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What's wrong with the world and a revealing joke or two

GK Chesterton observed,

"It is convenient to speak of the Social Organism, just as it is convenient to speak of the British Lion. But Britain is no more an organism than Britain is a lion. The moment we begin to give a nation the unity and simplicity of an animal, we begin to think wildly. Because every man is a biped, fifty men are not a centipede. . .


But of all the instances of error arising from this physical fancy, the worst is that we have before us: the habit of exhaustively describing a social sickness, and then propounding a social drug.

Now we do talk first about the disease in cases of bodily breakdown; and that for an excellent reason. Because, though there may be doubt about the way in which the body broke down, there is no doubt at all about the shape in which it should be built up again. No doctor proposes to produce a new kind of man, with a new arrangement of eyes or limbs. The hospital, by necessity, may send a man home with one leg less: but it will not (in a creative rapture) send him home with one leg extra. Medical science is content with the normal human body, and only seeks to restore it.

But social science is by no means always content with the normal human soul; it has all sorts of fancy souls for sale. Man as a social idealist will say 'I am tired of being a Puritan; I want to be a Pagan,' or 'Beyond this dark probation of Individualism I see the shining paradise of Collectivism.' Now in bodily ills there is none of this difference about the ultimate ideal. The patient may or may not want quinine; but he certainly wants health. No one says "I am tired of this headache; I want some toothache," or 'The only thing for this Russian influenza is a few German measles,' or 'Through this dark probation of catarrh I see the shining paradise of rheumatism.'

But exactly the whole difficulty in our public problems is that some men are aiming at cures which other men would regard as worse maladies; are offering ultimate conditions as states of health which others would uncompromisingly call states of disease. Mr. Belloc once said that he would no more part with the idea of property than with his teeth; yet to Mr. Bernard Shaw property is not a tooth, but a toothache. . ." From What's Wrong with the World by GK Chesterton

Chesterton wants us to ask what is our ideal and then how do we achieve it? It's undoubtedly a lengthy discussion, but if we are asking about an ideal economic system, we're in luck because folk wisdom has a joke that explains our choices -

You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
You feel guilty for being successful.
Barbara Streisand sings for you.

You are New Labour. (In America, you are a Democrat.)

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You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
So?

You are an unreconstructed Tory. (In America, you are a Republican.)
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You have two cows.
The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.

You are a Socialist.
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You have two cows.
The government seizes both and provides you with milk.
You wait in line for hours to get it.
It is expensive and sour.

You are a Communist.

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You have two cows.
You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

You are a supporter of free enterprise, and you have enough cows to give two to someone who doesn't have any.

Seriously. . .

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