article-single

Hail, Hail, Freedonia!

That Groucho Marx was anarchic in the comedy domain is in no doubt, but whether he was in the political domain is another matter. The FBI tried to get him on being a Communist and it would seem that his leanings were definitely towards the left. But one of the Marx Brothers’ films “Duck Soup” leaves us in no doubt about the anti-war and anti-fascist nature of their possibly best movie.

Today, I am not so much focusing on the Freedonia of that film, but another Freedonia partly inspired by a dialogue in the film where Groucho (as Rufus T. Firefly, ruler of Freedonia) holds a cabinet meeting:

Minister of Labor: The Department of Labor wishes to report that the workers of Freedonia are demanding shorter hours.

Firefly: Very well, we’ll give them shorter hours. We’ll start by cutting their lunch hour to twenty minutes. And now, gentlemen, we’ve got to start looking for a new Treasurer.

Minister of Labor: But you appointed one last week!

Firefly: That’s the one I’m looking for.

Secretary of War: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Enough of this. How about taking up the tax?

Firefly: How about taking up the carpet?

Secretary of War: I still insist we must take up the tax.

Firefly: He’s right. You’ve got to take up the tacks before you can take up the carpet.

Secretary of War (now exasperated): I give all my time and energy to my duties and what do I get?

Firefly: You get awfully tiresome after a while.

Secretary of War: Sir, you try my patience!

Firefly: I don’t mind if I do. You must come over and try mine sometime.

Secretary of War: That’s the last straw. I resign! I wash my hands of the whole business.

Firefly: That’s a good idea. You can wash your neck, too.

I would say he was awfully taxing rather than tiresome, but have you ever thought of that place many dream for? A place a little bit closer to Heaven, a place where statism reigns not and liberty is proclaimed across the land?

Let me take you now to my anarcho-capitalist Freedonia. It is a pleasant land, bejewelled with placid blue lakes, bedecked with white-capped mountains and babbling with verdant brooks. But let’s cut the flowery prose and get to the point, they have a tax burden of 5% and dropping as the powers that be see the continuing fruit of their wholesale privatisations and monetarist reforms.

What makes Freedonia interesting is not so much how a libertarian nation is run but the fact that it is bordered by several statist nations including the grievous Sylvania which delights in coshing its citizens for 55% of their GDP each burdensome year. Relations between Freedonia and these socialist neighbours are somewhat strained as events shall unfold.

How Freedonia began to emerge from the darkness of statism is a tale for another day, but suffice to say that its good citizens came to their senses and ousted the political ruling class in a relatively bloodless manner as befits a non-coercive system of practise. As it happens, the last few years have been somewhat akin to the pains of a mother travailing in birth as a handsome and healthy child is brought forth to the wonderment of the political world. The various class actions brought against the now rather small and decentralised authorities of Freedonia bring into sharp relief what was then as opposed to what is now.

Consider the class action of the elderly who demand that somebody – anybody – makes good on previous statist governments’ promises regarding state pension provision. They generate some uninformed sympathy as many have poor private provision but the other side of the coin rages over the definition of the legal entity called "The State" which declared itself officially bankrupt some years back and was dissolved into its current disparate atoms. The prosecuting lawyers are finding it hard who to pin any liability on and indeed what assets to seize in compensation for all is now privately owned.

It is a fight to relish with so many adjoining statist nations plundering their own citizens to swell the prosecution's slush fund but with an increasing number of friends in business, that is becoming less of an issue. What is a boil on the backside of freedom is the United Nations who is constantly poking in its nose as a self-appointed mediator but with only a mandate from its majority statist members. Less irritating and more amusing are the orchestrations of the hard-left nations like Cuba to pass a UN sanctions resolution on Freedonia for “violating the human rights of the poor in not supplying state welfare relief." Laugh? I nearly cried.

However, truth is worth its weight in gold (certainly more than the vaporous fiat money the prosecution is being paid) and a telling argument in an age of paradigm shifting is gaining the ear of the citizenry of nations round about as they see the evident Freedonian prosperity budding before them.

As we take a trip to the border of Freedonia and Sylvania, it is a hive of activity. There are border posts set up on every major route and you will guess that these are Sylvanian border posts, as Freedonia has none. You see, there are two queues of automobiles formed at these checkpoints. One to leave Freedonia and one to enter Freedonia.

Those leaving for Sylvania are the former welfare dependents who are quite fed up with no longer getting something for nothing and are heading to a place where the welfare check still flourishes. Sylvania is not pleased with this but the socialists there feel dogma-bound to accept them. The Sylvanian voter is not so enamoured at the prospect of their taxes being diverted from hospitals and schools to dole money. Watch that particular space.

Strange to relate, but the members of the former Freedonian socialist parties are conspicuous by their absence in this outbound queue. Where is the solidarity with the oppressed welfare barnacles and the single mothers who got deliberately pregnant to jump the state housing queues and so on? Ah well, you see, they are all now (and always were) fully paid up members of the Self-Preservation Society. A paycheck with a miniscule tax deduction column was just too much to bear and they had to stay "to fight on for the re-nationalisation cause." The rumour is that the private pensions they were obliged to set up are noticeably replete with shares in the newly privatised industries.

One may have expected large numbers of the elderly to join that disgruntled queue but they are surprisingly small. This is no mystery when one considers the power of the family bond. Many have decided to just stay as sons and daughters throw off the yoke of the Nanny State and realise their responsibility to their grey-haired parents and the increased financial power to do it gained from not only a virtually tax-free wage but an economy buoyed by another queue we shall mention later.

Meanwhile, the other queue into Freedonia shuffles along. The Sylvanian border guards may have power in refusing people into Sylvania but it is rather more difficult to stop people leaving for Freedonia. The difference between the two queues tells a tale, all who leave Freedonia think there is no welfare hope (but they consider not private welfare at this time) but those who enter are well skilled and know a winning economy when they see it. From taking home 48% of one's salary home to 95% is Christmas every month and the temptation is too much to bear as the citizens of the nations around clamour for entrance into Freedonia.

One can see the scuffles that break out in that queue as Sylvanian government officials try every trick in the book to keep them in. Anyone with unpaid debts is turned back whilst a two-year military service bill is currently going through parliament to keep the youngest and brightest in. Not surprisingly, this adds to the queue size. Today is a particularly hot day as tempers mount up like the baggage on the roof racks. One fellow resents the Sylvanian official’s revelation that he is twenty dollars behind in unpaid taxes and must turn back. The official is faced with two clenched fists – one holding a twenty-dollar bill and one aimed at his face. Which to choose is somewhat obviated by the guard’s twitchy hand on his rifle.

Contrary to the Statist propaganda being blared across the Sylvanian media, Freedonia is not dumping the poor on the surrounding nations. In fact, the statistics bear out that the immigration queue into Freedonia is well stocked with the low waged. Why is this? No tax to pay is one thing, but the unemployment rate is dropping fast compared to other nations and demand for skill is increasing wages above the State-controlled levels in Sylvania. It seems only the idle and the self-made mendicants are determined to leave Freedonia.

The other reason for the decreasing unemployment rate is that other queue I briefly mentioned. It is the corporate business queue and they are falling over each other to get into a nation which charges zero per cent corporation tax. It seems that the absence of a Trade and Industry department is no bar to these fellows as they rush into find a good site for their international headquarters. The construction industry in Fredonia has never had it so good.

Which obviously leads us to conclude that this is an appalling state of affairs for Sylvania. Not only is the best and bright talent heading off to sunnier fiscal climates but the companies are uprooting and following them as well! These events cease not to leave the debating chambers of their parliament as demands are made by lobby groups and trade unions to do something about it. One may assume unemployment is increasing in Sylvania but it is not yet. A person emigrating to Freedonia will have their position refilled, but the companies beginning to relocate there are beginning to affect the desperate attempts of the Sylvanian government to fill the gaps with State-controlled startups. The most noticeable thing is the gradual population shift and the superior quality of the workforce leaving which drives down replacement wages and tax revenues. Sylvania is borrowing heavily, needless to say. How this pans out in the next few years is a subject for another day.

But, in the meantime, the future for Freedonia is stable if not excitedly unpredictable. So tune in next time for the next revealing episode of "Freedonia," this anarcho-soap could yet run longer than "Dallas"!

July 2, 2002

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts