Saturday, February 20, 2010

Parable #1: "The Dinner Roll" or "Dinner at the White House"



Note: This parable of mine in praise of property rights has, ironically, been reprinted without attribution all over the web. It's now been read by millions and pops up regularly as e-mail spam etc. Here it is in its original form.



DINNER AT THE WHITE HOUSE by Richard Gleaves
Once upon a time, I was invited to the White House for a private dinner with the President. I am a respected businessman, with a factory that produces memory chips for computers and portable electronics. There was some talk that my industry was being scrutinized by the administration, but I paid it no mind. I live in a free country. There's nothing that the government can do to me if I've broken no laws. My wealth was earned honestly, and an invitation to dinner with an American President is an honor.

I checked my coat, was greeted by the Chief of Staff, and joined the President in a yellow dining room. We sat across from each other at a table draped in white linen. The Great Seal was embossed on the china. Uniformed staff served our dinner.

The meal was served, and I was startled when my waiter suddenly reached out, plucked a dinner roll off my plate, and began nibbling it as he walked back to the kitchen.

"Sorry about that," said the President. "Andrew is very hungry."

"I don't appreciate..." I began, but as I looked into the calm brown eyes across from me, I felt immediately guilty and petty. It was just a dinner roll. "Of course," I concluded, and reached for my glass. Before I could, however, another waiter reached forward, took the glass away and swallowed the wine in a single gulp.

"And his brother Eric is very thirsty." said the President.

I didn't say anything. The President is testing my compassion, I thought. I will play along. I don't want to seem unkind.

My plate was whisked away before I had tasted a bite.

"Eric's children are also quite hungry."

With a lurch, I crashed to the floor. My chair had been pulled out from under me. I stood, brushing myself off angrily, and watched as it was carried from the room.

"And their grandmother can't stand for long."

I excused myself, smiling outwardly, but inside feeling like a fool. Obviously I had been invited to the White House to be sport for some game. I reached for my coat, to find that it had been taken. I turned back to the President.

"Their grandfather doesn't like the cold."

I wanted to shout- that was my coat! But again, I looked at the placid smiling face of my host and decided I was being a poor sport. I spread my hands helplessly and chuckled. Then I felt my hip pocket and realized my wallet was gone. I excused myself and walked to a phone on an elegant side table. I learned shortly that my credit cards had been maxed out, my bank accounts emptied, my retirement and equity portfolios had vanished, and my wife had been thrown out of our home. Apparently, the waiters and their families were moving in. The President hadn't moved or spoken as I learned all this, but finally I lowered the phone into its cradle and turned to face him.

"Andrew's whole family has made bad financial decisions. They haven't planned for retirement, and they need a house. They recently defaulted on a subprime mortgage. I told them they could have your home. They need it more than you do."

My hands were shaking. I felt faint. I stumbled back to the table and knelt on the floor. The President cheerfully cut his meat, ate his steak and drank his wine. I lowered my eyes and stared at the small grey circles on the tablecloth that were water drops.

"By the way," He added, "I have just signed an Executive Order nationalizing your factories. I'm firing you as head of your business. I'll be operating the firm now for the benefit of all mankind. There's a whole bunch of Erics and Andrews out there and they can't come to you for jobs groveling like beggars."

I looked up. The President dropped his spoon into the empty ramekin which had been his creme brulee. He drained the last drops of his wine. As the table was cleared, he lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. He stared at me. I clung to the edge of the table as if were a ledge and I were a man hanging over an abyss. I thought of the years behind me, of the life I had lived. The life I had earned with a lifetime of work, risk and struggle. Why was I punished? How had I allowed it to be taken? What game had I played and lost? I looked across the table and noticed with some surprise that there was no game board between us.

What had I done wrong?

As if answering the unspoken thought, the President suddenly cocked his head, locked his empty eyes to mine, and bared a million teeth, chuckling wryly as he folded his hands.

"You should have stopped me at the dinner roll," he said.


Copyright May 31st, 2009 by Richard Gleaves



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8 comments:

  1. Richard, I just read this in email, and on various Facebook posts. I didn't want to pass it on, unless I had permission to, so I looked it up, and found this. If I give you credit, may I pass it on to others? I respect your decision if you would rather not have it passed, though you know it is being passed around the world, probably :o)
    Thanks!
    Lynn

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  2. No need to answer. I just posted your URL, so folks can get it here. Thanks! This is really good. Lynn

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  3. I really like this!!!!!! That's absolutely right folks. We should have stopped him at the dinner roll. 2012 is coming fast_gotta get out there and vote what is right, and not for a handout; because a handout will just come out of our pockets in the long run.
    We have RIGHTS and we have PRIVILEDGES, let's learn the difference, now, before it's too late. It's a priviledge to live in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICAN, where we have the priviledge, AND FREEDOM, to advance ourselves, and take pride in what we do, not a RIGHT to take pride in what we can get out of the government. Also, if you are into conning the government, that's just conning yourselves_remember where/how they get their money. I should have said, remember where they get OUR money. Better yet, I should have said, take a seat, put your elbow on your knee, your chin on your fist, and THINK!!!! It should only take a little thought, just a few minutes, HOPEFULLY, to sit quietly, and think about WHERE THEY GET THE MONEY for all these bailouts/handouts/special interest funding/whatever you wish to call them.
    We want to have control over our money, the money we worked so hard to earn; and we want to make the decisions on how we help others with that money, by continuing to give to the charities we have supported for years, charities of OUR own choosing, not have the Government take that hard earned money, and hand it out willy-nilly to their special interest groups, and programs that can't even be controled or sustained.
    Lynn

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  4. An older lady at work emailed this to me like it was a true story. She's one of those old people that love to be afraid of a black man in the White House. This is great fuel for people that read everything they read on the internet.

    "Nationalize the factories"? Oh come on.

    You're a very talented writer. I wish you had put more fact in this and less slippery-slope fearmongering.

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  5. Did Obama not fire the CEO of General Motors and nationalize the company last year?

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  6. Nothing here that hasn't already been done or is under consideration by this administration. Yes, we should have stopped him at the dinner roll.

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  7. I have to wonder with MCKevRok why the villains in this tale are just poor folks. "Today 'pro-business' often gets equated with assuaging the desires of the business lobby. But Atlas excoriates those "businessmen" who spend their time liquoring up politicians to coax favors or crush competitors. What it celebrates is the activity of business--the process of production and trade that has taken us from mud huts to Manhattan. The true producer Rand shows, makes just one demand of Washington: 'Get the hell out of my way!'" The U.S. Anti-Business Epidemic
    Don Watkins and Yaron Brook, 08.17.10, 04:49 PM EDT Obama is no friend to industry--but who is today? A parable that includes the business parasites who create artificial barriers to entry, corporate welfare, special favors etc would be far more compelling and go to the heart of a far more intractable issue than the struggle against poverty.

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  8. I really like this!!!!!! That's absolutely right folks. We should have stopped him at the dinner roll. 2012 is coming fast_gotta get out there and vote what is right, and not for a handout; because a handout will just come out of our pockets in the long run.You're a very talented writer. I wish you had put more fact in this and less slippery-slope fear mongering, special favors etc would be far more compelling and go to the heart of a far more intractable issue than the struggle against poverty.

    ReplyDelete