David Hines
Quite a stretch
By David Hines
December 23, 2008

To Athenians Theseus was a national hero. American voters would give him a more ambivalent assessment.

Theseus would get credit for consolidating Attica under Athenian control. Many Americans are happy about DC controlling virtually every aspect of life. The federalization of Attica would later become a model for Athenian thalassocracy, an empire dominated often with military intervention to discipline recalcitrant "allies." Americans enjoy seeing their politicians dictating to other nations, and sending in the troops if foreigners have the temerity to insist upon independence. All this is cause for cheering by the American electorate.

But earlier in his career Theseus killed Procrustes. Like many American voters, the latter was a firm believer in equal outcomes. He had a bed on which he measured unfortunate passers-by. If the victim was too tall, the legs would be chopped off to the appropriate length. If too short, the bed contained a convenient rack for painful stretching. The subjects did not survive the process.

Most Americans would regard Procrustes as a hero, unfairly attacked by Theseus, who refused to submit to the procedure.

In the US politic those making what somebody deems too much money are to be cut down to size. Everyone was to be stretched into a homeowner. All are to attend college, even the poorest students and the least motivated. Thousands of regulations insist upon uniformity of every sort, regardless of whether such demands make sense.

Procrustes's bed could be adjusted to different lengths. He would size up an approaching stranger and set the bed to a length that the victim would not match. Thus he ensured that he would enjoy the exercise of his equalizing.

If you have attracted the attention of a government agent he will almost certainly be able to find you guilty of something. The tens of thousands of pages in the Federal Register cannot be mastered even by experts. The average citizen cannot know what is licit and what is forbidden. If you are a merchant who offends the government in some way, you are already presumed guilty: If you charge too much, you're monopolistic; too little, and you're predatory; just right and you must be in collusion.

The Blackwater guards currently being prosecuted may face additional decades in jail for using their government-issued weapons. A measure supposedly for use against drug dealers imposes mandatory sentences on those using machine guns in the commission of a crime. The government hired these guards and issued them such weapons, which were used, perhaps, with poor decisions in the fog of war. For their own safety, maybe our troops and mercenaries should use pea shooters.

To accomplish all the desired equalizing, the dollar is put on Procrustes's bed. Not being a biological entity, it sustains the torture much better. Earlier this decade it was cut down to size, as the Fed raised the interest rate to 5.75%. Then being found too short, it was stretched. The interest rate was lowered to 1% — below the rate of inflation.

The dollar is not infinitely flexible. Like Procrustes's other victims, it will eventually succumb to repeated cutting and stretching. Bernanke, who once raised the rate for fear excessive inflation, resized the bed. Now he'll inflate to any degree Bush, Obama, Paulson, and other Goldman Sachs cronies desire. Repeated cutting and stretching has warped investment, causing capital to be misapplied in disastrous ways.

Thanks to Theseus, Procrustes was killed on his own bed. Thanks to the natural laws of economics, the Procrusteans in government shall be destroyed on their own bed. Unfortunately they'll take all of us down with them.

© David Hines


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David Hines

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)


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