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  • Writer's pictureDan FitzPatrick

Raiding the Candy Store: A Modern-day Parable

Imagine this scenario:

A wealthy owner of a successful bodega located on an exceptionally busy corner in a large and very prosperous city decides to take more time to pursue his hobbies and generally enjoy the life that his success has earned. He hires a group of teenagers to run the store in his absence and begins to spend quality time with his family and friends.

At first the teenagers perform passably well at the job, but with time the temptation of the freedom and authority they have been given, coupled with the owner’s lack of active oversight, prove too much for them to resist, and they begin to take advantage of their position.

The bodega is a very popular spot, and people from all over the city come in and out. The teenagers’ friends are frequent visitors, and the high profile and visibility of their job substantially increase their individual social standing with their peers. They become

“quasi-rock stars” within their friend community, and to keep up the adulation, they pass put candy and occasionally look the other way when friends engage in the “five finger discount.” The bodega’s business is so brisk, and the owner so disengaged, that the decreases in inventory and profits are too small to notice.

After a while, the teenagers get very, very comfortable in their positions. They decide that they really don’t want to do the hard and tedious tasks involved in running the bodega, like managing inventory, sweeping and mopping the floor, and operating the cash register, so they hire younger teenagers (without the owner’s knowledge or permission) to do those jobs, and spend most of their time in the owner’s office in the back, talking with each other and their friends, texting on their phones, and playing video games. All in all, it is a very good life.

The owner is similarly enjoying his good life. From time to time, his friends share their concerns that all is not well at the bodega, and even provide details of what is going on. But the owner is too consumed with his new life to get involved and tells himself that the lost inventory and profits are so small in the scheme of things that he would rather just ignore the concerns and concentrate on his own interests and passions.

The teenagers know that their good life will ultimately come to an end when they have to leave for college, which of course none of them has sufficiently saved up for. The majority of them decide to postpone college and remain in their position for much longer than they (and certainly the owner) intended. They convince themselves that they ”deserve” more money than the owner is paying them, and so begin a little business of their own selling cigarettes from the bodega’s inventory to their underage friends in exchange for cash. They justify this act of theft and betrayal by telling themselves that the owner already has more wealth than any one person should have, and anyway, if he is too stupid (their word) to pay attention to what is happening in his own store, then it’s his own fault and he deserves it.

This continues on for some time until the owner, roused to action by the crescendo of concerns raised by his friends, hires an accountant to perform an audit of the bodega’s books, discovers the extent of the fraud and betrayal, fires the teenagers and refers the matter to the local police for prosecution.

Does any of this sound familiar? Could there be some parallels in real life? Perhaps with respect to the way in which our national and state governments have come to operate?

Aren’t we, the citizens of this nation, like the owner who entrusted his future financial security to others, in our case our elected government representatives? Haven’t many of them, over the years, betrayed our trust by being ineffective or unfaithful stewards of our collective resources? Haven’t they created and hired at our expense an entire secondary layer of governmental management not subject to our selection or control? Haven’t they then delegated (abdicated really) to these secondary managers the authority to perform the tasks which they were hired for? Haven’t many of them remained in their positions too long, much longer certainly than the framers of our Constitution ever contemplated?

Isn’t it the case that many of our elected representative have used the power and prestige of their (temporary) positions, and portions of our collective resources, to advance their own personal objectives – power, fame, financial gain, ideology – and “feather their nests” in preparation for post-service careers that leverage the connections made and favors given while in office? Haven’t “we the people,” as the true sovereign power of our nation and our respective states, been somewhat complicit in all this through our own understandable but dangerous overlooking of the signs and ignoring of the warnings that increasingly intrude into our consciousness as we try simply to live our own lives and pursue our own happiness? Have we not in effect earned the apparent disdain of our current political ruling class, which increasingly exhibits its contempt for the people it its intended to serve by misleading and misinforming us, and treating us like sheep to be led and to obey?

Will we continue to be like the owner, who dismisses the reality of his betrayal by counting it too small to worry about? Or will we, finally, wake up to the urgent need to reassert our sovereignty and take back control of our government?

Do we as a people care enough about the future of our democratic society – including its security, both physical and financial, and its foundational objectives of preserving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – to act as the owner eventually did? No one is entitled to serve in elective office, or to remain therein beyond a reasonable time. We have the power to elect – and un-elect – the people who should be working day and night exclusively in our best interests. We must exercise that right intelligently, responsibly and regularly. That is the only way in which we can hold our governments accountable and responsive to our collective will.

Sheep cannot vote. Sheep are led, and where they are typically led to is nowhere we should want to go. Let’s not be sheep. Let’s let our political leaders know that they are the ones who need to be listening to our voice. And let us remember -- our vote is our voice.

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