I started listening to Intelligence Squared debates recently and have enjoyed as much as I hate them. The level of civility (usually) and cogency of argument are refreshing compared to shows like Cross Fire or Politically Incorrect, but I dislike the way the motions are phrased, because they usually presuppose and give bias to one side or the other. For instance, I just listened to he Big Government Is Destroying the American Dream episode, the title of which assumes that we have a Big Government and that big government is Bad. Predictably, the side arguing for the motion won, but the part that really bothered me was Art Laffer’s comment:
“… [I]f something doesn’t work in a two person economy, it’s not good economics. Take two farmers, that’s the whole world. If one of those farmers gets unemployment benefits, guess who pays for it? The other farmer.”
What a ludicrous and brutal claim. How can the economics between two people have anything to do with financial policy? If that were true, we wouldn’t have two separate fields, micro and macro economics, that operate according to completely different rules and in completely different environments.
Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, I’ll roll with it.
So, let’s say our two farmers are named Mary Room and Cato Schroedinger. They’re the only two farmers after some horrific apocalypse. According to Wikipedia, citing the Future of Humanity Institute, the most probable apocalyptic scenarios are (ignoring global warming) molecular nanotechnology weapons and artificial intelligence. We’re all familiar with the latter thanks to Terminator, so we’ll go with that route.
Mary and Cato are the last two farmers on earth, probably as a pet project of our new AI overlords. They are both master organic farmer-survivalists the likes of which are only seen in the Swiss Family Robinson. Everyone dies during the winter, which leaves them both ample time to assess and come to terms with their current situation:
MR: Everyone’s dead.
CS: I guess so.
MR: You checked online, right?
CS: Of course.
Having prepared for this moment their entire adult lives, they’re set. They’ve got one-acre farmhouses with cows, chickens, seeds, woods, and all the things one needs to run and independent farm. Because they are both of the same opinion about how the world’s going to end, their farms are adjacent.
Things are going well. Everyone’s dead, but they have a crop coming up, sufficient canned food, and the high morale that only comes with vindication. Being both pragmatists, they decide to re-start the human race and fuck as often as possible, which isn’t often because running a farm independently is really hard work.
But then, Cato’s cows and pigs die. His field is hit by a drought, which inexplicably affects him without hitting Mary (AI overlords). His well dries up, his farmstead burns down, and his chickens are eaten by wild boars.
So, Cato goes to Mary’s homestead and explains the situation:
CS: I’m going to die. Please help.
But, little did Cato realize that Mary was a student of the Chicago school of economics. She replies:
MR: How is that my problem?
After a protracted debate about the free market and entitlement programs, Cato goes back to his homestead and never returns. Mary assumes he died, but isn’t sure. She is sure, however, that if she had shared her food she would have just given a free lunch (breakfast and dinner) to a slacker who didn’t have the determination to survive in the post-apocalyptic reality of the world. The AI overlords reward her with a piece of cake, but in private comment:
A1: They really thought that was a good idea?
A2: Well, they are made of meat.
Meanwhile, the two writers left alive and thrown together in a cramped apartment somewhere else on the depopulated earth spend a few days grumbling about how they don’t have the writing tools they prefer, drink, scribble, make awkward sexual advances, and then die of dehydration.
We won’t discuss the two remaining CEOs. It’s too gruesome.