How to Teach Simple-Minded People about Economics

Teaching economics is not difficult. You don’t need charts or graphs. All you need are a few good illustrations. One way to teach is with some humor. The Parable of the Two Cows is one way.

Bill Sherk mentions that a list has circulated throughout the United States since around 1936 under the title “Parable of the Isms.” A column in The Chicago Daily Tribune in 1938 attributes a version involving socialism, communism, fascism and New Dealism to an address by Silas Strawn to the Economic Club of Chicago on November 29, 1935.

Here are some of the better Two Cow Isms. I’ve tinkered with some of them:

BUREAUCRACY:  You have two cows. The government takes both cows, loses one while giving the cow to people who don’t know anything about cows because that’s what the regulations told them to do.

CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

COMMUNISM (1): You have two cows. The government takes both of them and gives you some of the milk.

COMMUNISM (2): You have two cows. The government takes both cows. The government sells the milk in government stores. You can’t afford the milk. You starve to death.

COMMUNISM (3): You have two cows. The State takes both, and gives you a little milk . . .  once.

COMMUNISM (4): You have two cows. The government takes both and gives you spoiled milk.

CUBAN COMMUNISM: You no longer have any cows. You risk your life by escaping from Cuba so you can buy some cows and a bull in Miami.

DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

DICTATORSHIP: You have two cows. The government takes both cows and drafts you to make sure he stays in power.

FASCISM: You have two cows. You give the milk to the government and the government sells it.

FREE ENTERPRISE: You have two cows. They get jobs working for Chick-fil-A for the company’s “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign. The chickens get upset and call for a boycott.

LIBERALISM: You have two cows. You sell both of them to the rich. The government then taxes the rich the price of one cow and gives it to the poor who slaughter it. When they finish eating it, they demand the other cow.

NEW DEAL LIBERALISM: You have two cows. The government takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and pours the milk down the drain insisting there is a giant storage tank where all the milk goes. Think Social Security.

POLITICAL CORRECTISM: The idea of “ownership’ is a holdover from the pre-Enlightenment era. Humans and cows are equal. The use of the word “cow” is demeaning. Cows should be allowed to vote.