EYE ON THE PIE: Tying up the loose ends of 2007

December 31, 2007

I prevailed on Evelyn Elkhorn to meet at the new Dunkin' Donuts. "Doughnuts are both fattening and addictive," she protested.

"Doughnuts are delightful, and life should not be conducted as if its extension is its objective," I insisted. She yielded, ordering a coffee and two over-sized doughnuts.

As we found a convenient table, she asked, "What subject haven't you covered this year that you wish you had?"

That was a tough one. I am free to write what I wish. I'm not financially dependent on the goodwill of any single person or institution. I have the pleasure of being an equalopportunity offender. Then too, I have a short memory and hardly remember what I wrote last week. I can't be expected to recall what I regret not having written.

After a few moments of silence, I said, "I'm sorry for not correcting any factual errors I made. For example, last week I wrote that the public did not elect anyone directly to the county tax boards. That was wrong, but I had the good fortune of being corrected by a knowledgeable reader. Two members of each board are elected directly by citizens of their counties."

"And did that have a substantive effect on the meaning of your column?" Evelyn asked, fighting to engage the girth of a jelly-stuffed goodie.

"It did tone down one of the paragraphs, but didn't destroy the overall meaning," I responded.

"What else have you neglected?" Evelyn said.

"Gun control," I answered. "It's just plain stupid to complain about 'crime' and do nothing to reduce the intensity of danger. Get guns off the streets. Make it illegal for ordinary citizens to buy, sell, own or possess handguns or automatic weapons in Indiana."

"But the Constitution ... ," Evelyn started to say, before I stopped her. "The U.S. Constitution," I said emphatically, "enables a militia to exist. We do not have a state militia and therefore the Second Amendment to the Constitution does not give each citizen unlimited opportunities to kill his or her neighbors and family.

"OK," Evelyn said, "what else?" I thought for a while and then said, "The environment and exits. I did not write enough about what we need to do to counter the deteriorating environment. And I did not get Hoosiers thinking about exits."

"Exits?" she inquired.

"Yes," I said, "places to get out of a structure. Think about the World Trade Center. One crucial factor in the large number of deaths was the lack of sufficient staircases. Look around your grocery store. How would you get out in the event of fire? Most buildings do not have sufficient exits. Virtually every multistoried building has inadequate numbers of staircases because they are 'dead' space."

"You are a self-contained loony bin," Evelyn said, laughing. "Don't you have anything more joyous to discuss?"

"Sure," I said. "I could have done a column on the famous Gridley of 'You may fire when you are ready, Gridley'. He was Charles "Steve" Gridley, born in Logansport in 1844. He had two notable moments in history. At the bow of Admiral David Farragut's first ship to enter Mobile Bay in 1864, Acting Ensign Gridley looked for floating bombs.

Then, as Captain Gridley, he led Admiral George Dewey's fleet into Manila Bay, starting the brief Spanish-American War in the Pacific."

"Now, isn't that special?" Evelyn said. "That's what we should read. Not what you usually write, but uplifting, happy moments of the past. It would make us all feel better as we exit the year."

I studied my coffee and thought about a third doughnut.

Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU's Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.
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