The man on the radio said vast swaths of the nation had been plunged into sub-zero cold and people might want to turn down the heat so everyone could have some.
This was absurd. The culture has taught me that my heat is my heat. It comes out of my furnace, provided by my natural gas company whose executives might get cushy new offices paid for by my tax money. As long as they're not fracking up my backyard, I don't care where they get the gas.
Besides, what am I going to do, pack up my heat in a foam cooler and ship it to Maine? By the time it got to Maine it would cool off, leaving some guy in Maine wondering why someone had sent him a slightly warm empty cooler.
If that guy in Maine wants heat, he should pick up an ax and go out into the famous Maine woods and chop down a tree. When it comes to heat, it's every man for himself. In fact, when it comes to everything, it's every man for himself.
The share-the-heat scam is at least socialist, if not Marxist, like the pope. You start sharing heat, pretty soon they'll be demanding health care, your money and your guns.
Tell you what, guy-in-Maine. Wait 'til July. Then you can have some of my heat. Until then, eat your liver.
Everywhere you look, people want you to share. It's out of hand.
This nation wasn't built by sharing, except for maybe the first Thanksgiving. How did that peace-y, harmony thing work out for ya, Squanto? Enjoying life on the rez?
This country was built by greedy, rapacious men, captains of industry. They planted cotton and stole people from their homes and forced them into servitude so it could be harvested.
They were granted public land on which to build railroads and enriched themselves through all manner of swindles. They built great fortunes in manufacturing, in retailing, in transportation, in banking. They profiteered during times of war, amassing untold wealth and regarding those who wanted them to share the heat as Bolsheviks.
Oh, from time to time, someone would emerge calling for more sharing, whether of heat or a burden. The wiser tycoons created their own philanthropies, so that heat was shared with those whom they regarded as deserving.
Their descendants built an economy in which there are three unemployed people for every vacant job. They can safely tell people to "Get a job," secure in the knowledge that two out of every three of them won't find them. They'll never have to share a dime, particularly when unemployment benefits are cut off.
This is the lesson that often is missed by the pro-sharing softies: Sharing should be done voluntarily. Otherwise it's not sharing, but confiscatory tax policy.
For 43 years PBS and "Sesame Street" have been inculcating America's children with insidious liberal messages about sharing. Take the famous video in which Prairie Dawn, perhaps the stupidest Muppet ever created, has been abandoned by her friends with only a cheese sandwich for sustenance. Along comes Grover, the furry blue monster, offering to share his box of raisins with her. At the end of the bit, Grover and Prairie Dawn split the raisins and the cheese sandwich.
The message is that sharing is a good thing, but left unsaid is this: No one forced Grover to share his raisins!
There was no federal Department of Sharing to set the rules. It was entirely voluntary. Indeed, it might be that Grover had his eye on the cheese sandwich all along. Modern capitalists suspect that the real lesson here is that Grover's intention was to take advantage of Prairie Dawn's plight by acquiring half of a delicious cheese sandwich in return for a mere handful of raisins.
What we are dealing with here is what economists call "non-cooperative game theory," which considers how people (or furry blue monsters) interact to achieve their own goals. If your goal is to acquire a cheese sandwich at the least possible cost, this video is must-see TV.
However, we must allow for the possibility of altruism, or selflessness, when individuals do something purely out of regard for someone's else's well-being.
It's possible that some people might actually turn down their heat on the off-chance that a few BTUs might make their way to someone who is cold. It's possible that someone might offer some raisins to a sad little Muppet with no thought of sharing her cheese sandwich.
But are these people, these altruists, really doing anyone any favors? No, they are destroying incentives and undercutting personal responsibility. I did that guy in Maine a favor by telling him to go chop wood. Grover should have told Prairie Dawn to stop moping and get a job. Then he could have kept his raisins, grabbed the cheese sandwich, ditched PBS and moved to Fox News.
Kevin Horrigan is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org.