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The way I view the world is that lots of us (most of us) spend a lot of effort and energy making the world a happier place (interpret that term broadly). The analogy is that we spend our time making balloons. We make tiny balloons that make balloon animals at parties; we make water balloons, we make helium party balloons, we even make giant Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons – in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ornamentation. There are many among us that view this balloon making as frivolous, nefarious, harmful to the environment, and perhaps unfair and unethical. After all, not everyone can make a balloon, and not everyone enjoys balloons.

So along comes Crusty the Clown. Crusty doesn’t quite know what to do with the balloons. So he grabs hard on one end of them. Maybe he is trying to get some air out of it. Maybe he is trying to take the whole thing. Nobody really knows. But what we do know is that every time Crusty squeezes the balloon, the other end of the thing inflates a lot, leaving a lot less balloon and air for him to grab. This upsets Crusty, for he believes the laws of physics are optional. Instead of just grabbing small pieces of balloons, Crusty begins to sit on the entire thing, or get ten pairs of hands squeezing and pulling and tugging. Balloons are pretty resilient, so they survive this frenetic playing for quite a while. Of course, even the best balloons can’t withstand poking needles and thousands of pounds of air pressure. And they break. No more balloons.

Crusty then curses balloon makers for not making heartier balloons. He assembles a blue-ribbon panel of experts — not just from the balloon industry, but from all stakeholders — so there are 3 year old children on the panel, there are parade organizers, there are party planners, there are super-moms and super-dads, and of course a couple of lawyers, sociology professors, economists and an ecologist for good measure. The only thing that they can agree on is that the only way to ensure balloons can get made strong enough to withstand all of these pressures, is to make it illegal (not actually, but in effect – so they write really strict environmental and labor rules, product safety rules, research and development requirements, etc. that no small business could possibly overcome) for lots of people to be in the business of making balloons. If we can stop all of the fun and interesting balloons from being created, some big balloonists can focus on making larger, stronger and more conventional appearing balloons. It would certainly prevent a lot of chaos. And it would make it easier for Crusty to know where the balloons are and provide Crusty with a big, juicy, host to feed on. The big guys are happy to make this tradeoff, because even if they lose a little helium to Crusty because of it, they will no longer have to worry about losing possible balloon sales to anyone else. The sociologists and environmentalists are happy about it – because it is easy to put the target on the back of a few balloonists. The child does not quite know what to think about it. She never realizes what she is missing from the death of the other balloon makers, but it sure is cool to see an enormous, sturdy helium balloon marching down Broadway every Thanksgiving – so that HAS to be a good thing for everyone. Crusty is seen as a hero for having the vision to get all these parties in a room together to work on a solution to the intractable balloon problem. Monuments are erected on the Mall in DC in his image. Meanwhile in small towns and cities across the nation, memorials are erected to the once mighty hot air balloon manufacturer that closed up shop (and formerly employed half the town), to the water balloon makers, to the twisty carnival balloon makers, and so on. Plaquards in the museums talk about how the Blue Ribbon panel did everything it could to save the little balloon makers. Visitors sigh and harken back in their memories to the good ‘ol days. They say to themselves, thank god Crusty at least kept the big balloon guy afloat.

The story could use a little more sprucing up. But this silly thing made me think of it.

Tobacco companies “exploit” tax loophole.

How do they do this? The government taxes “roll your own” cigarettes in an effort to fund child health programs, so cigaratte companies stop selling roll-your own cigs. They are selling a lot more pipe tobacco however! You can’t squeeze one end of the balloon without the other inflating. And you can’t squeeze the whole thing without popping it. Loopholes, by the way, are not illegal. If the loophole is a problem, then rewrite the tax law and pop the balloon the first time.

One Response to “Crusty the Clown Government”

  1. Harry says:

    What a great analogy. A terrific metaphor.

    The question is: who is the best one to cast for Crusty? So many choices.

    Henry Waxman?
    Chris Dodd?

    Who will be their sidecick, spraying the seltzer bottle? And before the clowns are brought in, who should be cast as the master of ceremonies?

    Let’s not assume it is the President.

    This show has run for a long time. William McChesney Martin did the seltzer routine with Richard Nixon as Crusty at the Bretton Woods Hotel.

    I did not miss your other point about the other clowns in the troupe seeking rents, but maybe they are in the side show, or in the tent with the strippers, where the legislators go.

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