Locked in the Trunk of a Car: A Political Solution to Shopping

Now that my wife has started taking political science courses, things are getting really confusing at my house. Just this morning there was a knock at our front door. Opening it, I saw an enormous man, who asked for my wife.

“Actually, I think she’s just heading out to go shopping,” I said, my eyes narrowing just a little.

“Yeah,” he drawled, a toothpick working back and forth across his lips like a little oar. “I know. That’s what I’m here for.”

I stared at him, then shrugged. A personal shopper? Professional bag-toter? Foot-masseuse? Who knew?

I heard my wife coming downstairs. “Ah!” she exclaimed. “Excellent, I’m just ready!”

“All right,” growled the man. He pulled out a large burlap sack from under his coat. “Lean forward,” he said to my wife, lifting the sack over her head.

I made a motion to grab his arm, then decided to use words instead. “What are you doing?” I demanded – not weakly, I hoped.

My wife held up her hand, smiling at the man. “It’s okay,” she said. “I’m afraid my husband is a libertarian.”

The big man rolled his eyes, then sighed and crossed his arms, leaning up against the door frame.

“You see, honey,” my wife smiled, “I really want to go shopping…”

“So this… man gets to put you in a sack?”

“Of course! That’s how it works. I didn’t really understand it until I started taking political science, but it’s so radiantly clear now!”

“What is?”

“Well, before, when I wanted to go shopping, I wasn’t very efficient. I just grabbed my purse and my car keys, went to the mall, and just – shopped. I mean, how crazy was that? Now, I finally understand how it’s supposed to be done. So when I want to shop, I call this fine gentleman, who takes my credit card, puts me in a sack, puts the sack in the trunk of my car, then drives me to the mall and does my shopping for me – and buys quite a bit for himself as well! Now isn’t that so much better?” Her eyes shone.

“Seriously, honey – I have no idea how that even makes sense, let alone could be ‘better’!”

“Honey,” she said soothingly, “this is how it is supposed to be done. If I want to do something, I call a man up who forces me to do it! What could be better? It’s perfect!”

“Do you get to keep your car?”

My wife looked inquiringly at the large man, sunning himself in our doorway. He shrugged. “Dunno. I guess I could use it for a day or two. I’ll give you a call when I’m done with it, and you can come and pick it up. Okay?”

“No, it’s not okay!” I fume. “If my wife wants to go shopping, she doesn’t need you to force her to go shopping, and buy things for yourself besides!”

“Sweetie,” my wife said soothingly. “It’s exactly how things are supposed to work.” She tapped her fingernails against her front teeth. “It’s exactly how we help the poor with welfare programs, right?”

“What?”

“Well, we as voters want to help the poor, right? So we vote politicians in who force us to help the poor. They take our money, spend it on the poor as they see fit, and buy a lot of things for themselves as well! And if that way of doing things is good enough for something as important as helping the poor, surely it is good enough for something as inconsequential as my shopping expeditions! Am I right, or am I right?”

“But – if we want to help the poor so badly that we vote politicians in who force us to help the poor, then what do we need the politicians for in the first place? Why don’t we just help the poor ourselves?”

“Ah,” she said with a triumphant grin, “that’s because we are too selfish to help the poor ourselves!”

“But if we’re too selfish to help the poor ourselves, then surely we would never vote politicians in who would force us to help the poor! And if we don’t want to help the poor, then the government will never do it for us, because we’d never vote in a politician who promised that! So if the majority of people want to help the poor, then they don’t need to vote politicians in to force them to help the poor, right?”

For a moment, she seemed confused. “Well…”

“I mean, look what’s happening here! In the past, if you wanted to go shopping, you just went to the mall and bought whatever you wanted! Now, look at all this extra overhead and complication – this guy has to come and put you in a sack, and drive you to the mall in the trunk of your car, and then shop for what he thinks you might want, and buy stuff for himself as well. How is that more efficient – or in any way better – than what happened before?”

She frowned. “No, that’s…”

“If we get all these politicians to force us to give them money to help the poor, what happens if they spend money in ways that don’t help the poor? What if they decide to spend more money on themselves than on the poor? Can we get our money back? You see, if we want to help the poor – or the sick, or the old, or whoever – then we’ll just do it, and we don’t need the government to force us to do it. If the government reflects the will of the people, then it doesn’t need to force those people to do things. If the government does not reflect the will of the people, then it is mere tyranny. Do you see what I mean?”

“Yes, but…” My wife scowled, trying to reason her way out of the fog of statism.

“I mean, who told you all this stuff?”

The big man leaned forward. “I did,” he growled.

“Yes,” said my wife distractedly. “Sorry I didn’t introduce you. This is my professor of political science.”

He stretched out his enormous hand. I stared at it.

“Hey,” said the professor, dropping his hand suddenly. “I haven’t got all day. What say we put this to a vote? I mean,” he added, leaning over my wife, “I assume I can count on you to do the right thing, and show me that you understand the course material.”

She nodded slowly, staring up at him. I guess she really wants to pass his course.

The professor raised his hand – the one with the sack. “Then I vote: let’s go shopping!” he grinned. “I need some stuff!”

My wife tightened her lips. “It’s the right thing to do,” she said, raising her hand and averting her eyes.

In a blink she disappeared into the sack. I was about to cry out in opposition to this violation of sense, property, morality and rationality, but of course I am in the minority, so what’s the point?

Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (www.freedomainradio.com), the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a "Top 10" Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.

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