The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible, A Free Market Odyssey – Chapter 4-The Food Police

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As you may recall, we last left Jonathan Gullible on a remote Pacific island after his boat was tossed about by a terrific storm. One day …

Paths converged with the dirt trail as it broadened into a gravelly country road. Instead of jungle, Jonathan passed rolling pastures and fields of ripening crops and rich orchards. The sight of all that food growing reminded Jonathan of how little he had eaten for lunch. He detoured toward a neat white farmhouse, hoping to find his bearings and maybe another meal.


On the front porch, he found a young woman and a small boy huddled together crying. “Excuse me,” said Jonathan awkwardly. “Is there any trouble?”

The woman looked up, eyes wet with tears. “It’s my husband. Oh my husband,” she wailed. “I knew one day it would come to this. He’s been arrested,” she sobbed, “by the Food Police!”

“I’m very sorry to hear about that, ma’am. Did you say ‘Food Police’?” asked Jonathan. He patted the dark head of the boy sympathetically. “Why did they arrest him?”

The woman gritted her teeth, fighting to hold back tears. Scornfully, she said, “His crime was, well, he was growing too much food!”

Jonathan was shocked. This island was truly a strange place. “It’s a crime to grow too much food?”

The woman continued, “Last year the Food Police issued orders telling him how much food he could produce and sell to the country folk. They told us that low prices hurt the other farmers.” She bit her lip slightly, then blurted out, “My husband was a better farmer than all the rest of them put together!”

Instantly Jonathan heard a sharp roar of laughter behind him. A heavyset man strutted up the walk from the road to the farmhouse. “Ha,” he sneered, “I say that the best farmer is the one who gets the farm. Right?” With a grand sweep of his hand, the man glared at the woman and her son and commanded, “Now get your things packed and out of here. The Council of Lords has awarded this land to me.”

The man grabbed up a toy dog that was lying on the steps and thrust it into Jonathan’s hands. “I’m sure she can use the help, bud. Get moving, this is my place now.”

The woman stood up, eyes snapping in anger, “My husband was a better farmer than you’ll ever be.”

“That’s a matter of debate,” the man chuckled rudely. “Oh sure, he had a green thumb. And he was a genius at figuring what to plant and how to please his customers. Quite a man!” he added scornfully. “But he forgot one thing — the Council of Lords sets the prices and crops. And the Food Police enforce the Council rules.”

“You parasite!” yelled the woman. “You always guess wrong, you waste good manure and seed on everything you plant, and no one wants to buy what you grow. You plant in a flood plain or on parched clay and it never matters if you lose everything. You just get the Council of Lords to pay for the rot. They’ve even paid you to destroy entire herds and crops.”

Jonathan frowned, “There’s no advantage in being a good farmer?”

“Being a good farmer is a handicap,” answered the woman as her face reddened. “My husband, unlike this toad, refused to flatter the Lords and tried to produce honest crops and real sales.”

Shoving the woman and her boy off the porch, the man growled, “Enough! He refused to follow the annual quotas. No one bucks the Food Police and gets away with it. Now get off my land!”

Jonathan helped the woman carry her belongings. The woman and her son walked slowly away from their former home. At a bend in the road, all turned to take one last look at the neat house and barn. “What will happen to you now?” asked Jonathan.

The woman sighed, “I can’t afford to pay the high food prices. Luckily, we’ve got relatives and friends to rely on for help. Otherwise, I could beg the Council of Lords to take care of Davy and me. They’d like that,” she muttered bitterly. She picked up the young boy’s hand and a large bundle saying, “Come along Davy.”

Jonathan gripped his stomach — now feeling a little more sick than hungry.

”’Ken Schoolland is an associate professor of economics and political science at Hawaii Pacific University.”’

”’The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible began as a radio series on KHVH in Hawaii and was later broadcast as a dramatic production in Alaska.”’

”’The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible, A Free Market Odyssey, is in its third, revised and expanded edition, 2001