Welcome to Freemarketopia, where the only rule is: The Market RulesWelcome to Freemarketopia! Take a look around. There's the cute town nestled along the banks of the Liberty River and under the majestic gaze of Mt. Freedom. Breathe the clean air. Sip the clean water. Freemarketopia is known for its crystal clear artesian water. See Dick. See Jane. See Dick and Jane's Fashion Boutique. Sample the delicious fare at Mae's Cafe or Bongo Burgers, the two favorite eating joints in Freemarketopia. Pick up a refrigerator magnet, or a loan while you're at it, at Bob's Bank. There's Dr. Barney's Eye Clinic; everybody gets their eyes checked there. Stop in and fire off a few rounds at Seargent Joe's Gun & Ammo Store (yes, everyone in Freemarketopia has guns). See Farmer Brown's strawberry field glistening in the morning dew. Over there is the renowned Freemarketopia Motorscooter Factory and its iconic red brick smokestack, visible for miles around. And there you can see the majestic twin steeples of Freemarketopia First Christian Church, where Pastor Pat preaches twice each Sunday and once on Wednesday night.
The "Free Market" is a myth. There has never really been one, and heaven forbid that there ever is one. Yet conservatives yearn so eloquently and nostalgically for this myth that it seems that such a time and place should have existed. So come with us now to just such a place where the "Free Market" reigns. Let us follow to its logical conclusion the CorpCon's (and Libertarian's) Dream.
Capitalism flourishes in Freemarketopia. There are lots and lots of businesses, the majority of them small, but with a smattering of medium-sized businesses, including the factory where 300 work. There's only one large business in Freemarketopia, Gargantu-Mart, yes the famous franchise, started by hometown boy Sam Gargantu back in the 30s. Business is so good in Freemarketopia that all the businesses go out of their way to support each other. You can get a 10% Off coupon to Dick and Jane's Boutique or Mae's or Bongo Burger or Dr. Barney's or Seargent Joe's at umpteen different other businesses, including Gargantu-Mart and Bob's Bank.
Of course, there's also lots of competition in Freemarketopia. Mae's Cafe competes with Bongo Burgers, Magic Insurance competes with GoldPlate Insurance. As everyone knows, competition is the very lifeblood of the "free market," its driving and cleansing force. Lots of competition causes product quality to stay high and prices to stay low. Consumers are very happy! Happy consumers equal happy businesses. Meanwhile, all the companies are competing for the best workers. This raises workers' pay and improves workplace conditions. It keeps unemployment very low. Workers are happy, so there is no need for such disagreeable things as unions. It's a wonderful, magical feedback loop. In fact, the slogan of Freemarketopia is "We Sell Happiness!" Such a splendid place. Everything is great. Everyone plays nice. Everyone is happy.
But not for long.
It seems the CEO at Gargantu-Mart, which long ago moved its headquarters from Freemarketopia to Chicago, got word that the Freemarketopia store, the original store no less, was the least profitable in the entire chain. He sent word that the store should end the nostalgia schtick, and get with the program all the other stores had long since implemented. He directed the Freemarketopia store manager to quietly, but quickly, phase in the following profit-increasing policies:
• cut costs by lowering the quality of the product...
• cut costs by cutting the wages and benefits of the workers...
But the CEO wasn't done. He explained to Foule Schiester how at the same time the store was lowering the quality of the products and cutting the wages and benefits of the workers, Gargantu-Mart would also disarm the competition by:
• buying them out of business...
• or, pricing them out of business...
"Oh yes," the CEO promised. Big bonuses would be forthcoming as profits increased.
The greed began to swell in Foule Schiester, and he smiled. He now could see the beauty of the scheme. Through its sheer size and power, Gargantu-Mart enjoyed an inherent competitive advantage over all the smaller businesses in Freemarketopia. And now it was ready to fully execute that advantage.... and crush its competition.
Gargantu-Mart reworked all of its vendor accounts. It stopped selling Freemarketopia motorscooters and Farmer Brown's strawberries. Instead of these high-quality, locally produced goods, it brought in tons and tons and tons - never-ending tons - of very cheap stuff from faraway countries.
Gargantu-Mart came up with a new slogan just for its relaunched Freemarketopia store: "We Sell Happiness... Cheaper!"
Dick and Jane's Boutique could not compete and quickly went out of business. Gargantu-Mart opened up a cafe inside its own store, and both Bongo Burgers and Mae's Cafe sales plummeted. Gargantu-Mart started selling guns from Russia and ammo from China. Seargent Joe, the town's war hero, had to close his gun shop because he could not compete. He went to work at Gargantu-Mart as a greeter.
Gargantu-Mart went into the optometry business with its own in-house, discount eye doctor who offered free eye exams and sold cheap Chinese glasses for a third of what Dr. Barney offered. Dr. Barney lost two-thirds of his clients.
The remade Gargauntu-Mart even included a branch bank inside, ultra convenient for patrons. Gargantu-Bank offered the QEC (Quick-Easy-Cheap) home loan at 0.99999999% interest, far lower than the 3% home loan at Bob's Bank. Customers rushed to refinance their loans. The loan documents were a little strange. Bob's contracts had never been more than a few pages long. These documents went on for 60 pages, and after the first page the type got smaller and smaller, until by Page 20 you needed a magnifying glass to read it, and by Page 40, a microscope. Everyone figured it was all just legal mumbo-jumbo anyway, signed, and went home with their new, cheap loan. Bob's Bank soon closed its doors, and Bob moved to Bermuda.
The Gargantu-Mart bank also opened up Freemarketopia's first stock exchange, which allowed speculation on anything going on in town, with all bets routed through the bank. Boring old Bob had never thought of anything this clever and exciting.
The biggest negative impact of the remade Gargunatu-Mart was on the Freemarketopia Motorscooter Factory. Now its market dwindled to a few trendy stores in places like San Francisco and Seattle, so it had to drastically cut its workforce.
The townspeople of Freemarketopia found themselves on an emotional roller-coaster. At first they were thrilled with the cheap goods and services offered by the remade Gargantu-Mart. But as the effects of Gargantu-Mart's new approach became more visible, the town was stunned and dismayed by what was happening. Friends and neighbors were out of work. Unemployment had quadrupled. There was a lot of grumbling about Gargantu-Mart in Freemarketopia around that time.
But soon, those not directly affected by the layoffs, came back around to loving Gargantu-Mart. Customers flocked from miles away to buy cheap underwear, watches, shoes, electronic gadgets, hardware items, you name it, including strawberries from Mexico and motorscooters from Sri Lanka. People loved this stuff. They couldn't get enough. They pushed and shoved, and even pepper-sprayed each other to be first in line get to the latest, greatest, cheap products from slave labor in faraway places.
Profits for Gargantu-Mart had never been higher. Even the company's long-deceased founder, Sam Gargantu, would have been amazed. The CEO at Gargantu-Mart was so pleased he gave the Freemarketopia manager, Foule Schiester, a big bonus, as promised, and then the CEO gave himself and most of the other executives one, too.
Then Gargantu-Mart executed the other phase of its cost-cutting/profit-raising plan. It laid off half of its existing workforce, and cut the hours of most of the others so it wouldn't have to pay for their health insurance. The company brought in new, cheaper workers to take the places of those who had been dumped, and warned the old workers that they, too, would be dumped if they complained. Many of the newcomers were laid-off workers from Freemarketopia Motorscooter Factory, and they were glad to have jobs, even at half of what they used to make.
The former Gargantu-Mart employees went to Mayor Mike to complain that the company was acting badly. Mayor Mike checked the Freemarketopia Rule Book, and proclaimed: "There is only one rule in Freemarketopia: The Market Rules!" He then verified the township's bylaws, and sure enough, there was but two sentences: "What business wants, business gets in Freemarketopia. Caveat Emptor." The people of Freemarketopia had always been taught since they were little schoolchildren that Caveat Emptor was Greek for "Good Luck."
But not all the employees would be cowed by Gargantu-Mart's suddenly brusque ways. Certainly not Seargent Joe. He organized a strike. Many of the disgruntled workers and former workers joined Seargent Joe's strike. They all brought their guns and surrounded the Gargantu-Mart store from the surrounding sidewalks owned by Freemarketopia.
"Hey, you can't call a strike," commanded Foule Schiester. "There's no union activity allowed in Freemarketopia!"
Seargent Joe answered, "Oh yeah? Where is that written? A union is part of the market, and The Market Rules!"
The store manager knew he had a problem, so he contacted the CEO, who went to Governor George for help. The CEO promised to contribute $5000 to his re-election campaign. Under the rules of Freemarketopia this was totally legal, although many complained that involving the government in "the free market" was a "slippery slope," and potentially no longer even strictly definable as "free." Nevertheless, Governor George sent the state militia to roust out the strikers. There was a huge battle and half of the strikers and half of the militia were wounded.
It was a stalemate. The strike went on for weeks. Gargantu-Mart fired all the striking workers. Now the workers who had not gone on strike were getting mad because they couldn't work. The customers were getting mad. They wanted their cheap underwear. Freemarketopia soured on the strikers.
At last the strikers gave up. They had not been defeated; they just quit. Seargent Joe went to growing pot on his two acres, and making moonshine. Many other displaced workers turned to cooking meth and crack cocaine. In Freemarketopia, this was all totally legal, and so that's how Freemarketopia became the crack and meth capital of the upper Liberty Valley area.
Then the Gargantu-Mart manager, Foule Schiester, had another brilliant idea. Remembering the problem with the sidewalks, he asked, "Why are all the sidewalks roads and bridges in Freemarketopia free?" He pondered this deeply. This did not seem very Freemarketopian. It actually seemed more like some wacky idea that the hated rival, Wealthredistributionville, on the other side of the mountain, would come up with. Surely, sidewalks, roads, bridges and all other infrastructure of a community should be private property. Now that would solve a lot of problems. The Gargantu-Mart man went to the mayor and demanded that Freemarketopia sell all of its sidewalks, roads and bridges to the highest bidder. The mayor retorted that such a thing had never been considered before. Foule Schiester reminded him that The Market Rules.
The CEO at Gargantu-Mart was very impressed with its enterprising store manager in Freemarketopia, and quickly formed a subsidiary, TollCo Corp (so the Gargantu-Mart brand would not be tainted by controversy), and bought all the sidewalks, roads and bridges, and put a toll-booth at every corner. Foule Schiester received another big bonus, and then the CEO gave himself and most of the other executives one, too.
Another company, PlunderWorks, from South Carolina, saw what was happening in Freemarketopia, and rushed in to put in the highest bid for Freemarketopia's water, sewage, garbage, post office, jail and bus services, and immediately raised all rates. Yet another corporation, American Family Values Network, owned by a gazillionaire from Australia, snatched up the Freemarketopia newspaper (the Shill), television and radio station (KBUK), internet and wireless services, library and schools. This company immediately jacked prices (including for formerly free library books), slashed payroll by laying off reporters, teachers and librarians, brought in their own ideologically-compliant employees, and made certain that no mention was ever made of the strike or any other history or news that would in any way counter the "traditions" of Freemarketopia.
Former employees of the newspaper started publishing a mimeographed tabloid, but it couldn't compete for advertisers with the revamped Freemarketopia Shill, now featuring semi-nude beauties on the centerspread. Ousted workers of the radio station started their own operation out of a garage, but it was low wattage. The Mighty KBUK simply commenced a duplicate signal on a close frequency and with 500,000 watts blasted the tiny signal into oblivion, warning all other potential competitors of a similar fate. The former school principal, ten teachers and two librarians started their own school, Mt. Freedom Christian Academy, charging exorbitant tuition. All of the corporate executives began sending their small children to this school, which now has three locations.
The Freemarketopians were not happy about these developments, but could do nothing about any of it. They realized they were totally powerless against The Market that Rules.
Yet something happened that promised to grant some of them a share of the wealth. A company from Texas called Frackers-R-Us came to town wanting to dig for oil and gas underneath the town. They gave $10 bills to 1,000 citizens of Freemarketopia for the right to set up drilling rigs in their yards. "Drill, baby, drill," was the cheer! And so the drilling began. It was an awful racket. Citizens whose lawns had not been chosen for a drilling site complained abut the noise to Mayor Mike, who reminded them of "the rule."
Other changes were happening. A huge fast-food franchise, Burger Womper®, came in, setting up four outlets around Freemarketopia. Mae's Cafe and Bongo Burger folded, unable to compete with Burger Womper's 99-cent "Gut Buster"®, featuring three beef patties, a chicken-fried steak patty, 10 slices of bacon and four kinds of cheese. The "Heart Crusher" ® was another favorite, a foot long pure white bread bun stuffed with four sausages, "Chiklike"® nuggets, and covered with gravy, all for an even thriftier 89 cents. For 25 cents more, you could "Wompersize"® the meal and get a bucket of "Lardfries"® and a thermos of "Sugarcola"®, or for serious connoisseurs, the straight stuff: a 99-ounce container of pure, unadulterated high fructose corn syrup. Freemarketopia went so crazy for Burger Womper® fare that soon a fifth outlet was opened way out on Upper River Road where no commercial establishment had ever been.
Meanwhile, another company came to town with the news that it had bought Mt. Freedom. This company's name was Mount-be-Gone, LTD. This company planned to dig for coal, and promised jobs, jobs, jobs! The out of work Freemarketopians, especially those without drilling rigs in their lawns, rejoiced. But not the citizens of Wealthredistributionville on the other side of Mt. Freedom. They sued in court to stop Mount-be-Gone, LTD in its tracks. Most Freemarketopians were furious about this interference by the "socialists" over yonder. The case went to Judge Johnny of Johnson County (county seat, Freemarketopia), who ruled in favor of Mount-Be-Gone, LTD. Years later it became widely known that Judge Johnny wound up with $5000 worth of Mount-be-Gone, LTD stock, but a direct, quid pro quo, connection between this and the ruling was never established, according to The Shill newspaper. It wouldn't have been illegal anway, not in Freemarketopia, with its one rule.
Soon, too, another company arrived, Raiders of the Last Ducat Private Equity, or RLDPE, headed up, believe it or not, by a guy named Ritt Money. This company, based on Wall Street in New York, had its eyes on the struggling remains of Freemarketopia Motorscooter Factory. It borrowed money to buy the company, plundered the workers' retirement fund and used this to pay back the borrowed money it used to buy the company. What was left over they gave to themselves as a reward for being so clever. Then RLDPE sold the factory building and land to an out-of-state conglomerate called Asnarko Industries. Finally, it sold the cherished brand name "Freemarketopia Motorscooters," which once was a symbol of great American craftsmanship and quality, to a company in China that would continue making the product and directly compete with motorscooters made in Sri Lanka. The only thing similar between actual Freemarketopia scooters and those made in Indonesia was the name. The Chinese "Freemarkeopia" motorscooters were worse than those made by the Sri Lankan company, and that was very bad. Over the years so many of these Chinese Freemarketopia motorscooters blew up and wounded their riders that the brand was eventually discontinued. Nowadays when people think of Freemarketopia they think not of the orginal, sturdy, trustworthy and artfully crafted motorscooters of Freemarketopia but those of later, Chinese vintage that were always blowing up. That's how "Crappy as a Freemarketoptia scooter" became a common English phrase. How terribly sad this was for the former craftsman at the original Freemarketopia factory. But that's the Free Market! It's not for sentimentalists.
One of the last people injured on a faulty Chinese Freemarketopia scooter was Will Youpay, of Freemarketopia, who had bought one of the new scooters out of nostalgia. The explosion took out one eye, one foot and one hand, and left him only able to say the word, "Crap." He tried to sue the company but got nowhere. The American office of the Chinese company professed no liability and besmirched poor Will Youpay for his "frivilous lawsuit." Judge Johnny dismissed the suit. So Will Youpay was never paid a cent for his injuries. He went to Mayor Mike to complain about it. Mayor Mike felt bad about the whole scenario, but could only say, "The Market Rules."
Asnarko Industries, out of Alabama, attracted by Freemarketopia's business-friendly, zero-regulation ideology, retrofitted the Motorscooter Factory into an incinerator specializing in burning things that were too difficult, or too dangerous, for regular incineration. Even Alabama didn't want such a thing in their state, and that means it was very bad. But it was more than welcomed in Freemarketopia. A big parade was organized by town officials the day the incinerator went online. So freight trains that once carried away shiny new motorscooters now brought in boxcar-loads of poisonous chemicals of all description, noxious garbage, old tires, expired military weaponry, including nerve agents, as well as radioactive waste. The signature landmark of Freemarketopia township, the factory's beautiful, red brick smokestack, which for 100 years had exhaled little puffs of steam from its top, now belched brown-black smoke comprised of nobody knew what.
Soon some people were complaining about the air quality in the valley. Mt. Freedom had always been crystal clear in the distance, except when it rained. Now it was sometimes only hazily visible through the smog. Asnarko commissioned an "independent" study, which purportedly revealed that the brown haze was entirely "natural," and posed no health or environmental threat. "Oh no, that's not our smog; our particulates go up the smokestack and are carried far, far away by the wind," explained the Asnarko spokesperson. Most folks who had lived in Freemarketopia knew better, but were willing to go along with the ruse. At the First Christian Church, Pastor Pat reminded his flock, "That brown air is the color of money." It was a rather queer statement, but on days when the factory was burning certain chemicals the air did appear more green than brown, so people accepted the phrase, and for some time you often heard it repeated around town.
But there was a lot more coughing and ashthma in Freemarketopia from then on, and the foothills outside of town began to turn brown. Only 10 of the former motorscooter workers were retained at the incinerator. The displaced workers called these 10 "lucky dogs" because they were still receiving paychecks while so many people in Freemarketopia were now unemployed. But within five years all 10 of these "lucky dogs" had cancer. Asnarko denied any responsibility for the illnesses.
After drilling for months, pumping billions of gallons of mysterious, suspected poisonous, fracking fluids under the rocks of Freemarketopia, Frackers-R-Us determined that only one well was a winner. Even though the pipes of that well bent at strange angles and ended up almost two miles east of the lawn from which they began, the owner of that lawn, a relative of Judge Johnny, was presented by the company with a check for $5000 and ordered to move so the company could set up a permanent "resource removal plant" on the site. An incessant screech emanated from the well-head machinery on the site thereafter, and for years loud, heavy trucks trundled back and forth down the road with the loaded product, until the big pipeline was built under the town some time later. Unfortunately, the pipeline, poorly built and maintained, later exploded, taking with it the only remaining independent mini-mart. This business was never rebuilt. The owners of the mini-mart thought they were fully insured, but Magic Insurance Corp (company slogan: "Now you see it, now you don't") denied their claim on the basis that "acts of God" were not covered.
But even before Frackers-R-Us closed down all the other lawn-drilling, people around town had noticed their drinking water was tasting pretty strange. Freetopia's famous crystal clear artesian water was now oily yellow. They had their wells tested, and sure enough there were noxious chemicals present that had never been there before. As the water got worse and worse, everyone in town pointed to Frackers-R-Us.
Frackers-R-Us hired the same group of "independent" scientists as Asnarko had used to check up on the situation. Nope, the tainted water could not possibly come from Frackers-R-Us, the "independent" study concluded, blaming instead "natural" causes. Then the scientists left, and that was that.
More and more people were getting sick. If they had insurance with GoldPlate Insurance, they were seen by a doctor very briefly, asked to pee in a cup, given a pain pill, then provided with a prescription that could be filled at Gargantu-Mart for $10. Of course, the medicine didn't really cure the sickness, but it kept the patient going well enough so they could continue to pay their insurance premiums. Certainly the Free Market should be expected to make a healthy profit on sick people.
But many citizens of Freemarketopia no longer had health insurance, or they had health insurance through Magic Insurance Corp, which, being a highly efficient and profitable company, usually denied their claims. In addition to acts of God, or pre-existing conditions, "undiagnosable" illnesses were not covered. And there were a lot of "undiagnosable" illnesses sprouting up around Freemarketopia that certainly could not be explained by the "science" of the various health reports provided by the town's friendly corporations. It is completely understandable the stance of the insurance company. Its loyalty is to its upper management, then stock holders, then, well, no one. Workers? Customers? Well, in the Free Market, they are supposed to be the source of profit... when they no longer provide that part of the bargain, well, they have to be cut loose. It's simple economics. The public good? Ha-ha. Surely you jest!
Such patients were sent to the emergency room at the Freemarketopia Hospital where they had to wait for six hours to be seen by a doctor. The doctor skipped having them pee in a cup, cast a single glance in their direction, gave them the one pain pill, and was gone in under 45 seconds. They were likewise given a prescription at Garantu-Mart, but not having insurance, the prescription would cost them $110... oh, and then these uninsured folks also received an emergency room bill for $700. Those who could not pay this bill were added to the Do-Not-Serve database at the hospital, following the Freemarketopia Hospital's slogan: "We Restore Happiness. No Good Insurance or No Cash. No Happiness." These poor unfortunates were urged to move to Wealthredistributionville, over the mountain, where the socialists would take care of them. This concept, of course, was like a dagger to the heart to died-in-the-wool Freemarketopians who since childhood had been inculcated to despise Wealthredistributionville.
Soon almost everyone in town was sick, either from bad food, bad air or bad water. By now all the water wells were poisoned. Mayor Mike reassured the community. "Don't worry," he said. "With our artesian wells tainted, we can take our water from the crystal clear Liberty River here that has long flowed down from the glacial heights of Mt. Freedom." The community breathed a sigh of relief.
Meanwhile, up on the heights of Mt. Freedom, Mount-be-Gone, LTD had sold timber rights to Healthy Forests Consortium, which opened an office in town promising more jobs-jobs-jobs. Though at paltry wages, one hundred and one needy workers went on the payroll. They were sent to remove every last tree from the slope facing Freemarketopia. The people in Wealthredistributionville succesfully sued, in their county this time, to prevent Healthy Forests Consortium from clear-cutting their side of the mountain.
When they had taken all the trees they could, Healthy Forests Consortium left town. And so went the jobs. Looking up at their now bald mountain, many of HFC's former workers wondered whether those jobs had been worth it.
Those working for Mount-be-Gone still had their jobs. This company was busy removing the top third of the mountain itself. It turned out there wasn't much coal to be had, but enough to make the enterprise profitable. As they blasted up the coal, the mountain's shape changed on almost a daily basis. The pyramid-like peak that generations of Freemarketopians had grown up with was long gone. The mountain now looked like a melting sand castle on the beach. Gargantu-Mart had a brisk business selling picture postcards of how the mountain used to look with its pointed top and trees.
Then the rainy season came, and along with it big trouble. With no trees on the mountain holding down the soil any longer, a wall of mud came down the creeks and into the river. The Liberty River, once blue, turned brown. No one had ever seen such a thing before. Some children tried to drink it, thinking it was chocolate milk. They ended up in the emergency room with dysentery. Down also came a lot of the slag and toxic sludge, including arsenic and mercury, that Mount-be-Gone had dumped into the ravines and valleys as it chopped away at the mountain top. Down also came the corpses of all of the animals that had been killed or starved up on the mountain as a result of logging and mining. The river, it seems, was as polluted as the water wells. Now Freemarketopia, once renowned for its bountiful, clean water supply, only had bottled water to drink.
This was great news for PlunderWorks. They quietly "down-sized" their staff at the Freemarketopia sewage plant, turned off the costly treatment system, and diverted their pipes straight into the now very polluted river. Who would know? And they would save millions!
And PlunderWorks saw another great opportunity. As all of this was happening in Freemarketopia, the jails had filled up. With rampant unemployment, drug use and crime had exploded in Freemarketopia. More and more people were actually stealing from each other. As a reaction to the increase in crime in Freemarketopia, most of the nicer homes in the township were surrounded by razor wire and guarded by armed mercenaries. Lesser homes had to make do with heavy iron bars on all doors and windows.
This situation ushered in the Great Debate. In court, many of the accused tried to argue that stealing, too, was part of the "free market," and thus could not be illegal in Freemarketopia. Judge Johnny rejected this argument on the basis of a vague "private property" legal theory. Lawyers for the accused maintained that, indeed, lax security of such "private property" must factor into the "free market" system, and that inefficiently protected "private property" subsequently "appropriated" by someone, or something, thus became their "private property." The judge would not relent. Later it was discovered that he had come into possession of $5000 of PlunderWorks stock, but according to the Shill no connection was ever made between this possession and his ruling.
But Sheriff Shawn was at his wit's end. "I don't have any more jail space," he complained to his employer, PlunderWorks. "I've already got ten of them stacked into each cell. It's not enough."
PlunderWorks went to Mayor Mike. "We need a tax hike to pay for new jails," they demanded.
A tax hike? There had never been one in Freemarketopia. 9-9-9-9-9-9-9 was the tax law of the land as far back as anyone could remember. 9 percent tax, plus 9 percent user's fee, plus 9 percent license fee, plus 9 percent recording fee, plus 9 percent assessment fee, plus 9 percent levy, for all but the upper 9 percent, who were exempt from taxation because they were the "job creators" (though in reality few of them really were).
"We need to raise the tax to 10 percent," PlunderWorks recommended. 10-10-10-10-10-10-9? It was too weird. No one could get their mind around it.
But other businesses jumped to get onboard this novel bandwagon. TollCo Corp complained that subsidies for their sidewalks, roads, bridges were inadequate. "Raise the tax to 11 percent," they urged. American Family Values, Inc. sought to raise the entertainment license fee for its services and schools. "Go ahead and raise it to 12 percent," AFV opined. The Freemarketopia Grubbers professional baseball team didn't want to allow this opportunity to escape. "Build us a new stadium, or we will move to Oklahoma City," they threatened. "The tax should be an even 13 percent!"
There was immediate resistance. An anti-tax league emerged, the FEA (Freemarketopia Encumbrance Avoidance) Party. "No new taxes!" "No new taxes!" they chanted as they walked around City Hall. PlunderWorks reminded Mayor Mike that this behavior was contrary to "the rule," and these people should be arrested. Reluctantly, Mayor Mike gave the OK for PlunderWorks to order Sheriff Shawn to lock them up. That shut them up.
From a business perspective, this was very good. PlunderWorks realized that locking up dissenters served up a double advantage; it silenced dissent and added to the intolerable conditions at the jail that could only be remedied by higher taxes, which meant more profit for PlunderWorks. Moreover, if more things were illegal, even more people could be locked up, and more jail profits could be realized.
PlunderWorks urged Mayor Mike to pass the "Patrioteer Act," which declared all acts illegal that were not strictly in accord with "the rule." Mayor Mike balked. PlunderWorks didn't like this. So PlunderWorks suggested to their employee, Sheriff Shawn, that he call into question Mayor Mike's patriotism.
"He doesn't really believe in a free market. He's willing to compromise on free market traditional values," Sheriff Shawn accused. "He's a FINO," which in Freemarketiopia is a perjorative acronym for "Freemarketopian-in-name-only."
Quite a brouhaha ensued. The business community agitated for a recall election. The Shill, KBUK, the television station, the internet and wireless services, all owned by American Family Values Network, led the call to oust Mike. School teachers, employed by PlunderWorks, inculcated their students to bad-mouth Mayor Mike to their parents. Mayor Mike claimed that this was illegal, but Sheriff Shawn reminded him that "The Market Rules." What business wants, business gets in Freemarketopia. So the recall was set. Mayor Mike would run against Sheriff Shawn.
Mayor Mike ran a clean campaign, and initially enjoyed broad support of most of the citizens, who had known him as mayor all of their lives. But PlunderWorks, American Family Values Network, TollCo, Gargantu-Mart, Asnarko, the Freemarketopia Grubbers Baseball Club, Mt. Freedom Christian Academy, Mount-be-Gone LTD, and a broad coalition of other corporations and political action committees (PACs) threw millions upon millions of dollars worth of mud at Mayor Mike. His reputation was destroyed.
"Back in high school he palled around with Wealthredistributionvillains," one old-timer explained in a full-page Shill expose. It was a heavy blow. Though it was mostly untrue (Mike had attended a church camp at which there was also a kid from Wealthredistributionville), the damage was done. The tide turned against Mayor Mike, whose biggest contributor was pot-grower Seargent Joe who gave $65 to the "Maintain Mayor Mike" campaign. All told, "Maintain Mayor Mike" was outspent 500,000/1 by the pro-Shawn PACs. Privatized Public Voting LLC, a subsidiary of PlunderWorks, counted the votes following election day, and announced that Mike had lost by a landslide.
A new era dawned in Freemarketopia, governed by Mayor Shawn.
The next day, Mayor Shawn passed the Patrioteer Act, which declared illegal any activity not dominatable by Big Businesses. That included pot-growing, crack and meth cooking, prostitution. Taxes were raised to 15-15-15-15-15-15-7. Gary the gas station attendant pointed out that this equalled 90 percent of a "taxable's" (a person subject to taxes) income. Gary was promptly arrested by the new sheriff, Sonny. Unions were outlawed by the Patrioteer Act, and the new law allowed Sheriff Sonny to stop anyone at anytime for any reason and detain them for any length of time if he did not recognize them as one of Freemarketopia's "job creators." Sheriff Sonny was also granted wide license to spy on citizens, tap their phones, read their mail, and offer rewards to citizens with information implicating their neighbors of engaging in anti-capitalist activities. Those without proper papers or suspected of any kind of anti-business ideology could be declared a "terrorist," and deported or held indefinitely and without recourse. The percent of rich people who now were required to pay taxes dared not grumble, let they be arrested. Most of them plotted how to make more money, by hook or crook, to break into the Seven Percentile.
The Patrioteer Act also specifically authorized Eminent Domain. This had never before been used in Freemarketopia, but now Mayor Shawn announced a new plan. Farmer Brown's strawberry field would be "appropriated" as the site of the new Freemarketopia Grubbers baseball stadium. Farmer Brown was offered $100 for his 100 acres. He objected, and went to court to block the appropriation, arguing that this amounted to government stealing private property, and that such theft had been firmly established as illegal in Freemarketopia. Judge Johnny stated that such "appropriation" of private property by the state, at the behest of The Market, was entirely legal, and in no way similar to people stealing private property directly. So that's how Farmer Brown lost his strawberry field and Gargantu-Mart Bank Stadium arose on the outskirts Freemarketopia.
The Grubbers and the bank got their new stadium, and all seemed well. Grubbers fans were excited about the new season. The Grubbers were favored to win their division. The home opener was sold out.
But all was definitely not well inside the bank. Broody's Bond Rating Agency, a New York outfit, finally got around to taking a close look at the Gargantu-Mart stock market speculators. It didn't like what it saw. Derivatives, swaps, packaged equities, commodity shuffles, futures shorts, naked calls, the Gargantu-Mart banksters were pulling every trick in the book. Meanwhile, Freemarketopia stastical data was tanking: unemployment, crime, drug manufacture, prostitution, pollution, obesity, all soaring. Broody's issued a downgrade of the township's all-important bond rating, which had always been a sterling AAA.
Shock soon set in. Automatic computerized assessment protocols kicked in, and all of the home-owners in Freemarketopia received letters informing them that their home loan interest rates would increase from 0.99999999% to 19.99999999%. It was all perfectly legal according to the microscopic text in their loan docs.
The vast majority of home-owners who had these mortgages, now referred to as "sub-prime," were middle class folks - richer folks had just paid cash for their homes - and now these "taxable subprimes," as they were termed by the bank, faced financial ruin. As foreclosures swept over the township, neighborhood after neighborhood was left bereft.
Among those affected was Seargent Joe, who had been urged by bank officers to leverage his pot and moonshine operation to the hilt. When the bank now came to foreclose on his farm, he was barricaded inside his farmhouse with an arsenal of firepower along with several dozen fellow "freedom fighters," as they called themselves, including Farmer Brown and Will Youpay. Sheriff Sonny arrived at the scene, backed up by 1,000 state militia sent down by Governor George. Mayor Shawn was with them so as not to miss out on the excitement. The militia surrounded the farmhouse. "Lay down your arms and surrender, Joe, or we blow you to smithereens!" commanded Sheriff Sonny from the police line.
Seargent Joe answered, "Come and get it, you fascist capitalists!"
At that, the sheriff and militia unleashed a barrage of firebombs into the farmhouse. Within minutes the structure was nothing but smoking rubble.
The Mighty KBUK reported it this way: "Law enforcement and military officials went to all extremes to peacefully defuse the situation but the terrorists, led by one-time war hero turned Bolshevik, Seargent Joe, instigated a fire fight and died ignominously. And so ends the Freemarketopia Revolution. Let this be a stern lesson for any other terrorists who may be out there."
However, when officials went to pick through the debris, not a single body was found. It was only after uncovering the trap door to a long tunnel leading back toward town that Sheriff Sonny and his lawmen saw the smoke billowing from Freemarketopia.
As Sheriff Sonny and the militia rushed back to the township they heard a plaintive cry emanating from KBUK, "Help! Help! Save us! Save us!"
In the distance, black plumes and red tongues of fire leapt from town. Ablaze were Gargantu-mart, manager Foule Schiester's home, the Asnarko incinerator, the baseball stadium, the office buildings of Magic Insurance, Mount-be-Gone, PlunderWorks, American Family Values Network, the Shill, KBUK, the Frackers-R-Us wellhead, all five Burger Womper® locations, most TollCo toll booths, as well as the First Christian Church, where Pastor Pat had long egged on a special strain of Freemarketopia "prosperity gospel" based on unfettered greed.
The sheriff and militia slowly picked their way past one burning toll booth after another. "Whose stupid idea was it to put toll booths on every corner," one militia man asked. He was promptly arrested by Sheriff Sonny for treason.
But the rest of the militia had the soldier's back, and demanded that Sheriff Shawn surrender him. The sheriff had no choice but to do so, and watched forlornly as the militia took their man and left the scene.
By the time Sheriff Sonny and Mayor Shawn reached town center, it was just the two of them against a mob. Most of the town was in ruins. In front of a blazing City Hall, there stood Seargent Joe, Farmer Brown, Will Youpay, former Mayor Mike, all the FEA members,Gary the gas station attendant (whom they had busted out of jail) and 20,000 other Freemarketopia citizens, including most of the citizens who had been kicked out of the no-taxes club.
"You people are in big trouble!" yelled Mayor Shawn. "You are all hereby deemed terrorists! Arrest them, Sheriff Sonny!"
At that, Sonny took of his badge and pinned it on Mayor Shawn, then ran for the edge of town and was never seen again. Somebody later heard that he made it out to Las Vegas and was dancing in a male revue.
"We're takin' back our town, pipsqueak," growled Seargent Joe. "Tell him, Mike."
Former Mayor Mike stepped up. "We've already taken a vote of a majority of the citizens of this township. The previous sale of all public assets is hereby revoked, and these are reclaimed by the people. The previous recall election is deemed fraudulent and voided. Mayor Shawn, you are hereby recalled, and I have been appointed interim mayor until formal elections can take place. At that time the citizens will vote on a charter and constitution which will establish the new township of Fairmarketopia, which will be rebuilt over the bones of this corrupted and greed-filled town and dedicated to the formation of a more perfect community of justice for all, domestic tranquility, general welfare and the blessings of liberty and pursuit of happiness for all its citizens, not just the capitalists. In Fairmarketopia the Market will be subservient to the people, and strictly regulated to ensure fairness and transparency. We all now know that Caveat Emptor is not Greek for 'Good Luck;' it's Latin for 'Buyer Beware.' If only we had known this, perhaps we would never have allowed our town to be hijacked by financial mercenaries. A town, or a country, is not meant to serve a market; a market should serve the town, the country, the people. From now on all corporations will be subject to strict regulation by the people. If they misbehave, their operating charters in Fairmarketopia will be revoked by the people. We are those people! And we shall never again allow despotic marketeers to run roughshod over our deepest values, harm our persons and ruin our quality of life. And we shall vote on a new motto: 'We Share Happiness!'"
A great applause rose over the square as the central beam of City Hall collapsed in a shower of sparks. Across the green the polluted Liberty River flowed brown. Up the valley the maimed and denuded Mt. Freedom peeked through the smoke. Freemarketopia lay a'smoldering. Yet the citizens celebrated. Fairmarketopia would rise... and prosper. And even make its peace with its neighbor, Wealthredistributionville, across the ravaged but still sacred mountain.