Monday, December 13, 2010

The Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête

In the winter of 2007, I wrote this sonnet sequence in response to some of the worrisome events I'd seen take place that year--specifically, the many ill effects that deregulation and greed had wrought, and the often ghastly (and even fatal) consequences of holding profits and self-interest in greater esteem than such incidental and seemingly trivial matters as the health, safety, and financial well-being of human beings both here and abroad, from whence much of our food and most of our consumer goods are imported.

The FDA and Consumer Product Safety Commission are in marginally better shape under our current White House (though I've yet to hear of any of the shuttered labs being re-staffed and re-opened).

Sadly, however, this poem would seem to be even more on-point now, in late 2010, than it was when I first wrote it. Especially the last two lines.

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached.
-- from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête

Come now, the ever-bitterer winter wind
Reminding one and all what season nears,
And with it come the needs and wants of friends;
The plight--the suffering!--told of distant spheres.
Ah, what is there to do but shake one's head
And wonder at the choices people make?
They knew what they were doing. He made his bed.
Some people want to live life on the take.
I suffered; there were sacrifices made.
The roads I chose have led me to this place,

And all my efforts now will be repaid;

My just desserts spread forth before my face.

Let this be, then, the year we celebrate
At the Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête!

Come in, have drinks; we've everything to please--
Our own self-interest, you'll be glad to know,
Means cocktails that are light on antifreeze
And bread with just the faintest melamine glow.
We're reasonably sure the Champagne flute
Won't leach a cloud of lead into each bubble--
Or Christmas-colored plastic cups might suit?
No need to thank the Chinese for their trouble.
It's quite a spread, when all is said and done:
There's corn--and beans--with tortured DNA;
The Monkfish, I am told, will surely stun;
There's penicillin in the shrimp souffle.
It's doubtful that the roasted pig will kill you;
Though, even then, the hospital will bill you.

Come now, the ever-bitterer winter wind,
Reminding one and all that all are one;
And so the needs and wants of nearby friends,
And suffering humans under a distant sun,
Become our needs and wants--it's all-impacting.
Each dollar saved becomes a lead-laced train
That sickens those too young for Rational Acting.
Each weakened law begets a poisoned grain.
And so the guests of honor at their Fête
May find their appetites are somewhat numb;
They'll hope the howling coming from the gate
Is not The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,
His corrupted chains of debt stretched through the air,
Borne by toxic winds of laissez-faire.

D.N.T. 11/25/07

Originally published at Ezra Klein, Jon Swift's Best Blog Posts of 2007, and litbrit.

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