11. The Domestication of Socialism


 Mr. Repp is a Professional Engineer in Sac­ramento, California.

Once upon a time, in a little Dutch village by the Zuider Zee, there lived a young teenager. One night, on his way home from a local youth center, he discovered a small hole in the dike that pro­tected the village. Realizing that this was not his responsibility, he rushed to the home of the Mayor, who hurriedly called a meeting of the Planning Commission for the following Wednesday night.

The members of the Commis­sion debated the serious situation at great length and finally asked for suggestions from the as­sembled villagers. One old man who suggested that they immedi­ately plug the hole was hooted down as a reactionary. Eventual­ly, it was decided that since the problem pertained to the general welfare, it should be referred to the Leader in the Capital City.

A petition was drawn up ex­plaining the situation, asking for help, and pointing out that 90 per cent of the villagers had voted for the Leader in the last election. Everyone cheered as the petition left for the Capital and no one but the old man noticed that the hole in the dike was getting bigger.

Before long, the little village was swarming with investigators and planners, and even the local elected representative returned from the Capital for a "firsthand" evaluation of the situation.

Almost everyone was happy. The tavern keepers were happy be­cause the newcomers ate, drank, and spent much more freely than the local villagers—it had some­thing to do with "expense ac­counts." Local businessmen were happy because they anticipated even more spending. The house­wives and village loafers were happy because they now had some­thing exciting to gossip about. Only one person was unhappy about the leak—the old man who just wished that they would plug it at once.

The small hole in the dike be­came progressively larger, and more and more water gushed through onto the lush, fertile ground. Soon, the salt water ruined much of the soil and many farmers were deprived of their livelihood; whereupon, the village was declared a depressed area and government money and adminis­trators poured into the town to help the now-idle men.

The farmers were thoroughly tested and interviewed to classify them for job training in one of the big cities; but, after being told that they would have to move, the farmers vowed that no one could force them to move away from their friends or their vil­lage, by gum.

Finally, the government plan­ners announced that their plans were completed and the people had nothing to fear. So much land had now been ruined that the village had been declared a disaster area and more money and jobs were on the way.

The new government aid pro­gram planned to set up bucket brigades to catch the sea water before it touched the ground and pour it back into the Zuider Zee. But when the government at­tempted to hire the idle farmers to work on this project, they re­fused, saying that it paid less money than farming, and that it was beneath their dignity to work at such menial tasks. The courts upheld their position and the farmers did nothing but sit in the sun and collect "their fair share" in government aid.

Since the sea water was now a foot deep all over the village, the planners began to talk about re­locating the villagers to new gov­ernment-built towns and building barracks and mess halls for young dropouts from the big cities who would soon arrive to man the buckets.

Suddenly, with an awful rumble, the dike gave way; and over the roar of the onrushing water, no one heard the old man despairingly mutter, "Why didn’t I fix that leak myself when it was first dis­covered?"


August 1965

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December 2014

Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
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