, no one has to force me to buy it. If I don’t want to buy the iPod, isn’t it kind of wrong to force me to buy it? Am I wrong, Dad?”
I sigh. Sometimes I wish my son didn’t have to learn these lessons. “No, son, you’re not wrong.”
He smiles. “So then I said that governments, then, must be always forcing people to do what they don’t want to do, or I guess stop them from doing what they do want to do. And she says that people want to do the wrong things, but that government makes them do the right things. So I asked her how people who want to do the wrong things can vote for people who will force them to do the right things? I mean, if you know enough to say to someone: force me to be good – and here’s my list of good things – then surely you’re good enough already, and don’t need to be forced. And only bad people would want that job anyway!” He shakes his head. “Then she gets really angry and just says that people have to be forced to do the right thing, that there are a lot of bad people in the world, and we need governments to protect us, and so we have to obey, because the government is trying to help us, and basically it knows best. So I say: then it’s OK to force people to do stuff even if they don’t want to. She says yes, as long as you have their best interests at heart. I started to ask her how you could possibly know that, but she cut me off and said we had to move on, and that all the other kids were bored, which I don’t think was the case, ’cause they were all pretty wide-eyed by then.”
I nod slowly. “Right. Sooo… The cat?”
My son hops up on a stool. “Right, right! So, I want a date for the prom, and I ask someone in my poly-sci class, but she’s all ‘nooo, that’s soooo inappropriate,’ but I really want her to come, ’cause I have her best interests at heart, so I tell her that she has to come to the prom with me, because there are lots of bad dates out there, and it’s my duty to protect her. She says that she doesn’t need protection. I say sorry, that’s not really an option. She tells me to get lost. I say that if you don’t want to obey me, there will be consequences. She gets really mad and tells me to stop threatening her. I say I am not threatening her, I am just governing her, and if she doesn’t obey me, I’ll be forced to take her cat. She calls me a little creep and storms off.”
“So… that’s her cat?”
“Yeah, it’s easy to find out where people live. And it was an outdoor cat, so I didn’t have to break in or anything.”
I sigh. “So when can I expect a call from the girl’s parents?”
He blinks in confusion. “Parents? Why would her parents call? She’s, like, ancient.”
“Ancient? You’re in grade 9!”
“So how old is this girl?”
He pokes his finger into the cat cage. “Hi there!” He glances at me. “Oh she’s not a girl, dad. She’s a woman.”
The phone rings. Numbly, I pick it up. Before I can say anything, a shrieking female voice hits my ear like an icepick.
“This is Mrs. Staten, your son’s political science teacher, what on earth is going on, and where the hell is my cat?”
Thursday, December 07, 2006
In my role as a business consultant, I am often asked to provide solutions to highly complex problems. Recently, a large, politically well-connected agricultural business paid me a fortune to provide them with a five-year plan on how to best allocate their assets, capital and human resources in order to maximize profitability. The complexity of the business challenges involved were overwhelming, and I almost despaired of being able to provide them with a solution. The night before my big presentation, however, I suddenly remembered a central lesson I had learned in my political science classes. Armed with inspiration, I scribbled down a complete and total six-step solution, slept well, and presented my answer at the Board of Directors meeting the next morning.
This is what I showed them:
Find some people.
Help them disarm everyone else.
Give them enormous amounts of money.
Give them your wish list.
Wait for the solution!
I finished my presentation and turned to my audience, flushed with triumph. But for some reason, my solution was not greeted with cheers and accolades. Instead, I saw nothing but baffled and angry faces.
“What the hell was that?” demanded the Chairman of the Board.
“What kind of crap was that?”
“I’m sorry,” I frowned. “I’m totally confused. Are there any Republicans or Democrats in the room?”
“Well of course, but…”
“And do you vote? Do you all vote?”
“Well,” I asked, “do you have something against democracy then?”
Of course not, they all cried, but what does any of that have to do with this presentation?
“Well,” I said, “that’s the beauty of it! If you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you already agree that this ‘six step’ solution is the perfect answer to incredibly complex problems like educating children, providing health care, alleviating poverty and eliminating drug use – and tons of other problems far more complex than the one you want me to solve! So – given that you already approve of this ‘six step’ program for the most complicated and challenging social problems, surely it should be perfectly applicable to your much less complicated business issue! Heck, it might even be overkill!
This did not go over very well at all, which was rather surprising to me. I had to interrupt their angry words. “What on earth are you upset about?” I demanded. “Do you disapprove of public education? Does public education use something other than this ‘six step’ program? Don’t we give guns to a group of people and then ask them to educate our children? Don’t we give these people the entire power of the state, which they use to prevent other educators from competing with them? Does this power not give this group access to enormous amounts of money? Do we not keep handing those in the government our ‘wish list’ of the problems we want solved? And do we not fully expect that they will provide us with a solution? Why on earth are you angry? You have already approved this plan!”
More anger, more hostility – and then, most strangely, the Chairman suddenly demanded that I give them a full refund! I could not believe it! I asked if everyone had decided that they no longer were Democrats or Republicans. Strenuous denials all around! I held up my hand. “Excuse me. Excuse me! What do you do when the government fails to give you what you want? Do you demand a refund? If not, then why should I give you one?”
They ended up throwing me out on the street, shook their fists in my face, and promised to sue me if I didn’t give them back every penny they’d paid me.
I got up and dusted myself off, shaking my head in utter confusion. When I offer them a political solution, they scowl and yell at me – but they cheer and vote for a politician! I offer them the exact same solution that the government does, and they express loyalty to the government and threaten me! They throw me out into the street – and then meekly send their children to government schools. And jails. And wars.
People are very, very confusing.