Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Banking and the Credit Crunch, Two Cows Version

Okay, since my piece on pickup artistry from an Atheist+ standpoint isn't going anywhere, I figure I'll get this off my chest instead.

Two Cows

The idea of the "Two Cows" metaphor comes from economics. It consists of simplifying a complex system into a simple one, starting with the phrase "You have two cows", in which cows stand for something that produces, milk stands for what is produced, and a number of other metaphors are thrown in as needed. For example:
Capitalism (in theory): You have two cows. Your neighbor has two bulls. You trade a cow for a bull.
Capitalism (in practice): You have two cows. You sell one cow. You try to extract three cows' worth of milk from your remaining cow. You briefly wonder why you have one dead cow, and sell the farm that was able to get three cows worth of milk from one cow. Screw your neighbor; if he deserved any milk, he'd have something to trade for it.
Communism (in theory): You have two cows. Your neighbor has two bulls. Your neighbor lets anyone who wants borrow xir bulls. You give all of the milk aside from what you need to anyone who needs it.
Communism (in practice): You have two cows.  You give all of the milk to the government, and get back slightly less than you need. A bull occasionally visits your farm, but you never know when.

This idea has spread to other areas, but aside from giving a few examples of this it isn't relevant to the post:
Objectivism: You have two cows, and a farm that your ancestors stole, but it's okay because the other owners weren't using it as well as you are. Your neighbor mentions that he'd like some milk. You poison one of your cows to make a point, subject your neighbor to a five-hour rant, and take your remaining cow into the mountains.
Judaism: You have two cows. You give some of your milk to your neighbors in exchange for some of their crops. Your neighbors set their crops on fire, blame you, and take one of your cows as reparation. You move someplace else. Your old neighbors tell your new neighbors that you stole one of their cows.

Banking

You have two cows.  You sell milk futures on them to buy a third cow, and hope the third cow shows up before you get thirsty.

The Credit Crunch

You have two cows. The government tells you that you can't take the race of the seller into consideration when buying cows, but refuses to interfere with cow or milk markets otherwise. You sell milk futures on your cows and buy two sick cows. You show people your healthy cows, sell them milk futures on your sick cows, and repeat until you own lots of cows. Word gets out that your cows are sick, and that some of them have died. The cheesemakers can't hire anyone unless they can be certain of getting milk, so lots of people are unemployed. The government looks at the situation. Because you have friends in high places, rather than throwing you in the slammer and seizing your cows, the government raises the tax on carts, buys your dead and sick cows at the price of healthy cows, gives you healthy cows, and tells you "now don't do it again". People look at the situation, and conclude a) that you deserve to own lots of cows, and b) that there not being enough cheese yet is the government's fault for forcing you to buy sick cows.

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