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The Special Interest Carnival


The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free-Market Odyssey, ed. 3

by Ken Schoolland

This book was originally published in 1988, third edition © 2001, by Small Business Hawaii.

Excerpt reprinted with permission. Please see www.jonathangullible.com for copies of the book, now published in more than 20 languages.

The sun was setting as Jonathan returned to the steps of the library. To his delight, the town came to life after dark; people began milling about in the square. More and more people streamed toward a magnificent carnival tent standing near the GLIB [Government Library].

Gawking at the lights, sights, and sounds, Jonathan wandered over to the spectacular tent. A colorful sign overhead read: "CARNIVAL OF SPECIAL INTERESTS."

A striking woman wearing a tight, garishly colored costume sprang out of the crowd and shouted to all: "Hear ye, hear ye. For the thrill of a lifetime, step right up to the Carnival of Special Interests." She spotted Jonathan, whose eyes opened wide with surprise, and grabbed his arm. "Everyone is a winner, young man."

"What's it cost?" asked Jonathan.

"Bring in ten kayns and walk out with a fabulous prize!" she replied. The woman gestured widely to the crowd, "Hear ye, hear ye! The Carnival of Special Interests will make you rich!"

Not having any money, Jonathan waited until the woman was busy with others and then crept around to the back of the tent. He lifted the edge of the canvas to peer inside. People sat in stands along the sides of the tent. In the middle, ushers in uniform directed participants to chairs arranged in a large circle. Ten participants stood or knelt behind their chairs expectantly. Then, half the candles were snuffed, a drum rolled, and hidden trumpets blared a fanfare. A brilliant lamp flashed on a handsome man wearing a shiny black suit and silk top hat. He bowed low to the circle of ten.

"Good evening," said the man, flashing a gleaming white-toothed smile. "I am the Circle Master! Tonight, you fortunate ten will be the lucky winners in our remarkable game. All of you will win. All of you will leave happier than when you entered. Please be seated." With that and a swift flourish of his white-gloved hand, the Circle Master collected one kayn from each participant. No one hesitated.

Then the Circle Master smiled again and announced, "Now you will see how you are rewarded." And he suddenly dropped five kayns into the lap of one participant. The lucky recipient screamed with glee. "You won't be the only winner," declared the Circle Master. And so it was. Ten times he went around the group, collecting one kayn from each person. After each round, he dropped five kayns into the lap of one of the participants, and each time the recipient jumped for joy.

When the shouting stopped and the participants began to file out, Jonathan ran around to the front of the tent to see if everyone was really satisfied. The woman at the entrance held the tent flap open. She stopped one of the participants as he shuffled out on his knees and asked: "Did you have fun?"

"Oh sure!" the man said, grinning happily. "It was terrific!"

"I can't wait to tell my friends," said another. "I may come back again later."

Then another excited participant added, "Yes, oh yes. Everyone won a prize of five kayns!"

Jonathan thoughtfully watched the group as they dispersed. The woman turned to the Circle Master, who waved his good-bye to the crowd, and commented quietly, "Yes, we're especially happy. We won fifty kayns and these suckers all feel happy about it! I think that next year we ought to ask the Council of Lords to pass a law that will require everyone to play!"

Just then an usher sneaked behind Jonathan and grabbed him by the collar. "Hold on there, you scamp. I saw you peeking in the back. You thought you could get a free show, did ya?"

"I'm sorry," said Jonathan, struggling to get out of the usher's grasp. "I didn't realize you had to pay just to watch. That pretty lady made it sound so interesting-and I didn't have enough money, pleaseĽ"

The Circle Master scowled at Jonathan and the usher, "No money?" But the woman smiled at Jonathan's compliment. "Wait, turn him loose," she said to the usher. "He's just a kid. So you liked the show, did you?"

"Oh yes, ma'am!" said Jonathan, nodding hard.

"Well, how would you like to earn some easy money? It's either that or," her voice turned threatening, "I'll turn you in to the carnival guard."

"Oh, great," said Jonathan, uncertainly. "What do you want me to do?"

"It's simple," she smiled, all sweetness again. "Just walk around the town this evening, hand out these flyers, and tell everyone how much fun they'll have in our Carnival. Here's a kayn now and you'll earn another with each participant that comes in the door carrying one of these flyers. Now go to it and don't disappoint me."

As Jonathan slung the bag of flyers over his shoulder, she cautioned, "One more thing. At the end of the show tonight, I'll turn in a report of your earnings. First thing in the morning, you must turn over half of your pay at the town hall for your tax."

"Tax?" repeated Jonathan. "Why?"

"The Lords require a share of your wages."

Jonathan didn't like the idea. He added hopefully, "If you don't report my earnings, I might work harder. Maybe twice as hard."

"The Lords are wise to that, kid. They have spies everywhere, watching us closely. If they see us hide your earnings, it could mean big trouble-might even shut us down," said the woman. "So don't complain. We must all pay for our sins."

"Sins?" repeated Jonathan.

"Oh, yes. Taxes punish the sinful. The tobacco tax punishes smoking, the alcohol tax punishes drinking, the interest tax punishes saving, and the income tax punishes working. The ideal of the Council," chuckled the woman as she winked at the Circle Master standing at her side, "is to be healthy, sober, dependent, and idle. Now get a move on, kid!"