I once read an entire book on giving, or givenness, or something, by Jacques Derrida. The point was, so I seem to remember, that you can't ever really give anything, even anonymously, because it all gets rolled into an economy. Now of course "giving" in that text means a lot more than just giving stuff. But nonetheless, the point is clear. It seems a local op-ed columnist has had a similar idea. She writes of his encounter with some girls who have a lemonade stand:
The three young girls — under the watchful eye of a nanny, sitting on the grass with them — explained that they had regular lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and small chocolate candy bars.
Then my brother asked how much each item cost.
"Oh, no," they replied in unison, "they're all free!"
I sat in the back seat in shock. Free? My brother questioned them again: "But you have to charge something? What should I pay for a lemonade? I'm really thirsty!"
His fiancee smiled and commented, "Isn't that cute. They have the spirit of giving."
That really set me off, as my regular readers can imagine.
"No!" I exclaimed from the back seat. "That's not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They're giving away their parents' things — the lemonade, cups, candy. It's not theirs to give."
I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.
"You must charge something for the lemonade," I explained. "That's the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs — how much the lemonade costs, and the cups — and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money."
I was confident I had explained it clearly. Until my brother, breaking the tension, ordered a raspberry lemonade. As they handed it to him, he again asked: "So how much is it?"
And the girls once again replied: "It's free!" And the nanny looked on contentedly.
No wonder America is getting it all wrong when it comes to government, and taxes, and policy. We all act as if the "lemonade" or benefits we're "giving away" is free.
And so the voters demand more — more subsidies for mortgages, more bailouts, more loan modification and longer periods of unemployment benefits.
Other than the obvious fact that this person is a massive tool for lecturing three girls in this way (she says it's a true story), the analogy makes no sense. Presumably the parents have given the girls permission to give away free lemonade. In a similar fashion, people who support public benefits, etc., give their permission to distribute their goods (tax money).
And I don't remember voters clamoring for more bailouts and other versions of corporate welfare (which oddly don't seem to bother the author here).
**Update. the "he" above is a she. And I just saw her on MSNBC, which called her a "financial expert"–liberal media. And speaking of liberal media. No Markos Moulitsas (Daily Kos) on that channel!