Jim Terry
A teachable moment
By Jim Terry
October 12, 2018

I'm a member of the Silent Generation. That is the one immediately preceding the Boomers. I came along near the end of the Silent Generation, after the United States had entered World War II. Therefore, we were also referred to as war babies.

As we traveled through our educational life in those days, two required courses in high school were a study of the state government and a study of the American government. In the American government course, we touched on the various economic systems – including a comparison of capitalism to communism. But that was an insignificant part of the course. That was as close to a study of economics as we came in those days.

However, I got an in-depth lesson on communism as we studied J. Edgar Hoover's book, Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight it. Those were the days of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. It was important to study how the enemy, what President Reagan later called "an evil empire," was attempting to influence America with its tyranny. As I recall, this was not a part of the school curriculum, but a project in one of the school clubs. While we studied Marx's science of communism, this was not a study of micro or macroeconomics.

I left high school knowing how to balance a check book (mom taught me), how communism works, and how great our capitalist system is. But, I didn't know anything about GDP, monetary policy, how socialism works, or government taxation policy. I also knew the maximum income tax rate in 1960 was above ninety percent because I heard the adults talk about it and how it affected all those Hollywood stars.

What I heard in college in 1969, in my Economics 201 class, came as a shock when the professor began his lecture on taxation and government revenues. It was the first time I had heard, or considered, that governments tax their citizens not only to raise revenue for government operations, but to reward some people or to punish some people, to make things more equal in our society, or for government to control the economy. That idea reminded me of the tyranny of a communist government and that knowledge persuaded my political views. I became a limited government conservative.

Recently, I visited some friends who told me the following story. It was a teachable moment in a young girl's life. And actually, she 'got it' without much explanation because it was a real-life event. She realized those words she had heard adults talk about – free enterprise, capitalism, socialism, communism – had meaning because it happened to her.

Their eleven-year-old granddaughter was on a visit with her other grandmother for a few days. Three of her younger cousins were also there. To entertain the children, the grandmother took them to one of those places where they serve cheap pizza and have electronic games which dispense tickets. Those tickets can be redeemed for prizes. The more tickets, the larger the prize. After the kids ate and played the games for a while, the grandmother gathered up the tickets from all the kids, counted them, and divided them equally among the kids, then took the kids to the counter to redeem them.

When our friends' granddaughter returned home, she told her mother about the experience and said, "Mama, Grandmother took my tickets and gave some of them to my cousins. That's not fair. I won a lot of tickets and she gave them to the others. And then, no one had enough tickets to get a nice prize. That's not fair."

What a teachable moment for a child. She now knows how socialism doesn't work in the real world.

© Jim Terry


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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy62@yahoo.com


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