February 25, 2009
Last week, I was fortunate enough to host a Symposium at the University of Blystine in Algeria. The topic was Capitalism vs. Socialism in the 21st Century. My guests were Scrooge McDuck and Robin Hood. Let’s just say the conversation got a little animated… tee…hee! Transcript below:
Konkdaddy: Welcome to the 4th bi-annual Algerian Symposium of Economics. My name is Jeff Konkle and I think I’m hallucinating. The last thing I remember clearly is eating some questionable potato salad that hadn’t been kept in the refrigerator. It seemed fine last month when I made it. Anyway, I’m here with two very respectable anthropomorphic gentlemen. In support of Capitalism, Mr. Scrooge McDuck of Duckburg, welcome!
Scrooge McDuck: Thank you.
Konkdaddy: And to my left the legendary scourge of the rich, the embodiment of heroic socialism, from Nottingham Forrest, Robin Hood!
Robin Hood: It’s my pleasure to be here Jeff. And by the way, you definitely are hallucinating. The active chemical in the mayonnaise used in potato salad oxidizes when stored improperly and becomes a powerful, near-lethal barbiturate. You actually might be dead right now.
Konkdaddy: It’s a pleasure having you here! The first topic is based around the current economic climate. Given the state of the US economy and it’s effect on World Markets as a whole, do you feel it was a wise move for the US Government to initiate these series of “recovery” acts, in essence taking on more debt to stimulate the economy? Mr. McDuck?
SM: I think that the politicians of this government have essentially sealed the fate for the prosperity of this nation with these actions. They have been labeling it a recovery act, but the truth is that it is a bailout at all levels. The people who were fiscally irresponsible in this country are being saved while the wealthy and industrious fall by the way side. By incurring more debt and printing money to pay for these pet projects that will supposedly help the US infrastructure, we will be devaluing the worth of all money.
It’s the most basic principle of supply and demand, a natural law that has been proven over and over again: if we increase the supply of money then the value goes down. This will hurt all citizens across the board, but especially the wealthy, those who produce.
Konkdaddy: So what would you have us do, Mr. McDuck?
SM: The market is the only thing that can give the true diagnosis. If a company is failing, it is because it has ceased to be competitive. We have to let these companies die off.
RH: This is preposterous! To let these companies go under would mean hundreds of thousands of working class citizens losing gainful employment. It was not their fault that the companies failed. The senior leaders, CEO’s, CFO’s, and Board Members are the ones who need the remedy. It is these greedy folks who time and time again spit in the face of the average worker.
SM: Those CEO’s you speak of deserve every penny they get paid. The responsibility of steering the company is on them. Only a few people have the intelligence, the knowledge and the leadership skills to perform the task of running a large business.
RH: Spoken like a true CEO! Of course you’ll defend your exorbitant salary, it’s in your self-interest. But let me ask you, do you ever think of the workers you employ when your swimming in your gigantic coin pile? You literally swim in money!!! How can you sleep at night?
Konkdaddy: Forbes Magazine did recently list you as the richest fictional character in the world, Mr. McDuck. You beat out Richie Rich from last year. So why not increase charitable contributions as opposed to hording it in your giant “Money Bin?”
SM: What I do with my money is my business only, sir! I made my money on the seas, and in the mines, and in the cattle wars of the old frontier! I made it by being tougher than the toughies, and smarter than the smarties! And I made it square! I should enjoy it anyway I please. No man is poor who can do what he likes to do once in a while! And I like to dive around in my money like a porpoise! And burrow through it like a gopher! And toss it up and let it hit me on the head! I owe none of my success to anyone other than myself. However, I need to be wary of people like you, Mr. Hood, who feel inexplicably entitled to my money.
RH: You have made a living off of the backbreaking labor, the sweat and the blood of your employees! You own a diamond mine that has recently come under scrutiny for being a prop for a brutal dictatorship here in Africa. You own slums in Duckburg where citizens are subjected to sub-standard housing conditions. How can you say you owe none of your success to these people?
SM: Mr. Hood has illuminated the crucial point between he and I disagree at impasse. I believe that you earn a good job and a house through hard work. Robin Hood feels as though these are your rights as a citizen of this Earth. And one may, as he does, employ violent means to snatch those things one thinks one is owed from those that have them!
RH: It is a benefit to the masses of people.
SM: You steal from the rich and give to the poor, seemingly noble on the surface. However, all of your actions are done with a bow and arrow in hand, with your band of merry men in tow, threatening those who disagree with you. “Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins.” Ayn Rand said that and I find it to be true. If you need a weapon to impose your morality, then your morality is wrong.
RH: Ayn Rand is the favorite muse of tyrants.
Konkdaddy: Well let’s stop for a minute. Obviously both of you are successful and powerful in your own right. How did you get to be this way? I think my nose is bleeding.
RH: Oh yea, it’s definitely bleeding. This is a typical symptom of hallucinations induced by food poisoning. Let’s just hope your blood platelets count is up do you don’t bleed to death.
Konkdaddy: HA HA HA! You’re a fox but you wear a hat! Now, answer the damn question!
RH: The genesis of my coming to power was rooted deeply in the observed injustices around me. King Richard left to fight in the Crusades and his brother John was appointed interim ruler. This example of nepotism is far too common in our business world today. Those in power, keep the power in the family.
John taxed us unmercifully. After a while I formed a band of men to combat this. So we stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
SM: Bless me bagpipes! This sounds like the formation of a mob. And let me ask you something: who gets to be in this group of merry men?
RH: I hand pick those with views and opinions that align with my own.
SM: Ah! So it is you that has supreme power in this situation, picking and choosing at a whim who will wield the weapons you threaten your own would-be citizens with? This is a lynch mob in the crudest sense.
I don’t doubt that Prince John was a poor ruler. A properly administered democracy should never need to violently overthrow such ruler. Capitalism is democracy. What Robin Hood advocates is anarchy. Unless he is put on the throne, of course, then he will be as dictatorial as anyone, terrifying citizens with threats and displays of power. He obviously has no qualms about stealing, so what kind of moral leader would he be?
RH: The difference is that I steal from the rich and give to the poor. Look at Bernie Madoff, a previously renowned man of business, who made a fortune using the “free market.”
Konkdaddy: Nice use of air quotes!!!
RH: Thanks. He was stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. The fact that no one has assassinated him shows the inability of the people to stand up against the elite. My purpose in life is to balance this equation.
SM: The Madoff case is a wonderful example. The fools that were initially making money off of this Ponzi scheme got what they deserved in the end. They made their all their money in the stock market. I have little taste for speculation; it produces nothing.
In a capitalist society, you may enter agreements with whomever you wish. It is the responsibility of those involved to know the risks and rewards. I’d rather have this “burden of choice” than the point of an arrow aimed at my heart.
Konkdaddy: “Burden of choice” awesome air quotes. Listen guys, lots of good debate here. Lot’s of great air quotes. This discussion has been fun, but I think I’m starting to snap out of my psychedelic stupor, because I think I can see myself lying in the floor in the middle of a Cold Stone Creamery. Thanks to my guests. Next week, we’ll have a wonderful discussion of leadership between Mufasa and King Triton.