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“Every country has an economic system,” said CUCKOO. “All are different, though sometimes the differences are slight. The current EAGLE-LAND system is called ‘Free Market Capitalism.’”
“It doesn’t seem to be working very well,” said EAGLE gloomily. “And it seems to produce an awful of lot of pollution. Good grief, one of the great joys of being an eagle is to be able to fly above all the mess these idiots have made of this beautiful country, and the next thing I know my nasal passages are clogged up with smog. And air pollution kills, I’ll have you know. Then I dive down to have a drink of water, and I find the stuff is polluted with oil. I’m surprised humans put up with it. I’m going to send that governor of Montana a stiff e-mail.”
“Well, it makes some people very rich,” said CUCKOO.
“Though most just get sick and die, I suppose,” said EAGLE grumpily. “It sounds like a damn fool system to me. I’m not sure I’d get on too well if I went around poisoning my neighbors.”
“Well, you have to look at the bigger picture,” said CUCKOO. “Free market capitalism has accomplished a lot. Look at how much better everyone is living compared to several generations ago. They have better cars, bigger houses, flat screen TVs and iPads. Now if that isn’t the advance of civilization, what is?”
EAGLE looked at CUCKOO suspiciously. CUCKOO had his unreadable blank face on on. It gave no indication of what he was thinking. The idea was that Eagle should form his own views based upon the best information available. CUCKOO had explained that he didn’t want to lead EAGLE.
EAGLE had been working hard at eaglenomics for a few months, but mostly what he knew so far was a lot of facts; and the most important fact of the lot was that he didn’t yet know what he needed to know. He was now familiar with much of the jargon, but didn’t yet know its precise meaning.
One of the oddest things about studying was that the more you learned, the less you seemed to know. It was quite discombobulating.
“You’re the teacher, CUCKOO,” he said. “So if you think Free Market Capitalism is the best system, I’m open to persuasion - based upon the facts,” he added hastily. “I’m just giving you a preliminary eagle’s eye view.“
"Well, the EAGLE-LAND system is tied into a belief,” said CUCKOO, “that if you’ll allow people – Americans – to have as much freedom as possible, they’ll be better off all around. There will be more innovation, the quality of life will improve faster, people will get richer, and they will all live happier longer.”
“So pollution is a small price to pay for freedom and economic progress,” said EAGLE.
CUCKOO beamed. “You’re mastering the jargon perfectly, EAGLE,” he said. “I’m proud of you.”
“But what is freedom?” said EAGLE. He had already come to the conclusion that this was a particularly tricky word where humans were concerned. They liked to rant about freedom and liberty a lot before killing each other. He doubted you would feel particularly free if you were dead.
“Well, you of all birds, should know the answer to that,” said CUCKOO. “It’s the ability to do what you like when you like without anyone trying to stop you. It means as little government as possible, as little taxation as is realistic – and the right to bear arms. And you can practice what religion you like and say what like and no one can gainsay you.”
“Err, no,” said CUCKOO, “which rather complicates things. Because getting money means losing freedom – quite a lot of freedom in America’s case. Nearly all of it in many cases.”
“Yet Americans can’t have freedom without money,” said EAGLE, “because the days of mountain man, Jeremiah Johnson, and living off the land are pretty much over.”
“They always were for most humans,” said CUCKOO.
“You’re a wise old buzzard,” said EAGLE.
“I’m a CUCKOO,” said CUCKOO.