One of the author’s favorite jokes was usedProbably. to illustrate the issue of incentive incompatibility in one of the popular economics books by one of the author’s favorite liberalNow that those who purloined that word have sufficiently soiled it by their actions that they no longer wish to be associated with it, can we have it back please? We’ll restore its honor and bring usage in the modern English-speaking world back into conformance with history and the rest of the world. economics professor bloggers.Now, not that one. The other one. David Friedman’s popular books on law and economics, Hidden Order and Law’s Order, are on par with Landsburg’s fine work in the genre. They are wonderful introductions to the subject for the intelligent layman, but will contain details and connections which will enlighten even the well-versed. Friedman’s more recondite The Machinery of Freedom (now available in a new edition and for free!) had, along with his father’s Capitalism and Freedom, had a formative influence on the author when he was a boy. It did not quite convert him from minarchism to anarcho-capitalism, but convinced him that it was a serious possibility. At present, one desires merely to shrink the government to a size that it could be drowned in a bathtub, to be followed with a long and interesting discussion about whether one proceed along that line.
The joke runs along the following lines:
A Mexican bandit had crossed the border, robbed several banks of a great deal of money, and fled back to Mexico. Inevitably, a posse of Texas Rangers was formed to arrest the bandit and recover the loot. Eventually, they tracked him down and captured him in a small Mexican.
There was, however, a problem. The loot was not with the bandit and he could not be questioned on its wherabouts, because the bandit spoke only Spanish, while none of the rangers spoke that tongue. So the rangers tracked down the only local fluent in both English and Spanish, the parish priest. The priest agreed to serve as a translator and the rangers brought him to the tied-up bandit.
The lead ranger demanded,Tell us where the loot is!The priest translated.
The bandit responded,I’ll never tell you!The priest translated.
Enraged, the ranger pulled his revolver, aimed it at the bandit’s head, cocked the gun, and proclaimed,Tell us where the loot is right now or I’ll shoot!The priest translated.
At this sight, the bandit lost his composure and exclaimed,Please don’t kill me! The loot is buried under the bridge over the dry creek bed, two miles down.
The priest translated,He says he is not afraid to die.
PC Disclaimer: Then as now, only a tiny percentage of Mexicans are bandits; most are poor,But not as poor as most Americans are inclined to think. The Mexican per-capita income is about $10,000, about the global average. That most Americans tend to think of Mexicans as desperately poor results from a misuse of the availability heuristic. Most Mexicans Americans meet or read about tend to be poor domestics or migrant farm laborers, not members of the large and growing Mexican middle and upper classes of professionals and entrepreneurs. but hard-working and honest people. Texas Rangers do not routinely execute criminal suspects. Priests generally do not cynically sacrifice the others’s lifes for pecuniary gain.
This vignette is what is known as a
joke, a short story intended to be humurous, rather than illustrative of general characteristics. Learning to tolerate jokes will lead to much enjoyment and possibly some enlightenment, but will tend to weaken devotion to political correctness.