Let me just come out and say it – Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois is a true American patriot and an inspiration to free-market capitalists all across this great land of ours. And what makes him so, you ask? For one thing, he’s fearless in standing up to all those hoity-toity Harvard economists and their doomsday prognostications about phony “debt ceilings” and “worldwide economic collapse.” In fact, Joe understands instinctively that the federal budget operates exactly like a family budget, only on a larger scale. Families have to live within their means, right? So why shouldn’t the federal government have to do the same? The fact is, wasteful frills like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid must be slashed in order to accommodate the lower tax rates necessary to attract the capital needed to create jobs. So what makes that difficult decision so different from what happens at kitchen tables all across America, when parents face the heartbreaking choice between sending their kids to college and continuing to pay the sky-high cost of ammunition for their semi-automatic weapons?
The fact is, Congressman Walsh knows what it means to make hard choices. Like when he chose to make it possible for several struggling campaign staffers to keep their jobs by loaning his own re-election committee $35,000, instead of wasting three times that much on unproductive handouts to a bunch of unemployed kids who would undoubtedly do well to learn to stand on their own two feet.
Yes, Joe Walsh and his Tea Party friends believe that if we could just get the federal government to adopt old-fashioned common sense and family values, we could restore this country to its former greatness. Needless to say, it is a proposition with which I whole-heartedly agree. But I would go further. I would argue that if we are truly serious about taking on the challenges of the 21st century, we need to do something much more radical; we must identify and isolate the values that have proven so successful in the market place of unfettered capitalism, and incorporate them in the way we run our own families. If the Republican Party’s free-market business model works as flawlessly as it does in government (and I think we can all agree that it does), why wouldn’t it succeed even more dramatically in the home?
It was in search of an answer to this very question that I set out, forty years ago, to pioneer the concept of the “free-enterprise family.” As a second-year business major at my local state university, I had just read both of Ayn Rand’s novels. In short, I was primed and ready to go. I could hardly wait to get started on my “Great Experiment.”
On the day of my wedding, I named myself CEO of the newly formed “Me Corporation” (MeCorp) and immediately sold 49% of the stock to my wife. Throughout the following three decades, as each of my 27 children were born, they were automatically assigned by me to positions of responsibility within the business, based solely on my assessment of their potential abilities. And rather than have any of them do as I had done — that is, forfeit eighteen or more productive years of employment by foolishly attending school — I chose vocational home schooling for them all: plumbing, appliance repair, auto mechanics, roofing, you know, hands on kinda stuff. And so that each of them could learn the various ins and outs of their chosen trades (chosen by me, I mean), I worked out “special deals” with local contractors to take the kids on as unofficial trainees (at a fraction of minimum wage). These “stipends” were forwarded directly to me, of course, in order to defray the cost of the children’s vocational home school tuition.
Since none of my children ever actually learned to read, I made it a point of starting every morning (or should I say the beginning of each shift) with a “daily reading” or as we sometimes referred to it “the News.” These “News” stories were either fabricated by me the night before, or were based on lurid nightmares culled directly from my dream journal. Liberally laced with fear, shame, greed, and repressed sexuality, they were designed primarily to motivate the various members of my family/workforce to perform their assigned tasks.
Most everyone’s favorite story was one called The Jamestown Welfare State. It was about a disorganized bunch of 17th Century European socialists who crossed the Atlantic in search of an indolent life in a leftist commune, but instead ran out of food and were forced to resort to mayhem, murder, and cannibalism. Then the free-enterprising John Smith showed up and told them all that if they didn’t work, they wouldn’t eat. They straightened right up after that, at least until Smith got seriously burned in a munitions explosion and had to leave the colony on a stretcher. As soon as his boat sailed away, everybody pretty much went back to their old mayhem, murder, and cannibalism routine. A few years later, these lazy (but dangerous) cannibals began referring to themselves as “the Democratic Party.”
(OK, maybe I simplified American history a bit so that the kids would understand it, but I never actually lied to them.)
But enough of that. The question you’re really dying to ask is: how did the cash flow operate within the business of our family? First off, there was no such thing as a minimum wage. In exchange for the completion of a given task, each child earned a certain number of points, which could, in turn, be redeemed for food, firewood, and other luxuries available at a commissary operated by my wife out of our garage. Secondly, the children were invariably encouraged to compete against each other for available jobs around the house, thus ensuring that wages tended to stay conveniently low. Thirdly, when meals were brought to the table, each child was required to submit a sealed bid for it. The highest bidder then paid my wife and me for all the food, ate whatever portion he or she desired, then auctioned off the remaining food to the next highest bidder. This process was fairly efficient, although the price of food tended to rise even as its temperature plummeted. All in all, MeCorp continued to thrive. Why? What is it about unfettered free-market capitalism that makes it so much more efficient and profitable than dictatorship?
The answer, of course, is simple: In a dictatorship, people are brutally forced at gunpoint to do things they know they don’t want to do, whereas under free-market capitalism, people are painstakingly hoodwinked, tempted, and frightened into vociferously demanding whatever is manifestly against their own interests. Let me offer an example of how this remarkable phenomenon operated under my regime as CEO of MeCorp.
There once stood in our backyard a stately old elm tree, at least 100 years old. Yes, it provided a bit of beneficial shade for the children’s compound in summer, and it was green and pretty and all that, and it supported a tire-swing on which each of my 27 children loved to play for hours on end. But it blocked my view of the pool owned by the beautiful lesbians living in the house behind me, so I decided to have it cut down.
Now if I had been a third-world dictator, I might perhaps have horse-whipped a dozen or so of my grumbling children into the backyard armed with paring knives, and stood over them menacingly as they chipped and scraped away at the tree for weeks (or even months) on end, soaking the ground the whole time with their bitter, angry tears. And eventually I would have achieved my goal, albeit with an unreasonable expenditure of my own precious time and resources.
But being instead a resourceful free-market capitalist, I hit on a more subtle and infinitely more profitable solution to the problem.
The first step in my plan was to call the children together in the exercise yard and inform them of the alarming spread of a new and virulent form of Dutch Elm Disease, one that kills healthy trees within hours of their becoming infected. I cited hundreds of recent cases of such infected trees suddenly collapsing and crushing to death the innocent children who played beneath them. The death toll in our neighborhood alone was said to be in the hundreds of thousands. In order to prevent such a tragedy from befalling us, I told them, we had to work fast.
I further informed my children that the only known cure for Dutch Elm Disease was to drive copper nails through the bark and into the wood. Accordingly, I had them empty their piggy banks of all pre-1983 pennies, melt them down into liquid copper, and pour it into nail molds. They then began furiously pounding the nails into the doomed tree in an ironically futile effort to save it.
When the tree inevitably began to die some weeks later, I told my crestfallen kids that they were to blame; they should have started earlier and worked harder. Unfortunately, I now informed them, our only recourse was to completely remove the tree before it claimed one or more of their lives.
Scouring the neighborhood yard sales that weekend, I was able to pick up a half-dozen or so rusty and decrepit chainsaws with which to arm the children before sending them high up into the branches of the dead and rapidly decaying elm tree. I must say, it was gratifying indeed to witness the healthy competition that developed between the children as they worked to cut as much firewood as quickly as possible. In fact, some of the younger kids proved surprisingly adept at rapidly cutting off small limbs — the tree’s as well as their own. All in all, the loss of life was no more than you would have expected in an operation this size — one death from injuries sustained in a fall, two partial decapitations, and one fatal abdominal wound caused by flying copper nail fragments. On the positive side of the ledger, we ended up with over nine cords of wood, which the kids were able to sell for a grand total of $3,200 — enough to pay their room and board for the entire month! And since I generously allowed the surviving children to divvy up the unclaimed shares earned by their less fortunate siblings, they were able to cover the increased health insurance premium costs I was forced to pass along to them once they had been relegated to the “high-risk” pool common to all amateur lumberjacks.
Yet in spite of our family’s uniquely American success story, there remains, to this day, one glaring “fly in the ointment”; namely, my 87-year-old mother (whose Social Security check barely covers her grocery bill at Petco). Not only has she steadfastly refused to help her toddler grandchildren stack cordwood, she continues to insist on poisoning our domestic corporate culture with her own brand of FDR socialism, replete with cockamamie ideas about food inspections, occupational safety, and child labor. Well, frankly, I’m fed up with her relentless attempts to impose burdensome governmental regulations on this family. So I’ve decided to institute what I call the Grover Norquist Solution. My wife and I put a stop to her filching drinking water from the garden hose, made the tool shed where she sleeps a little less comfortable by taking away the smudge pot she uses to heat it, and even cut her feed corn rations in half. Eventually, once she becomes too feeble to resist, we plan to drag her into the bathroom and drown her in the bathtub.
After all, what’s good enough for my country is good enough for my family, right?