Parable of the “Isms” (or) You Have Two Cows
This is my own version of the “Two Cows” parable, a parable which, in original form, was used published in the Chicago Tribune under the pen name Ann Landers and used as political propaganda (agitprop) to justify Capitalism and cast aspersions on socialism. The original version is provided here. The version below is my own spin on this classic pedagogical tool. I provide some comments and background on Chicago Tribune version at the end of this piece.
You Have Two Cows
Capitalism: You have two cows. You’re not happy with just two cows so you take other people’s cows. You get the people with no cows to look after your cows. You give them a little milk for their effort and say it’s natural or that God wants it that way.
Totalitarianism: You have most of the cows, but that’s not enough. You take control of the government and take all the cows for yourself, giving out less milk so you can have more. Everybody suffers. Some even starve. The people complain, but you lie and hypnotize.
Fascism: You have all the cows and totalitarian control of the government. Emboldened, you give out even less milk. Starving people try to steel “your” cows. Putting aside all pretense, you get the police and army to put the poor down.
Nazism. You have all the cows, control of the government, and powerful civic, state, and military police forces. The people are starving and ready to revolt. You pick a vulnerable population to blame and get the people to murder each other. You get to keep all the cows.
Socialism: The people see through your charade. Starving, and with the environment collapsing all around them, they revolt and kick your ass out of office. They take control of the cows and fairly distribute the milk.
Communism. The government gives back the cows and then permanently disbands itself. You have two cows. The cows produce more milk than you need, so you willingly share it with others. Everybody lives happily ever after.
As Paul from the bible said
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.1 The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little” (2 Corinthians 8: 13–15).
The original “Parable of the Isms” was published under the name Ann Landers. Ann Landers was a character/pen name created by the Chicago Sun-Times and used to offer “advice” through their syndicated advice column throughout the United States. In December 27, 2001, in response to a question by an “inner city English teacher” who wanted to know how to explain communism, socialism, and fascism without having to get into a history lesson, the paper reprinted the Parable of the Isms, or the “You have two cows” satire. Lander’s version of the parable goes like this:
Chicago Sun Version
Socialism: You have two cows. Give one cow to your neighbour.
Communism: You have two cows. Give both cows to the government, and they may give you some of the milk.
Fascism: You have two cows. You give all of the milk to the government, and the government sells it.
Nazism: You have two cows. The government shoots you and takes both cows.
Anarchism: You have two cows. Keep both of the cows, shoot the government agent and steal another cow.
Capitalism: You have two cows. Sell one cow and buy a bull.
Surrealism: You have two giraffes. The government makes you take harmonica lessons.
Ann Lander’s version is at best a lame and politically misinformed piece of satire. At worst, it is intentionally distributed agitprop designed to airbrush all the flaws out of Capitalism. This piece works only because of the root mystification of money (for what that is, see this article). Once you demystify money, you see how lame and transparent this piece really is.