Opinion and Forefront

MARCUS: It would have been different had Noah been a Hoosier

April 19, 2014

Marcus
The new movie about Noah and his ark, combined with the antics of the General Assembly, led me to setting the fabled story here in the Hoosier state.

We would need an acceptable name for Noah’s wife. Naamah is her name in the movie, but scholars disagree about the accuracy of this. Our Legislature would choose a name more consistent with our comfort levels. Just as the General Assembly once defined the value of Pi, it would determine Noah’s wife was Debbie.

Noah did not seek any public funds to build the ark, which would be a totally private effort. Prevailing wages would not apply and normal safety and sanitation standards would be suspended. Noah, Debbie and their sons did all the work. Experienced, skilled, unionized craftsmen did not contribute to the project. Only with guidance from above was the vessel seaworthy.

Although not yet invented and not needed, the Legislature did allow guns and other instruments of mass destruction to be carried on the ark. The most interesting and consequential aspect of the Legislature’s guidance was the pricing policy used by Noah in managing the ark.

Given that only one ark would be built, Noah had a monopoly on survival. Hence, the ark was declared a public utility and made subject to the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission. This opened the door for all persons to be eligible for inclusion in the passenger list. Fortunately, the Legislature constrained the IURC from such a liberal interpretation of “utility” and proclaimed that, contrary to scientific judgment, limited strains of DNA would be quite adequate for the future of mankind.

There was a loophole. Persons or interested patrons could buy space on the ark. Given no precedence for an ark, the pricing was left to Noah and rubber-stamped by the IURC.

Now Noah and Debbie were not anti-social, but they were not joiners. They artfully set the price so high and imposed such stringent conditions that others were prevented from getting onboard.

Only Lilly Endowment, in a burst of environmental consciousness, made funds available for selected animal and plant species to be accepted for the journey. Always thoughtfully selective, the endowment excluded dinosaurs from its preferred list because they were not mentioned in earlier chapters of the Old Testament.

When the rains came, the General Assembly’s Committee on Catastrophe denied the scientific evidence and adopted a resolution identifying the massive flooding as an “unusually wet spring.” Purdue issued a statement that “it would appear the drought might be over, but farmers and gardeners should not take the present drenching as an indicator of improved future conditions.”

As we now know, Noah, Debbie and their children plus many varieties of flora and fauna rode out the flood. The ark finally came to rest on the highest point in Indiana, near Richmond. And humanity began once again to begat, to re-create our previous catalog of vices and virtues.

Mankind does not necessarily learn from its lessons.•

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Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of the university’s Indiana Business Research Center. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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