“Tonight’s guest of honor made the special request to introduce himself,” the man behind the podium wore a quirky smile as he stood tall in his tailored tuxedo. “So, without further ado, President Barry Potter.”
The room filled with applause as an average-looking man in an average-looking suit mounted the stage to shake the emcee’s hand before slipping up behind the podium, eyeing it for a moment before plucking the wireless microphone and walking back along the stage, around the seats of honor, and then down onto the floor.
“Please, please, take your seats,” Barry said, waving people down. Everyone sat, watching with interest as he walked on the floor among their round tables. Sitting in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria, the Future of American Economy Conference kicked off in grand style, with Wall Street monoliths, their families, financial district sharks and state, regional and national-level financial executives and government functionaries gathered to discuss the future of American economics. The ballroom was, well, grand. Barry wound through the tables, holding the mic in his hand. “Thank you for such a warm welcome. I’m glad to be here. Wow.” He paused, looking around. This is pretty shwank. I’m sure for some of you this is the foyer to your bathroom.” He winked as giggles rippled across the room.
“For me,” he shrugged. “I think my whole house might fit into this.” More chuckles. “Thanks for inviting me out. I’ve never been to New York City. I’m hoping to see a few sights while I’m out here. To include … some New York … pizza?”
Several people began clapping.
“Yeah, pizza,” Barry nodded. “I love pizza. Where can I go for the best?”
Several people began calling out locations.
Barry paused, turning around. “Paper? Who’s got some paper? Ah!” He took a proferred name tent from a nearby table and a smiling patron. “Thank you, young lady.” Plucking a pen from his suit coat, he began writing down the locations, garnering smirks and smiles as people watched the President of the United States making his own notes. “Thank you all, very much. Well, wait a second.” He held up the list he’d written. “Which one’s the best?”
The room erupted in yelling and calls for one location or another, the participation building the energy in the room. He let it continue for a few moments, then pocketed the list, patting his breast, a smile on his face. “Well, thank you all, very much. You know, I love eating out. I love meeting people out in town and talking about ideas and lives and relationships. I love the interaction, I love the community. Small businesses like these pizza places are where life happens! It’s where we meet! It’s where we work and live and love and laugh. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, it’s the people in your life that makes life worth living, is it not?”
A murmur of agreement rumbled the room.
Barry nodded, ambling through the room. “I was riding down on Air Force One — which, by the way, is very nice — and I was trying to figure out what I was going to say when I came here. And I thought I’d keep it simple. So I had an index card that I filled out, but then I left on the plane. Preparation is great, but execution requires something different. It requires adaptability, movement, education, engagement and, most importantly, freedom. If I’m not free, then I got nothing. Without freedom, preparations become antiquated the moment you say they’re complete. It makes the need for preparation doubly important, as that preparation helps prepare you to adapt and overcome, but no matter how great the business plan, if you aren’t free to adapt to market conditions …? You’re going nowhere. Am I right?”
The room murmured with agreement.
“Freedom,” Barry turned, passing each table slowly, shaking the rare hand when profferred. “Freedom is everything. We’re the land of the free. Our forefathers — whether the stuffy guys from the Revolution or the blue collar immigrants afterward — they came for freedom. They lived in lands where they couldn’t own their own business without bribing officials, if at all. They lived under oppression that took from them their earnings without offering something equitable in return.
“They didn’t come because we offered them money, they came at the chance of keeping their own! Why do you think so many of them are such hard-working icons in their communities and our spoiled little brats keep expecting the world to give them what they think they deserve? You who are sitting in this room did not get where you are because someone gave it to you. Well, maybe some of you subsidy-rich people. Oh and the monpolies in here, but the rest of you dug yourselves up.”
The room chilled.
“Oh, wait, did I breach something?” Barry turned around. “Did I bring up that some of you are wealthy because you used my office and that of your national representatives to lock others out of competition? That you garnered Federal funds to do what you couldn’t do for yourself? If you thought I came to be anything close to being politically correct, you might as well leave right now. However,” he said, raising a finger, “my lovely assistant over there, raise your hand, honey.”
On the far corner of the room, a woman raised her hand behind a tripod and small camera, pointing it at the room.
“If any of you get up and leave now, this very public video is already going to be posted on WhiteHouse.gov., so go ahead and get up now …?” Barry looked around the room. “Alright, unpleasantries out front, my next bit of news is good for everyone in the room, regardless of how you got rich. Starting as soon as I can, the executive branch will do everything possible to get government out of your business.”
People began to gape.
“Whether you clawed your way to multi-billion success, worked as a government bureaucrat, or used the government to knock out competition, the U.S. government is getting out of your business. No more subsidies, minimal regulation and, to the very best of my ability, I will move this government to a dependency on economy for revenue.”
Out of the room two men began clapping loudly.
“Hey, thank you, I’ll be here … well, for the rest of the night,” Barry waved at them. “I’m not paying you, am I?” He pushed up onto his tip-toes with a smirk on his face, before dropping back down to his heels, resuming his walk. “And let me tell you why the U.S. government is getting out of your business. And this is really the best part: We do not own you. I don’t own you. Hell, I don’t know about hardly any of you, and I don’t really care to. And it’s not that I have a disdain for financial people — I respect you all very much. You can do things with math that make my head spin. You are stalwarts of our national economy. Which means … why the hell am I telling you how to do business?
“I’m the President of the United States, elected by a nation that can barely read better than a fifth-grade reading level. Who the hell am I to tell you how to do your business? Because the people want me to? Thanks to our employee-churning public education system, the people don’t know how to run business! How can they know if I’m good enough to run you running your business? That’s a conundrum, one many of you have probably asked yourself before.
“No one in government started your business, no one in government works your business, so why the hell would someone in government expect to tell you how to do it more morally than you do? Because we’re outsiders? We’re outsiders! I can come up with lists and lists and lists of stupid, inane rules that make ME feel better but only make it more difficult for you to do your job and provide for your family! Is that more moral? Doesn’t sound like it to me. Sounds like busybodies have been running this government and this nation entirely too long. People who can’t stand for others to live their lives the way they want.
“Starting today, that ends,” Barry pointed across the room. “I ain’t your daddy.” He pointed out and away. “And I ain’t their daddy. If they don’t like how you do business, it’s up to a responsible free press to evicerate you publically. It’s up to responsible consumers to do their research on you. To help you succeed or fail based on how well you’re doing business. To cast individual votes-” Barry fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a one-dollar bill, “-these votes. Each of these are a vote for or against you. They pay you, they vote for you and how you do business. They pay your competitor, and they are voting you out.”
He looked around.
“The common argument might be — well, the government is to help you do the right thing. What if a business is bad? Shouldn’t the government make them do the right thing? Really? Are we a church of some kind? Church of God, church of humanity … how are we more moral than you? Government makes its living by killing people, and we’re somehow more moral than you are? I can’t wrap my head around that. I mentioned earlier today to some of my staff that governments around the world are responsible for upwards of 200,000,000 dead in the 1900’s alone. Two hundred million people dead because of government. Not our government, necessarily, but we still killed our fair share. Vietnam, World War II, flouride in the water, government testing on innocent people, starting wars with people who just wanted us out of their business … Because of busybodies who thought it was our responsibility to save other people from their own bad decisions.”
“Bad decisions. That’s really what all this is about. Boil down our economy, our state of wars, our conflicts over healthcare and immigration, and everything boils down to bad decisions. Bad decisions are why we have an illegal immigration problem. It’s why we have inexorbitant healthcare costs. It’s why innocent people around the world are dying. Bad decisions. Tell me, when’s the last time you made a bad decision and someone else paid for it? How many of you sitting in this room made bad business decisions and you had to fire employees to cover the costs of that poor decision? Balancing question: How many people died because of your bad decisions?
“I’ll tell you, presidents past and present will kill more people by trying to do the right thing than you will trying to do the wrong thing.”
“But the American people? They will look over every infraction of a president that does not directly affect them while demonizing your every attempt to simply be successful. And does that make you holier than me? Nope. Me holier than you? Nope. We’re human. We made bad decisions with good decisions. My goal here is to remove the undeniable destructive capability of presidential favoritism on the market, the culture, the people. My decisions will always come at a great cost, often singular costs that destroys entire industries. I say I like one thing, and everyone will go running to support it, or in opposition, will run away. But who am I?
“I’m a politician. I’m the best kind, because I’ll be honest, but I’m still a politician, which means my promise of honesty should come with your greatest suspicion. But I digress. Bad decisions.”
Barry reached the stage in front of the formal sitting tables up behind the podium and he plopped down.
“People are dying because of bad decisions. People choose to live in tornado alley — bad decisions. People support a tyrannical, theocratic government in the middle east — bad decisions. People believe in communism in North Korea and die from starvation — bad decisions of their parents. Which, I suppose that applies to most of my examples. Our economy tanks because consumers don’t save and instead spend everything they have into debt — bad decisions. Our politicians made backdoor deals to regulate industries in favor of conglomerates — bad decisions. We hit a major recession and people’s fear of losing those monoliths inspire presidents to spend other people’s responsibly earned money on companies that should have failed — bad decisions. And then we got stock with a depression that could have healed quickly, but instead festers — bad decisions.
“Does one person’s bad decisions affect other people? Absolutely. Is it government’s role to rescue you from the bad decisions of yourself or your neighbor? I think it’s not. I think our bad decisions are always worse than your bad decisions, therefore I will reduce the number of decisions we’re allowed to make. Reduce our potential for bad decisions and increase the requirement for our citizens to think for themselves and make their own value judgements. It will put greedy, selfish businesses back on their heels. It will also allow businesses making good decisions to thrive, prosper and grow. And I’d love to see every one in this room continue to do just that. But it will no longer be on the unearned capital of taxpayer money. It will no longer be on the unfair laws and regulations that give you an edge in this market. It will no longer tell intelligent human beings they aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions.”
Barry dropped the mic for a few moments, watching the room, then raised it.
“From here on out, we’re just people. If I offer you any advice, and if I could be a leader to you and your kind in any way, it won’t be because I’m president. President? Who cares. Presidents are stupid; figureheads and lackeys for the people really in power. I’m Barry Potter, American citizen, resident of Idaho, lover of one wife and father to three boys and one daughter. I’m Barry Potter, intelligent human being who will hold each and every one of you accountable for how you affect my life. I can ask no more, and will certainly ask no less of any of my fellow citizens. We’re just people. If I can lead you, let me lead you with this simple wisdom: Love your neighbor, do good to those who hurt you, consider others higher than yourself, put their needs before your own.
“But never, ever, think for a second, that you can force other people to do for you what you’re not capable of doing for yourself or at least trading for it to be done in your stead. I will not tie the bad decisions of this entire country together so that while some experience all the benefits of freedom, they can some how distribute the costs of it, too. From here on out, your bad decisions are your own, and the costs of the pain of how those decisions affect other people. Government’s out of it now. Be responsible, be engaged, love your neighbor. That’s all I can ask of you.
“As for me? I will walk that walk. Not as president, but as Barry Potter. Will you?”
With that, he got up and walked back up on stage to take his seat. Silence reined for several long moments before one woman stood slowly and began clapping. One by one, people rose from their seats, joining the applause. It wasn’t the whole room — many glared at him, some could only stare, others stood because they knew better than to storm out — but the room filled with thunderous applause and cheering. Barry just smiled, waved and began eating the roll on his plate.