Freeman

ARTICLE

The Surplus Wheat or--Comparative Advantage

OCTOBER 01, 1959 by H.P.B. JENKINS

Economist at Fayetteville, Arkansas

It was a chilly afternoon At story-telling time.

Old Kaspar shivered in his chair

and gulped his rum-and-lime,

While Peterkin and Wilhelmine

Warmed up the colorvision screen.

They saw a wide and rolling plain

 

Without a house or tree;

And filling all that vast expanse

As far as eye could see

Were countless groups of giant cans

Arranged in circles, squares, or fans.

And swarms of heavy trailer-trucks

 

In every dusty lane

Were standing by the giant cans

Unloading golden grain;

While waiting trucks with heavy loads

Were parked on all adjacent roads.

"Now tell us what it’s all about!"

 

The little children cried.

"It’s Surplus Wheat," Old Kaspar said

In tones of honest pride;

"We’re filling every desert plain

With shiny cans of costly grain."

"But what’s the sense in growing more

 

Than we can eat or sell?"

"In times of Economic War,

I’ve heard the Planners tell,

The countries that survive the test

Are those that outproduce the rest.

"Some other countries may excel

 

In population growth,

Or lead the race for bigger bombs,

Or faster cars, or both;

But there’s not one we cannot beat

At filling cans with surplus wheat."

ASSOCIATED ISSUE

October 1959

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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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