Updates for Monday, July 19th [2004]

The Big Race


Dear Friends,

Two weeks ago it was brought to me that my turtle, Mr. Capitalism, could not beat Carl's turtle "Marks" in a foot race. Perscribed to me by Daniel and James, we all decided to meet Carl out in the driveway to conduct the big race, just this last Wednesday. So it was, we measured out several yards of pathway with yarn, it appears that Carl and James decided this occassion was good for drinking. I don't like the canned beers, they just taste so different than my home-brewn malts and liquors, instead I opted for a new fizzy sugar water drink I have grown fond of, "Root Beer", which is neither root nor beer, but very delicious. It was like an imitation mineral water, but far better than any I had tasted before.

So it was that our two turtles were put on a starting line. The rules were simple, I would stand at my end to coach Mr. Capitalism to me, and Carl would coach Marks. The first turtle to reach the end of the path is the victor.

So, Daniel let go of Mr. Capitalism, and James let go of Marks, and they were on their way. For the first several inches things were slow in coming, although James and Daniel were whooping it up, entirely too amused, or too drunk, to notice much about it. Then Marks began walking off in the wrong direction, as Mr. Capitalism steadily approached me.

James: Well, that's not fair. Marks should be put back on the track to where Mr. Capitalism is.

Me: It seems fair enough to me. The rules were the first to reach the other end is the winner.

James: No, that's not fair at all. How can a turtle know what the track is? Here, I'll fix it...

It was at this point James actually put Marks back on the track, right where Mr. Capitalism was, to be more "fair". I protested the decision,

Me: If the point of this race was a honest contest, how is that not considered cheating? Real competition isn't when you interfere to put the competitor "back on track", or when you offer him aid simply because he is losing. Imagine if the same happened in sport or honest business.

James: It's also not fair that Carl's turtle isn't given a chance because of a simple mistake. It's obvious that his turtle doesn't see the track, so I did what was right. Honest competition is when all competitors are equal. If they're not equal, then the winner will have an unfair advantage.

Me: Who chose you to govern the race?

So the two turtles kept on their two ways, Marks picking up the pace being put back again on the right course, and Mr. Capitalism slowly but steadily making his way to me. Carl yelled at Marks for him to go faster, but the turtle, in shock, simply stopped. It was at this point that James intervened once again, putting a can in the path of Mr. Capitalism.

Me: What did you do that for?

James: If competition is going to be fair, everyone has to be equal. So I put the can in front of him to impede him, since Marks stopped. It's not fair that Marks is waiting and Mr. Capitalism has nothing to wait for. So the best way to make sure there is fair competition is to impede him, so he doesn't get a huge lead while Marks is confused.

Me: But this race could be over already had it not been for your interferences. We could all be going inside now instead of staying out here.

Daniel: Relax Tommy-boy, James is right. No competition is fair if it's not equal. How else can we tell which turtle is truly the best?

So it was that Mr. Capitalism, instead of going around the can, actually pushed it to the side and slowly, but surely, continued on his way. It was at this point they reached the halfway mark, and Marks had shaken his confusion to get the lead. It was then that Carl yelled again, and Marks, scared, actually began to retreat. James, once again, interfered.

James: Wait, wait, wait! Time out!

Me: What now?

James: If we don't put Marks back up with Mr. Capitalism he'll lose. We should put them both back at the halfway mark and let them start over from there. All in favor?

Me: Wait just one minute, what kind of race is this? When my turtle does well, you block him. When the other one does poorly, you aid him. When it is clear he will win, you fix them back to the starting point. My turtle races steady the whole way, how is that not fair competition?

James: It's not fair because equality is what makes things fair. How fair would it be if businesses were undersold by the monopolist big corporations? How much competition would there be then? Shouldn't someone step in and give them a benefit or two so there is more competition? If Mr. Capitalism was allowed to just walk when Marks is doing so poorly, it would've been a blowout. That's a very anti-competitive attitude, Tommy.

Me: Well this kind of race is a farce. There is no competition where those who govern interfere. I'm taking Mr. Capitalism inside... how can you tell how effective Capitalism can be when you keep impeding him?

It was as such, I grabbed my friend Mr. Capitalism, and went back inside. I heard as I walked off, the three gentlemen declare "Carl's Marks beats Capitalism by disqualification! Yay!", before they turned up the music and began to drink themselves into a stupor. I think the race was more entertainment for them than any kind of real competition. I wondered to myself, how can anyone "increase competition" by cheating, intervention and fraud?

I was told later by Daniel that he and James had been talking and think I should relinquish my turtle back to the wild. I quite naturally refused to do so. They say I have become "too sensative" about it and that it is "inhuman" to take animals from the wild, although I remind you my friends, it was James who brought the animal in out of "compassion" in the first place. The turtle is my ward and I will care for him for now. Natalie has offered a place for Mr. Capitalism at her house, so I am going to leave him there for the time being.

I have made a great exertion to write you thus much; my antipathy to taking up a pen being so intense that I have never given you a stronger proof, than in the effort of writing a letter, how much I value you all, and of the superlative respect and friendship with which I salute you.

- TH. Jefferson

Editor's Notes:

The allegory in this entry is between the turtle race and the battle of Socialism vs. the Free Market. We have mixed market policies in America today, and when the market does bad, it's not the intervention, cheating or fraud that is called out to blame, but instead, the lack of more intervention, cheating and fraud by the government who oversees the "big race". We often judge Capitalist free markets rashly, when in reality, they are far more strong and steady than their alternatives. Bureaucracy intervenes, like James, and we repeat the cycle of criticism of the free market, until it is no longer really free. We have only two choices in this situation, to keep "competing" in the race, or to call it for what it is and stop playing their game. TeeJ made the right decision.

The send-off was snagged from a Jefferson letter to Nathaniel Macon, January 12, 1819, summarizes how I feel about the update and the journal, since I've had something of a writer's slump lately.

Bringing Old American Truth to confront the New American Myth

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