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Avoiding Tragedy
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Last week I was on vacation and forgot to post it! So here's my column from July 8!

Shortly after Osama bin Laden was sent to meet his maker, Rush Limbaugh lambasted the guy’s housekeeping. On his show, Limbaugh noted that with three wives, you'd think Osama's house would have been a little neater, rather than strewn with rotten food, soiled linen, and dirty dishes.

I think Rush got it wrong. Maybe one woman could have kept it clean, but add three to the mix, and a mess is the only logical outcome. It’s called the Tragedy of the Commons, and it’s human nature.

Let’s take a look at bin Laden’s pathetic brood to figure out why this is so. I hope it goes without saying that polygamy is absolutely, completely, and undeniably disgusting. I can't think of a worse type of relationship. It tells women that you're not really special. You're here to perform a role, which is basically a sexual one. You're not here to be a confidante or a friend, because I can't treat you any differently from any of the other wives. So I'm just going to use you.

In that environment, if you were one of Osama's three wives, would you clean anything? I sure wouldn’t, because nothing would be mine. Everything would be his, and if I made it better, then I'd be making life easier for two of my rivals and all of their children, too. A race to the bottom, then, is the only logical outcome: it’s a race to see who can get away with doing the least, so that nobody else benefits from our labour. So they all lived in squalor.

But this problem with human nature is not restricted to psychopathic Islamic extremist polygamists. Socialism has much in common with Osama’s lack of housekeeping. When everything is owned in common, then people don't care for it properly, because others can abuse it or can skate along with no effort on their own part. That's one reason, for instance, that agricultural output in the former Soviet Union kept decreasing every year, despite all the new agricultural policies. When people don't own the crops they produce, and when others can benefit from someone else’s work, then people will not work as hard.

Ownership matters. If we're going to have pride in something, we have to have a stake in it which cannot be taken away. We have to be able to benefit from the fruits of our labour, but, just as importantly, we have to be able to benefit only from the fruits of our labour. If we can get something for free, why work for it?

That’s why economic freedom is so closely related to happiness and well-being. The countries with the highest amount of economic freedom also have the happiest citizens, the safest citizens, and the wealthiest citizens. They are, on average, ten times wealthier than those from countries with the lowest economic freedom. Even the poor in Canada, for instance, are eight times wealthier than the poor in countries which are not economically free.

We just celebrated Canada Day, and every July 1 I feel humbled to live in this country. I don’t think we fully realize how wonderful it is to be as free as we are. But this will only remain a great country if we, its people, keep demanding that government do only what is necessary, and that we, its citizens, be permitted to pursue our own interests. That builds a country where we’re not trying to take from each other. We’re not trying to do the minimum. We’re working hard, because we get to enjoy what we work for. I’m proud to be a Canadian. Economic freedom, no polygamy, and thus much less tragedy. Sounds pretty good to me.

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At 11:50 AM , Blogger A Cup of Irish Tea said…

When you read about the polygamous unions in the Bible, their families, it is never shown in a good light, is it? The rivalry, etc. Ugh. I wouldn't be motivated to keep the place clean, either. Have you read "Escape" by Carolyn Jessup, the fundamentalist Mormon lady? A must-read.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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