San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

An Entertaining Story

MUSEUMSand art galleries,golf courses andrace tracks, the theaterand the entiremovie industry…the list of entertainmentgoes onand on, so theproverbial visitorfrom Mars mightwell be excused forwondering how wemanage to do alittle productivework now and again. Well, my friendCarstairs, a Keynesian economist whosometimes confuses myth with history tocreate mystery, has a ready explanation.It seems there was once a very originallady named Eve who, while chatting inSerpentine with a snake, did something soatrocious I cannot describe it in a familypublication. Then, egged on by the snake,she persuaded her weak-minded husbandAdam to do the same.But the Proprietor of the propertywhere they lived rent-free happened to bewalking in their garden in the cool of theevening, and noticed they were both wearingbreeches. Instantly he knew what hadhappened and threw them both out, shoutingthat henceforth Adam would have toearn a living by the sweat of his brow. Healso placed a curse on Eve, from which herdescendants suffer to this day.TO fulfill his share of the curse, Adamtook to farming and developed an excellentbrand of Sea Island cotton, which hepersuaded Eve to pick, spin, weave andsew into abas and dish-dashes, since theirbreeches were very uncomfortable in thatclimate. In fact, her output so far exceededtheir needs that Adam sold the excess totheir neighbors and thereby invented thetheory of surplus value, whereby he wasable to retire early and take it easy.Eve, for her part, in intervals betweenpicking, spinning, weaving, sewing, cooking,washing up and keeping the houseclean, gave birth to the human race andmanaged to keep busy raising and educatingit. Eventually it became questionablewhose brow was sweating more, so sheinvented the women’s liberation movement.It tool a while to catch on, but fortunatelythe Industrial Revolution camealong and machines were made to do manyof Eve’s chores, so that she, too, could sitback and catch her breath when she wasn’tcreating more humans.MEANWHILE, the machines continuedto pour out trade goods for sale to theneighbors until their governments were attheir wits’ end (which is soon reached inbig government) trying to cope with tradesurpluses and deficits caused by themachines working too hard and the peopletoo little.Moreover, the couple were gettingbored taking it easy, so they came up withan idea in the finest tradition of Keynesianeconomics: the entertainment industry,which turns out nothing of lasting valuebut keeps an enormous number of peoplebusy either entertaining or being entertained.Which is where we came in.But there’s a snag. With all that time onher hands, Eve continues to create morehumans, so we shall shortly be running outof oxygen. If our visitor from Mars is assmart as they say, he’ll sell us a populationreduction kit, and we can all get back tobeing entertained.

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