Amazing New Work Of Art! The Toothpick Fighterplane Sculpture!

by Jimmy Akin

in Economics

Suppose that you’re a little child and that you’re abducted by the public school system.

Every day a large yellow metal machine that makes a humming noise appears before your house, and you are expected to cooperate with your abduction under the threat that the truant officer will make things hard on you and your family if you don’t.

During the times that you have been abducted by the public school system, aliensteachers bent on undermining American society mess with your brain and implant the idea that "self-expression" has such a high value that it trumps everything else in life.

They further implant the idea that "You can be anything you want to be."

One day in art therapy class, you build a tiny model of a figherplane out of toothpicks and glue.

The commandantteacher of the art class holds it up for all the other children to see and praises it highly as an outstanding example of your self-expression.

You are awash with emotion. This is the first time that an alien overlordteacher has ever praised anything that you have ever done.

You imprint on the moment.

The making of toothpick fighterplanes becomes for you, forever, the defining mode of your self-expression. It is you mission in life.

But soon the novelty of making tiny toothpick fighterplanes wears off. Soon you must move on to bigger and better toothpick fighterplanes in order to recapture the feeling of satisfaction and approval that the praise of your art class commandantteacher gave you.

So focused are you on your mission in life that you think only about making bigger and better toothpick fighterplanes. You completely ignore your other studies. You never pick up any skills besides those needed to make toothpick fighterplanes.

By the time you graduate from the local state college (where you major in art), you are producing full-scale, incredibly realistic fighterplanes made entirely out of toothpicks and glue.

But then college is over.

Your abduction by the public educational system is over.

It’s now time to . . . "Find a job." (Dum! Dum! Dum!)

Of course, there are no employers willing to pay you to make toothpick fighterplanes for them full time, so you become an independent artist.

You’re an entrepeneur!

You start approaching art museums and the governments of towns where aviation and the military are big local industries and start trying to sell them your toothpick fighterplane sculptures.

You make some sales!

It’s a real fad for a while for people to buy your works!

But then the fad ends.

Suddenly people aren’t buying your toothpick fighterplanes any more.

Several towns tell you that they’d like one, except the town right next door already has one, so it’s not really a novelty that will add anything to their community.

You’re stunned!

You complain!

You argue all the advantages your toothpick fighterplanes have to offer a community!

You point out that Catholic social doctrine says that a worker deserves a just wage allowing him to make a decent living for himself and his family.

But the towns still aren’t buying.

You just can’t sell enough of your magnificent toothpick fighterplane sculptures to make a living.

Unfortunately, with all the emphasis with which the public school system has been placing on self-expression and its message that "You can be anything you want," the public school system failed to communicate to you other messages like "You need to develop a marketable skill" or "You need to develop a form of art that there’s a sizeable market for."

What does this teach us?

That the public school system does not prepare children to face real life?

Yes, that’s exactly what it teaches us!

But what else?

That public school teachers are all evil aliens?

That self-expression is worthless and everyone needs to just conform?

That art is a worthless encumbrance of society that is not worth our time?

No, it teaches us none of those things (despite a superficial plausibility to the first).

What it does teach us is that we have to have the skills to do marketable work–that is, work for which there is a market. We do not have a right to decide that we want to do a particular thing and that the rest of the world has to conform itself to what we want to do.

It also teaches us that when we start upon a particular line of work, we must be aware that we are taking a risk. Risk is part of the job. There may be a market for our work one day but not the next. If we take a risk and it doesn’t pan out, or stops panning out, we cannot blame the world for that. We simply misestimated the market for what we wanted to do.

It finally teaches us that we must seek to exercise the virtue of prudence exercise foresight and adaptability in determining what skills we cultivate and what jobs we pursue.

Otherwise we may find ourselves trying to sell toothpick fighterplanes in a market that’s already saturated with those.

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{ 6 comments }

Tim J. May 10, 2005 at 6:08 am

This why so many university trained artists can think of no other source of income than government grants. There is a market for ugly, degrading artwork (in large cities), but it is tiny compared to the legions of government-trained paint slingers and acetylene-torch wielding “arteests” that currently exist. Hardly anyone wants this stuff, so in steps the National Endowment for the (bad) Arts.
Your tax dollars at work!

Brian Day May 10, 2005 at 8:13 am

Catholic social doctrine says…
that we (read: government) must by goods and services that have no real value … for the sake of the workers.
This is the second post that Jimmy has invoked Catholic social doctrine (along with the toothpic fighter plane.)
So, is this Catholic social teaching week?

Brian Day May 10, 2005 at 9:53 am

Oops. Just came back and found my “sarcasm” tag did not post.

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