Friday 2 December 2011

The Road To Freedom

A long time ago, in a town far, far away...

...there was a bus which took people from the suburb to the district of town where they all worked. The bus took them there in the morning, passing between waving fields of grain, and dropped them back in the evening, right at their local suburban bus stop. The trip took twenty minutes either way, and everyone got to work on the dot and back well in time to enjoy the evening.

Then, one day, the Great Economist came to power in the country. He was a Great Economist indeed, loaded with degrees and doctorates from the best economics institutions in the world, and helped to power at the instance of the World Bank, which meant without a doubt he must have the best interests of the Economy at Heart. 

Great.In a manner of speaking.

“It’s a shame,” he said, looking around, “that our Economy doesn’t grow. We need to make the economy grow by any means possible.”

But how, everyone asked, could one make the Economy Grow As Fast As Possible?

“We need to sell more cars,” the Great Economist decided. “The Economy Will Grow like anything if Everyone Buys a Car.”

“But...” someone began.

“Don’t interrupt. I am the Great Economist, which means I Know Better."

"Yes, sir."

"Now, as I was saying, it’s a shame that we have almost no cars compared with, oh say America. Everyone should have a car. It’s all about Freedom.”

“But...” someone else objected.

“Just think of all the jobs it will create,” the Great Economist said. “Think of all the people who will be involved in constructing the factories, the steel and cement suppliers who will get orders for material, the architects and labourers who will be employed, and the...”

“Where will all those factories be set up?” someone asked. “It’s not as though we have land to spare.”

“There are all those useless farmlands,” the Great Economist responded. “Growth needs some sacrifices, after all. We need to convert those farms into factory floors.”

“And what about those farmers?” one of his listeners wondered aloud. “What will they do for a living?”

“Why,” the Great Economist said, “that’s simple. They will be employed as security guards and assembly-line workers in the factories, of course.”

"They're too illiterate to work on assembly lines, and they already  make more money farming."

"Why, then," said the Great Economist, "we will make farming unprofitable. We will force them to look for other work. It's for the Growth of the Economy, after all."

“But how will people pay for cars? Cars cost money. A lot of money.”

“The banks will give loans,” the Great Economist said. “It will add a lot of Growth to the Economy. Think Outside The Box, people.”

“But people might not want to buy cars, and...”

“We will immediately start an advertising campaign promoting car ownership. Because of more need for models and ad agencies, that will give us even more Growth.”

“Will ads make people buy cars?” someone asked. “I wouldn’t buy a car just because an ad told me to!”

The Great Economist turned to the Marketing Whiz Kid sitting next to him. “You tell him,” he said.

“We will,” the Whiz Kid said, “market the idea of freedom. Cars mean Freedom and Individuality, unlike buses and other public transport, which are a relic of the bad old socialist past, something we have to begin rejecting as loudly as possible.” He paused. “Can you imagine the advertisements showing scenic waterfalls in the distance, and in the foreground, sitting on the grass in front of their car, a happy smiling couple and their two playing children? Of course, nobody who buys a car will actually make that journey, but so what? Can you imagine the idea of freedom that conveys?”

Or this.Don't forget this.

“And meanwhile,” said someone else excitedly, “we can allow the public transport system to degenerate. Once people begin to buy cars, they’ll soon realise they’re more comfortable in a car than in a bus with ripped up seats and broken windows. And that means...”

“Growth,” said the Great Economist, smiling happily. And so it was done.

Soon enough, one of the people of the town bought a car. The others sat in the bus and enviously watched him flash by.

“Look,” they told each other. “He’s got freedom and individuality. He also gets to work in five minutes flat, while we have to drone along for twenty minutes in this miserable socialist bus.” So they all bought their own cars as well.

Now the bus has been long discontinued for lack of passengers. Everyone drives their own cars to work and back, between rows of grimy factories, revelling in their freedom and individuality and trying to forget all about the bad old socialist days.

It takes them an hour and a half either way, that’s all.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum


  1. That's it: Your page has the best mix of fiction, satire, and diatribes around.

    Damn it.

  2. but buses and trains are still highly used in india.

    1. Only in the big cities. Elsewhere public transport is being systematically strangled.


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