The story so far: The second of two messengers sent by Adam Smith is showing the big-government statist Ed Splurge the dismal results of his policies….
“Spirit!” wailed Splurge. “What is this miserable place to which you have brought me?”
They stood in some kind of a prison, though much more dismal a prison than any of Splurge’s imagination. It heaved with abject members of humanity. Yet even though the place already seemed to be bursting at its seams, more new inmates were arriving.
“What vile country, spirit, treats people so?” he inquired.
“Yours, Splurge,” responded the Ghost of Freedom Present. “The more laws you have passed, the more criminals you have created out of honest men and women.”
“Are there no proper facilities for their accommodation, their education, and their rehabilitation?”
“You know well, Splurge, that spending on such things buys you no votes,” answered the ghost. “So you choose to spend public money on much more visible causes.”
Splurge was downcast in shame; he knew it was true.
“You, Splurge, spend it to buy off the vested interest groups. You take money from those who work hard and use it for your own political advantage.”
“Oh, spirit! Such Public Choice Theory realities pain me! Take me away from this place!”
“There is yet more to see,” said the ghost. “Let us visit some of these criminals that your bulging statute-book has created.”
Splurge and the ghost passed down an endless corridor of bulging prison cells. “These unfortunates,” it explained, pointing to the first, “are victims of your anti-terrorism legislation.”
“But we must have such laws!” objected Splurge.
“There were already plenty,” growled the ghost. “And each new law you passed cast wider than the last, until near any action could be punished in the most dire way. This woman was arrested merely for walking along a cycle path. This old man, for heckling a politician at a party conference. This couple, for a silent anti-war demonstration.”
“This was not meant to be,” pleaded Splurge. “The police must have exceeded their powers.”
“You gave them those powers,” replied the ghost. “Did no one tell you that power corrupts?”
“This man” – it pointed to another wretched inmate – ”is here simply for insulting someone else. This other, for proclaiming beliefs that some find unwelcome. These, for selling fruit in non-metric measures.”
It turned to Splurge. “It is evident, is it not, that in this country you have created, freedom exists only in name?”
“Oh, no,” said Splurge. “This was not meant to be! Kind spirit, say that human freedom will survive.”
“If these shadows remain unaltered, none other of your race,” returned the ghost, “will find freedom in any action.”
Splurge hung his head, overcome with penitence and grief. A sudden tiredness came over him, and all turned dark.