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Pigs, Congress, subsidies and freedoms

Dear Mr. Berko: About four or five years ago, you printed a story about wild pigs and related it to what is going on in Congress. It was funny, prophetic and apropos.

I don’t recall how the story tells. I save most of your columns and can’t find it among the columns I’ve saved.

If you have a copy, I’d really appreciate a copy because it is pure genius.

–T.R., Destin, Fla.

Dear T.R.: I didn’t write that story, but it is a classic.

The credit, I believe, belongs to Lawton Chiles, a former Florida governor, U.S. congressman and U.S. senator. I think he told this story to a group of businessmen a dozen years ago to explain his thoughts on Congress. I’ll try to repeat it as Chiles might have told it.

While in an intense discussion with a Floridian I’ve known for nearly 30 years about Congress, he suddenly changed topics and asked, “Do you know how we catch hogs here in the panhandle?”

I was flummoxed by the abrupt change in conversation, but knowing something about animal husbandry, I gave him a pretty good answer.

He smiled appreciatively and commented, “That ain’t what I had in mind.” And he proceeded to give me his answer:

“First,” he says, “you got to pick a fine open spot in these woods here and seed it with corn. Them hogs can’t see very good, but they can smell that corn from a mile in any direction. And pretty soon, they start comin’ every day to feast because it sure beats root’n and search’n for food.

“Then when them hogs get real comfortable comin’ every day for the easy corn, you build a sturdy 40-foot fence down one side of the open woods where them hogs are used to com’n. The fence side will make them hogs a little shy, but after a few days they’ll come round back again to eat easy corn.

“And when them hogs start paying no mind to that 40-foot section, you build another sturdy 40-foot section. They’ll shy away for a time but come back, and you continue to do this until you have all four sides of the fence built with a swing gate on the final side. And now you’ve got yourself a big corral.

“Well, them hogs ain’t the smartest animals in the woods, but they’s sure used to that free corn and will soon be com’n through the gate. And when enough of them come through, you slam the gate shut, and you’ve got yourself a big swine herd.

“Them hogs will get excited and run around the perimeter of the corral, grunt’n, squeal’n and paw’n, but they won’t be able to push themselves past that sturdy fence. So it don’t take long till they go back to eat’n that free and easy corn. And it ain’t long till them hogs are so accustomed to free corn that they forget how to forage through the woods for themselves and welcome their captivity.”

And, says Chiles, this is precisely what’s happening to our country today.

Washington provides crop subsidies, income subsidies, fuel subsidies, housing subsidies and mortgage subsidies. Washington has health insurance programs, drug programs and employment programs. Washington determines bank-lending criteria, hiring practices, workplace rules and tells us how to run our public school systems, what foods we should eat and what crops we can plant. As a result, we are losing our freedoms a little bit at a time.

Chiles told that story more than a dozen years ago. He was certainly prophetic, and if he were alive today, watching current events, he’d turn over in his grave.

Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com.

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