Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Two Cows - Lessons in Economics

 This is an oldie from 2006, but  is still applicable

The “Lessons In Economics” based on cows is an old Internet joke, but it has a definite right-wing bias. I have written my own version to rectify this.

American Capitalism

I have two cows. I form a corporation. With the investment raised I buy a bull and soon produce a herd. The cows work long hours for lousy feed, have no medical insurance and only get a weeks vacation. I sell my milk at a loss and under-cut the other farmers, putting them out of business. Thus, I get their pasture and cows, adding them to my farm. Some stubborn farmers remain, but I use eminent domain to take their pasture. My cows revolt and form a union. I get the police to beat them and break the union. The leader of the cows union is arrested on a host of bogus charges, tortured and given 90 years in prison. Then I discover milk is cheaper in India, fire all the cows, build a Gated Community on the pasture land and import milk from India. The government gives me a patent for Potable Bovine Liquid and a copyright on the name “Milk” and thanks to the WTO I now have a global monopoly on the sale and production of milk.

Canadian Capitalism

I have two cows. I form a corporation. The Federal Government gives me $200,000,000 with which I buy most the cows in the country. Then I sell all the cows, take my money and move to the USA.

18th Century English Capitalist

I have two cows. But I notice there are a lot of wild cows in England, grazing on their own pasture land. So I tell my friends in Parliament about this and they pass an Enclosure Act and drive the wild cows off the land which is then deeded to me. I become very wealthy. But all those wild cows wandering the roads mooing for fodder are a problem, so I get my friends in government to arrest the cows and transport them to the Colonies where they work on my farms that the Crown has so kindly granted me. But most of the wild cows die and those that don’t run away and join the Indians. I hear there is a good supply of big, tough cows in Africa so I take a ship and gather them up. Mind you, about half die en route back to the Colonies, but, there’s millions more where they came from. The African cows sometimes revolt, but burning the leaders alive or hanging them by the udders usually helps restore order. I develop a three-way trade; fodder from England, cows from Africa and Colonial milk back to England, but soon find the African cow trade to be the most profitable of the three. Of course, from time to time the cows try to take over a ship or the damned Frenchies try to grab them, but the Royal Navy is always there to help me. By now, I have bought a title, (Lord Fucinarsle) a seat in Parliament and a 50 room Country House, which is rather nice. In my spare time I write letters to The Times on the “Virtues of Free Enterprise” and “The Need to Control the Lower Orders” and am planning a new business venture - selling opium to the Chinese!


I have two cows. I complain to the Fuhrer about this and he offers to sell me cows expropriated from Jews, communists and other sub-humans at below market price, provided I kick-back an amount to the Party. I experiment on my now very large herd and find that thru the application of torture I can double milk production. This combined with slave labor makes me a very wealthy man. But alas, the forces of International Judeo-Bolshevism triumph over the Fatherland and I am forced to flee. Luckily, the Vatican smuggles me out and I end up in Paraguay. In the midst of this mongrel and degenerate race I begin my dairy farm anew. Then one day a man from the CIA comes by. I am so pleased to be once more among gentlemen who share my Christian faith and implacable hatred of cultural Jew-Bolshevism and miscegenation that I sign on immediately. After a number of adventure-filled years overthrowing socialist-infested democracies, I end up with my old friend Klaus Barbie, creating the international cocaine cartel, so important during the Iran-Contra days. Now retired in the USA, from time to time the School of the Americas has me teach “The Art of Cow Torture” to South American Latifundists to improve their milk production.


I have two cows. I get together with other farmers and buy a bull which we share. Our herds grow. Our animals are treated with ethical standards and we farm organically. We also form a cooperative to buy feed and equipment and a cooperative dairy to process the milk, make butter and yogurt and market these products. At the same time we develop a credit union which helps local people set up small cheese production as well as a host of other small spin-off industries. The American capitalists hear of our success and the US Government declares us a nest of communist terrorists funded by Hugo Chavez and a threat to democracy. Soon Cowntras are infiltrating our herds, poisoning the milk and murdering the calves.


Anonymous Cocoabean said...

A good many of the actions taken in your analogies are done voluntarily.

Conversely, the reprehensible exploitations of others are enabled only when one party or another co-opts the government gun for his own use. "Laws" are formidable weapons.

Barring the use of force to create them, conditions of ('natural') "inequality" are a fact of life on a planet of limited resources. One's being in a non-force-created disadvantaged position versus others need not constitute "exploitation", but merely the necessity of selling oneself or one's labour for existence. Whether we call that necessity "exploitation" or mere natural inequality depends on whether it came about naturally or whether it was imposed through force.

A hard determination to make!

"Capitalism" is NOT merely an economic system; it is the expression of individual liberty and choice in all areas of life, not just in the marketplace.

Rather than castigating the essential voluntarism and dynamism of true free market "capitalism", wouldn't it be better to dismantle that government gun?

12:27 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

"wouldn't it be better to dismantle that government gun? "

What do you think anarchism is about?

2:51 PM  
Blogger Dave Fryett said...

@cocoabean: You cannot dismantle the government gun without dismantling capitalism. The gun arises from the extortion of wealth from the worker who created it. that's how they got the gun in the first place.

In order to be master, you need slaves. If you want to be lord, you need vassals. There is no other way. no matter how good your work was--let's say you built the best mousetrap the world has ever seen-- you could never produce enough to get rich. you might sell more than the other mousketeers, but you would have sleep, eat etc sometime and there are far too many mice and mouse-trap makers in the world for you to sate the market by yourself. Now if you can hire workers and pay them less than the value of their labor and skim the rrest for yourself, thwen you can amass enough money to create a state which allows you to exploit your fellow man in this way, defend property rights, suppress democratic movements/rebellions against exploitation/inequality etc. Now you can rule. Now you can afford an army of uniformed men with guns who will--for a wage--violently defend the social order which allows you to be the boss.

This is why all forms of socialist thought, anarchism chief among them, take as their defining principle the emancipation of labor. Worker control at the point of production is the sina qua non of the social revolution. If this is done, then you have a chance at peace, freedom and justice. Without it there will always be a government with guns.

6:16 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Blogging Change
BCBloggers Code: Progressive Bloggers Site Meter