I like metaphors, which is why when I caught sight of someone using a rifle metaphor to describe government, I lost no time in linking to it. I recall back when this anxious nation was first pondering Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as “Stimulus,” I used a metaphor to explain why it would collapse into a risible pile of silliness and become a legislative blight. Which is exactly what happened, of course. At this point you’re looking at the date and saying: Freeberg, you must need special underwear to haul those things around! And you must be one smart puppy, too!
Well if I do have big b*lls of solid rock and I’m smarter than the average bear, I would argue this was not very solid proof of it. Kind of an easy call. I didn’t even call it, really; the whole story about the shipwrecked sailor and the old fisherman with the three daughters, was more of a writing exercise than anything else. People read my stuff and say “Freeberg, you need to leave more things unexpressed and unexplained. This would have been a lot more fun to read if you left some points unstated and forced the reader to figure it out.” I obliged, and I must say it turned out to be a success. People do seem to appreciate the story, a lot, probably more than they would’ve if I followed my usual custom, explaining everything.
For those who might have read it and didn’t get it: The moral is that we often pretend there is a great mystery surrounding how things are going to turn out, when deep down we understand this is not the case. History is very often unkind and disagreeable to logic, and logic is very often unkind and disagreeable to history. But in cases where the two happen to agree with each other, and rhetoric says something contrary, we really shouldn’t be arguing about the rhetoric being wrong. We already know that it is. That’s why I say, when I went on record with my thoughts that the Stimulus would be a boondoggle, it wasn’t exactly going on on a limb.
And yet, people continue to pretend things have the potential to produce good results, when they really don’t. Some day, I must find a way to make some money off of it.
This rifle metaphor about government compels me to think of a way to point out how all of our arguing is essentially predetermined. Any time our friends on the left decide they do not like something, every single move after that, by them and by everybody else, has already been cast in stone. And I can show how this is the case, easily if I can just think of something that will remove the emotionalism, something that has not yet been subjected to this. Rifles, of course, don’t fit that requirement so let’s use, instead, marijuana. Ha! No, that’s not going to work. Tobacco? Cheeseburgers? Coffee?
Grapes. Yes, grapes are good for you, although other things are just as good for you, and as of this particular writing they aren’t admired or derided by either the political right or the political left. They cost a nominal amount of money, are ideologically neutral, and people are still eating them. So grapes it is. Let us suppose, for sake of argument, and for reasons unexplained since they aren’t material to the exercise, our friends on the left wake up one morning and decide they don’t like grapes. Just like they don’t like tobacco or capitalism or carbon, they don’t like grapes.
Conservatives would decide on the spot, of course, that grapes are the most wonderful thing ever invented by God or man. Logic says this would happen, and history agrees. So that is my first point; if liberals become galvanized around some sentiment, conservatives will become galvanized around its opposite, and vice-versa. We need not debate whether or how surely it would happen, since we know it would.
Liberals would move, in all sorts of directions, at all sorts of levels of government, across generations, to cleanse the human condition of this loathsome agricultural product called the grape. We would not have to wait long before some Supreme Court decision was handed down about grapes, and sooner or later there would be a wild summer filled with speech-making about the grape decision. If it’s an even-numbered year, that year’s November election would be a referendum on the decision. And from then on, every time a justice retired from the Supreme Court, democrat senators would surround the replacement candidate, horseshoe-style, to interrogate the aspiring judge on whether he put any stock in this ridiculous notion that Americans have a constitutional right to eat grapes.
Again: Logic says it would happen and so does history. If the rhetoric says something contrary, rhetoric is wrong.
America will not tolerate what liberals would want to do, which is to outlaw grapes, and the liberals in charge of advancing the liberal movement are going to be smart enough to anticipate this. See, when liberals are acting to make a stronger future for their political movement, as opposed to a stronger future for the nation, they become surprisingly much more skilled at anticipating consequences. So they would not move to ban grapes from being grown, imported, exported, bought, sold, possessed or consumed.
But history insists that if there’s one thing liberal politicians like to do more than anything else, it is to manipulate Archimedean levers of power over the private transactions of supposedly-free people, to demonstrate to their liberal supporters that they have good liberal intentions so that they can grab some vital liberal votes. Logic agrees that they have no reason to stop doing this at all. So history and logic agree, again, that the liberal politicians will pass “sin” taxes on grapes. They’ll pass them in the county and they’ll pass them in the city. They’ll pass them at the state level and oh, boy, you had better believe the feds will join the party too.
History and logic also say the liberal politicians will use the proceeds of these sin taxes to do something to discourage the eating of grapes. It will probably have something to do with funding “research” to figure out if grapes are bad for you. History and logic say that when the research is done, the answer that will be produced by the research will be in the affirmative, yes, grapes are absolute poison. The science will be settled. Actually, the conclusion will, of course, have been reached before any of the “research” took place; the gathering of the data, and anything that was done with the data, were all just obligatory hoop-jumping exercises, with the conclusion having already been reached.
At this point, I should pause to pass on an important message from the Muse of Logic: She wishes to clarify that she is smiling only on the idea that these things will take place, not that they should. Important distinction to be made.
History and logic agree that a new hustle-and-bustle of government activity will now come to be dependent on this new grape tax. History and logic agree that the price of grapes will skyrocket. History and logic agree that the consumption of grapes will plummet.
History and logic agree that, because of all this, the city, county, state and federal government budgets will become emaciated. Big, bloated new programs depending on a revenue stream that is no longer there. Unavoidable.
History and logic agree that the position of conservative politicians will be that we’ve made mistakes and should reverse them. History and logic agree that the position of liberal politicians will be that, with a revenue shortfall, taxes are going to have to be raised on the very rich. They can’t find anything to cut, anywhere, except maybe the military.
History and logic agree that our “moderates” will dish out a bunch of pablum about “I’m neither conservative nor liberal, I’m middle-of-the-road…” and then they’ll come down on the side of the liberals. Repealing a program, after all, sounds just so extremist. And so, onward we’ll go, being more polarized and more divided, with a bigger more expensive and more insolvent government, adding more and more at all levels to a debt situation that explodes, in slow motion, out of control.
Logic hastens to add, once again, that she finds favor only in the notion that these things will happen. Not that they should.
Parables with metaphors in them are, ultimately, lessons in how a familiar situation looks from a different perspective. The metaphor exists to remove the emotionalism, so people can think about the vital elements more clearly. Morals of such parables often come in two parts: Observations about what is really going on, which are hopefully greater than what people typically realize about them before the parable is told, and suggestions about how they should be handled, which are somewhat different from how the situation is typically handled.
I can leave the moral of this one unmentioned, too, right?