Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Why punishments should not build wealth

Once in Hartford the flies were so numerous for a time, and so troublesome, that Mrs. Clemens conceived the idea of paying George a bounty on all the flies he might kill.

The children saw an opportunity here for the acquisition of sudden wealth. They supposed that their mother merely wanted to accumulate dead flies, for some ├Žsthetic or scientific reason or other, and they judged that the more flies she could get the happier she would be; so they went into business with George on a commission.

Straightway the dead flies began to arrive in such quantities that Mrs. Clemens was pleased beyond words with the success of her idea.

Next, she was astonished that one house could furnish so many. She was paying an extravagantly high bounty, and it presently began to look as if by this addition to our expenses we were now probably living beyond our income.

After a few days there was peace and comfort; not a fly was discoverable in the house: there wasn't a straggler left.

Still, to Mrs. Clement's surprise, the dead flies continued to arrive by the plateful, and the bounty expense was as crushing as ever.

Then she made inquiry, and found that our innocent little rascals had established a Fly Trust, and had hired all the children in the neighborhood to collect flies on a cheap and unburdensome commission.

Mrs. Clemens's experience in this matter was a new one for her, but the governments of the world had tried it, and wept over it, and discarded it, every half-century since man was created.

Any Government could have told her that the best way to increase wolves in America, rabbits in Australia, and snakes in India, is to pay a bounty on their scalps.

Then every patriot goes to raising them.
Source: Chapters from My Autobiography by Mark Twain

This is why governments are better off sticking to punishing those who do good and praising those who do evil.

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