Each country and culture interact with the global economy through a unique style of governance and rules. These have wide-ranging impacts on the success or failure of the people within the political system.
Political Philosophies Explained in Simple "Two Cow" Terms
You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.
You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
You have two cows. The government takes them both and gives you some milk.
You have two cows. The government takes them both and sells you some milk.
You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.
You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.
You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point you have to sell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow, which was a gift from your government.
You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later you hire a consultant to analyze why the cow has dropped dead.
Enron Venture Capitalism
You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank. He then executes a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by your CFO who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on six more.
Arthur Andersen Model Capitalism
You have papers for two cows but no cows. You shred them.
You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. Then it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.
You have two giraffes. You are required to take harmonica lessons.
Politically Correct Capitalism
You are associated ("ownership" is a symbol of the war mongering, intolerant past) with two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of non-specified gender.
You have two cows. You go on strike, organize a riot and block the roads because you want three cows.
You have two cows, You redesign them so they are 1/10 the size of an ordinary cow and produce 20 times the milk. You then create a clever cow image called 'Cowkimon' and market it wordwide.
You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge owners for storing them.
You have two cows. You feed them sheep's brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything.
You have two cows. You have 300 people miling them. You claim the you have full employment and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reports otherwise.
Everyone thinks you have many cows. You tell them you have none but they don't believe you and bomb the $h*! out of your country. You still have no cows but at least you are part of a democracy.
You have two cows. Business seems good. You close the office and go for a few celebratory beers.
To which economic model do you subscribe?
"You have two cows" jokes originated as a parody of the typical examples used in introductory-level economics course material. They featured a farmer in a moneyless society who uses the cattle he owns to trade with his neighbors. A typical example is: "You have two cows; you want chickens; you set out to find another farmer who has chickens and wants a cow". These examples were meant to show the limitations of the barter system, leading to the eventual introduction of currency and money.
The "two cows" parodies, however, place the cow-owner in a full-fledged economic system where cows are used as a metaphor for all currency, capital, and property. The intent of these jokes is usually to point out flaws and absurdities in those systems.
Jokes of this type attracted the attention of a scholars in the USA as early as 1944. An article in The Modern Language Journal discusses the classical ones, such as:
- Socialism: You have two cows. You give one to your neighbor.
- Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then gives you some milk.
- Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
- Naziism: You have two cows. The Government shoots you and takes the cows.
Such lists circulated throughout Canada since around 1936 under the title "Parable of the Isms". A column in The Chicago Daily Tribune in 1938 attributes a version involving socialism, communism, fascism and New Dealism to an address by Silas Strawn to the Economic Club of Chicago on November 29, 1935.
It is a good thing the farmers were raising cattle insead of sheep!