Thirteenth Floors

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It is well known that thirteen is an unlucky number. If you don’t believe me, look it up! It is for this reason that in the U.S. and a few other civilized countries, there are no thirteenth floors in high rise buildings. We go directly from the twelfth floor to the fourteenth. And this is all to the good. It is for this reason that we, and, as I say, a mere handful of other civilized countries, have not been plagued with the bad luck visited on the rest of the world.

So far, however, America has done nothing, nothing I tell you, to alleviate this problem on a world-wide basis. But what does it profit a nation such as ours, which has achieved a pre-eminent position, spiritually, morally, economically, and, most important, militarily, if we will not share our civilizing influences with our be-knighted neighbors?

Thus, here is the plan.

First, we put our own house in order; we pass a constitutional amendment, by executive decree, banning all thirteenth floors from the home of the brave and the land of the free; yes, whiners will object that this is unconstitutional, but surely we must reject this "argument" given the present emergency. In any case, that ancient and now irrelevant document called for Congress to declare war; an entire series of "police actions" has rendered that a dead letter. If for war, then why not for thirteenth floors, ask I.

Second, we announce to the entire globe that henceforth no new buildings are to be erected anywhere on earth with thirteenth floors in them. If they ignore this non-negotiable demand, we will bomb only those buildings, with our sophisticated pin point accurate weapons of mass destruction, leaving all else undisturbed.

Third, we give everyone one year to convert their present housing to the U.S. model. We are nothing if not generous! In this vein, we leave it entirely up to them whether they merely want to renumber their floors to be compatible with the American practice, or, if they wish, to physically eliminate these vile floors, so as to accomplish the same ends. However, if they refuse to abide by this modest proposal, we will have no choice but to invade their countries, all of them!, and make these changes ourselves.

It is time, it is long past time, that the rest of the world be brought into conformity with U.S. architectural practices. Because of them, we have been lucky: among the jewels in our crown are multiculturalism, feminism, the U.S. constitution, the drug war and queer studies.

Of late, however, it must be admitted, a certain amount of bad luck has come our way. Under this rubric must be counted the murder of the innocents at Ruby Ridge, the Waco massacre, and the 9/11 tragedy. But these have come about not because of any flaws in the American Experiment (applause at this point, please), but, rather, due to the failure of many other countries (they know who they are!) to, wait for it, eliminate their thirteenth floors. This constitutes an external diseconomy. As is well known to all neoclassical economists, market failures of this sort justify government action to alleviate them. Since the U.S. is now the world government, it is fully in keeping with our global obligations to uphold property rights in this manner.

Yes, yes, there are some ignoramuses, mainly Austrian economists, who reject this notion of negative externalities constituting market failure, and justifying governmental ameliorating action of the sort now being proposed. But they are few and far between, and thus, incorrect (see on this Rosen, Sherwin. 1997. "Austrian and Neoclassical Economics: Any Gains from Trade?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 11, No. 4, Fall, pp. 139—152). There are also, it cannot be denied, traitors in our midst, who oppose U.S. foreign military interventionism. They are silly wusses. They do not realize just how unlucky are thirteenth floors, nor that, unless we rid ourselves of this scourge, the world will never be safe for Democracy.

Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans. See his Autobiography Archive.

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