Skip to comments.Igg, Ogg, and Uggs: A Caveman's Introduction to Entitlements, or, The Tragedy of The Commoners
Posted on 11/15/2012 8:19:48 PM PST by grey_whiskers
In the aftermath of the recent Presidential election, a lot was made of the demographic shifts in voting patterns and what they meant for the future of the GOP. Some RINOs suggested drilling holes in the bottom of the ship of state by pursuing "comprehensive immigration reform"; others suggested that, since the Sandra Fluck crowd had apparently been the deciding factor, that social conservatives should be thrown overboard; still others said that the reason Romney failed was that he was portrayed as a rich man, out of touch with voters' plight in this tough economy. I have written an analysis of the election elsewhere; in this piece, I wish to concentrate attention on a factor which even the left felt was important, for they emphasized it with a vengeance in the campaign. It is Romney's famous remark about "the 47%" -- and, since liberals regularly accuse conservatives of being "cave men," I thought that a good way to explain the issue would be to start with cave men.
Let us, then, begin with two cave men, named Igg and Ogg. For the purposes of this discussion, they are Cro-Magnons.(*) As cave men go, they are ordinary sorts, obtaining their food by hunting, supplemented with roots and things found by their cave women. And yes, this *is* sexist -- but that's ok. The women back then all had hairy legs and armpits, like good feminists are supposed to have, and generally didn't wait until they were 40 to start trying to have children, so they didn't need expensive in vitro fertility treatments. Back then, the fish still rode bicycles. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Anyway, Igg generally hunted for sloth, and for that he needed good, stout clubs, weighted to allow plenty of wrist action. Unfortunately for him, he never got the hang of making clubs, he only knew how to make spears. Ogg, on the other hand, liked to hunt mastodon, for which clubs were useless. He needed spears, and lots of them. However, Ogg only knew how to make clubs. Oh, how he longed for some way to get his hands on a spear!
Does anyone have a guess where this is going?
By some strange coincidence of the kind which only happens in illustrative parables, Igg was out hunting one day and bumped into Ogg. At least, that's the story as they told it later. We know that Igg's woman had been nagging him about moving to a larger cave with less bats; and as for Ogg, he was constantly getting hints about "tying the knot" -- which confused the hell out of him, especially as neither rope nor marriage had been invented yet. Anyway, as soon as they saw each other, they wondered if there was any way of getting what they wanted out of the other. Igg started it off badly by throwing his spear at Ogg, and missing; but much to his surprise, instead of braining him with his club, Ogg exclaimed happily, dropped his club outright, and ran off with the spear. Igg shrugged his shoulders, went over and picked up Ogg's old club where he had dropped it, and ambled back to his cave.
It only took a few more tries before Igg and Ogg discovered that they could trade spears and clubs on purpose, and peacefully.
As the local population of cave men grew (due no doubt to better fed, and therefore happier, cave women), it was discovered that other cave men wanted to trade things, too. But there was just one problem with this. Sometimes someone would come along who wanted, say, a spear, but he had nothing to offer for it which Igg wanted, so no trade happened. (People are still talking about the time that Egg showed up and offered to trade -- get this -- bacon, but who wants bacon when you've got sloth or mastodon? So Egg ran off and began a co-op farm with Ham, who raised chickens -- and in the process became very wealthy. But that's a tale for another day.) So what people would do, is organize complicated three-way or even five-way trades, like this: Igg gives a spear to to Egg who gives bacon to Furr who gives a mastodon-pelt jacket to the Ugg daughter who provides cave-painting to Igg.
But the problem was, it wasn't always possible to get everyone together for a trade; and sometimes, even if someone was willing to trade, sometimes their partner would decline ("that's the third time this week you've offered to paint my cave. I'm running out of walls!") And some of the people complained that a pound of bacon might feed you for a day, but with a spear, they could feed themselves for a couple of weeks at a time, so it wasn't an even trade.
Gradually it began to dawn on their thick prehistoric skulls that they needed some way to keep track, something that everybody would be willing to take, no matter what they were trying to offer. The cave men at first proposed sex with each others' women, but this quickly led to a depression as the women instantly imposed the world's first austerity policy. They tried rocks, until people figured out they could pick up their own rocks for free without giving up anything of their own. Besides, everyone knew that rocks grew on trees. Finally, D'Igg came up with the idea of using a special kind of shiny rock which you could find by digging, or sometimes in the streams. He decided to call it "Gold," partly to make the story more accessible to modern readers, but also because all of the other cave men, jealous of all the women who suddenly started flirting with D'Igg, started calling them "Gold-D'Iggers."
So it was settled; D'Igg would dig up gold, and give to to other people for what he wanted; and those that had other things would exchange them for gold, one among another.
All has gone well so far; but they began to run into problems when their little enclave had developed to the point that they needed a government. The Grand Poohbah(+) decided that he would help to even things out for those times of famine when the migrating herds of mastodons took the shortcut through the neighboring glacier, or, the sloths got into the coffee-patch and out-ran the hunters with clubs, and began to take some of people's gold, and spears, and food, for later redistribution. At first, people didn't mind too much; they could afford it, and it was nice to have something to fall back on if times got tough. But then a couple of things happened, which the Poohbah had NOT mentioned when he first made his proposal. First, rather than storing the spare goods in a cave, with strict orders for nobody to go near the cave, it was decided that one or two of the cave men should act as counters for the stuff, inventorying all of it, and deciding who would get hand-outs in time of need. And of course, since acting as a counter was *such* a demanding job, it was hardly fair that the counters should be required to do such an arduous task while continuing with their own share of the hunting, clubbing, and the like. So the Poohbar had to increase the amount taken from everyone else, just to give to the cave men in charge of counting what had been taken.
And the second problem, is that after one particularly raucous Cave Meeting, the Poohbah decided that it just wasn't right to take the same amount of food and gold and supplies from the Klutzen sub tribe, who had an uncanny knack for screwing things up, and as a result had come to be called first the "Never-do-wells" and after the passage of time, the "Ne'er-do-wells". (As a side note, over the passage of millenia this name has morphed into the contemporary "Neanderthals." They seemed to have a lot of red-headed offspring, as well, who always ended up in broken homes, winding up as someone's stepchildren. They got beat up a lot.) The result was that the people who were the best at what they did, had some of their gold taken away to give to people who didn't give much of anything back in return for it; remember that this entire system got started by Igg and Ogg trading directly with each other to get rid of something they didn't have much use for, and to get something they liked better, and could make better use of, in return: but now there were a lot of people who spent their time carousing, drinking wine (#), and complaining how other cave men -- the ones who had more gold and better caves and better-looking women -- looked down on them, and it just wasn't right. They were given food, spears, clothes, and gold taken from other people; but all the things which might have been made, if they had taken the time to master the skill -- painting, or fur-pelt making, or fishing, or even...inventing soap with their spare time, who knows? -- these things were just a gleam in someone else's eye. And the whole community was poorer for it.
But the final, catastrophic step came when a certain cave man, named Ugg, came of age. He said that it wasn't right that the cave people have a Poohbah over them; that just as the herds of mastodon, the flocks of Saber-Toothed Ducks (V_V), and the fish in the streams had no master, but were all as one, so the Cave People should not have a Poohbah over them, but should decide in common what to make, what to do, and how to distribute all of their food and gold and goods among them. Further, he said, surely it was true that the Cave Women should be allowed some say in matters, especially as they were expected to have both leg and armpit hair, but not allowed to get their MBA (Mastodon Bone Administration) degrees. (Also, the women added, marriage still hadn't been invented yet.) And so the die was cast; after a considerable quantity of debate, it was decided that the Poohbah would be merely a ceremonial position, without real power; and that all the people, both Cave Men and Cave Women, would be allowed to vote on how the gold and food and other goods should be shared. "One Cave, One Vote" became the watchword.
This would have worked well, except that nobody reckoned on the power of jealousy, or resentment, or even fashion. On the first vote it was agreed that less food should be set aside for failed migrations or poor hunts, because nobody really knew when a famine might happen, and there were people who wanted more food right now. On the second vote, it was decreed that less spears and clubs should get made, since there were spares for these anyway, and surely nobody really feared any threat from any other neighboring tribes. As more than one Cave Woman said, "Everyone knows we are peaceful." And by the time a generation had gone by, pretty much all of the food was eaten as soon as it was made, most of the most successful hunters and creators were having to give up over half of what they made (and got no gold, nor paintings, nor anything else for it but criticism), and half of the Cave men and their families were reduced to idleness, eating, and finding new ways to adorn themselves. One of the most popular items was a new kind of boot highly in demand among the women, and named after their inspiration and benefactor, Ugg. Soon, it seemed that all they did was to dress in their best boots, eat and drink (and have children, since government-subsidized birth control pills for women getting their MBAs hadn't been invented yet, either) and constantly demanding "what they deserved."
And so, in the end, it seems that they did. One day an army of hostile Cave Men attacked their valley without warning, attacking from over the glacier and on both sides at once. The battle was fast, furious, and pitiless; and after the end of a short time all of the tribe was slaughtered, except for a few survivors (mostly good-looking women) who were carried away as trophies of war. All that remained of the once-proud Poohbahdom was a pile of Uggs.
(*) For the purposes of full disclosure, that my knowledge of cave men is limited to re-runs of The Flintstones and that NONE of the characters mentioned here is meant to bear any resemblance to any characters, individuals, or ethnic groups whatsoever; any resemblance is due to pure bad luck. This parable is not intended to sell, nor to solicit any offer to buy, any valuable, interest, property, time-share, real estate, stock, bond or security. That offering is made only by prospectus. Close cover before striking; your mileage may vary. Parable probably not valid in DC, Chicago, or any blue state. Consult your doctor, or at least buy him a drink. He needs it, what with Obamacare and all.
(+) Remember what I told you about The Flintstones? I wasn't kidding.
(#) Yes, they had wine. That's the third oldest profession.
(V_V) Hat tip to the inimitable Tom Weller and his Hugo-Award winning Science Made Stupid.
Thank you so much for this amusing and illuminating essay-post!
Hey Grey, do you mind if I reproduce this on Facebook?
Since you neglected to mark your copyright on this little gem, I will be sending a copy to everybody I ever met.
You think they will believe that I wrote it?
But I think the lesson implicit in the piece is important enough that I would be grateful for any wider dissemination -- if only the people who *need* to learn from it, ail listen.
Complete with footnotes! Awesome piece. Thank you.
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