Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Plumber's Tale: Why The American System is Going Down the Toilet

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By Barry Rubin

In order to save water, in a place where there has never been a real water shortage, the local government requires the installation of low-flow toilets in all homes. Unfortunately, though, these toilets tend to become stuffed up even when treated with the utmost care. This annoying problem happens repeatedly. Sometimes it can be fixed by flushing multiple times or using the plunger; at other times nothing works.

When all else failed, the plumber is summoned and arrives for an expensive service call. After fixing the toilet, he explains as he takes the check, "This is how I make a lot of money nowadays. You might," he laughs, "be surprised to learn that I voted for Obama."

But, he adds, apologetically, "I always explain to people that they should flush twice as much in order to avoid this problem."

What a perfect metaphor: Without any great need to do so, government mandates what kind of toilets people must have. The supposed purpose is to save water, though there is no shortage. And the result is that it costs  everyone more money, does more damage to the environment, and even uses even more water!

How could one possibly explain the contemporary U.S. political, economic, and social situation better?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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