The Peterkin Papers

peterkin_papersAllow me to introduce you to the Peterkins. If you’ve never been exposed to this book, I strongly encourage you to read it. Especially the first story in the book. As this article describes:

The charm of the story is not in the plot, but in the telling, building up layers of complication, and the affectionate fun poked at the not-quite-cartoonish characters.

The first story is about how Mrs. Peterkin mistakenly puts salt instead of sugar into her morning cup of coffee. The day is spent on an absurd quest (meeting with chemists, and herbal experts, and…) to neutralize the effect of the salt, all of which leaves the coffee undrinkable. The solution is obvious to the reader, you simply pour out the coffee and start over, but this eludes the Peterkins.

When I read the news, or watch the theater that passes for politics in this country, it always feels like I’m watching the Peterkins. The most recent stories about the financial meltdown and the government’s response to it is just another desperate attempt to neutralize the salt in our coffee. The futility of this band-aid on top of a band-aid approach becomes obvious, as the government responds over and over again to problems of its own creation, due to the The Law of Unintended Consequences. When will this country wake up and realize that it’s time to pour out the coffee and start over?

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