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 …
Continuing on his way, Jonathan puzzled over the rules of this troubled island. Surely the people wouldn’t live with laws that made them so unhappy? There must be a good reason. The land looked so green and the air was so soft and warm — this should be paradise. Jonathan relaxed into his stride as he passed through the town.
He reached a stretch of road with formidable iron fences lining both sides. Behind the fence on his right stood strange animals of many sizes and shapes — tigers, zebras, monkeys — too many to count. Behind the other fence on the left paced dozens of men and women, all wearing black-and-white-striped shirts and pants. The two groups facing each other across the road looked bizarre. Spotting a man wearing a black uniform and twirling a short baton, Jonathan approached the guard as he marched between the locked gates.
Jonathan asked politely, “What are these fences for?”
Keeping a steady rhythm with his feet and baton, the guard proudly replied, “One is our animal zoo.”
“Oh,” said Jonathan, staring at a group of furry animals with prehensile tails leaping from the walls of their cage.
The guard, accustomed to giving tours to the local children, continued to lecture. “See the excellent variety of animals over there.” He gestured toward the right side of the road. “They’re brought to us from all over the world. The fence keeps the animals safely in place where people can study them. Can’t have strange animals wandering around and harming society, you know.”
“Wow.” exclaimed Jonathan. “It must have cost you a fortune to bring animals from all over the world and to provide for them here.”
The guard smiled at Jonathan, and shook his head slightly. “Oh, I don’t pay for the zoo myself. Everyone on Corrumpo pays a zoo tax.”
“Everyone?” repeated Jonathan, self-consciously feeling the bottom of his empty pockets.
“Well, some folks try to avoid their responsibilities. These reluctant citizens say they have no interest in a zoo. Others refuse because they believe animals should be studied in their natural habitat.”
The guard turned to face the fence on the left of the road, rapping the heavy iron gate with his baton. “When citizens refuse to pay the zoo tax, we place them here, safely behind these bars. Such strange people can then be studied. They, too, are prevented from wandering around and harming society.”
Jonathan’s head began to spin from disbelief. Comparing the two groups behind the fences, he wondered if he would pay for the maintenance of this guard and two zoos. He gripped the iron bars and scrutinized the proud faces of the inmates in striped clothing. Then he studied the haughty expression on the face of the guard who continued to pace back and forth, twirling his baton.
That same old yellow cat was weaving in and out of the bars of the zoo, always on the prowl for a meal. The guard pounded bar loudly with his stick and the cat scampered behind Jonathan’s legs. He then sat down to lick his forepaw and to scratch the fleas behind his torn ear.
“I’ll bet you love mice, don’t you, cat? Lots of mice,” said Jonathan. Patting him on the head, Jonathan christened his new companion saying, “How about ‘Mices’? Well, Mices, you’ve been on both sides of the fence. On which side of the bars are those of greater harm?”
”’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