Parable of the “Bread Machine”

 

R.W. Grant an aerospace engineer, entrepreneur, author of Tom Smith and His Incredible Bread Machine (1963), an epic satirical poem about the attack on free markets, and of The Incredible Bread Machine (1999) a book which fully explores the ideas in the poem. Here is the poem.

 

TOM SMITH AND HIS INCREDIBLE BREAD MACHINE

By R.W. Grant

 

This is a legend of success and plunder

And a man, Tom Smith,

Who squelched world hunger.

Now Smith, an inventor, has specialized in toys.

So, people were surprised

When they found that he instead

Of making toys, was BAKING BREAD!

 

The way to make bread he'd conceived

Cost less than people could believe.

And not just make it!  This device

Could, in addition, wrap and slice!

The price per loaf, one loaf or many:

The miniscule sum of under a penny.

 

Can you image what this meant?

Can you comprehend the consequent?

The first time yet the world well fed!

And all because of Tom Smith's bread.

 

A citation from the President

For Smith's amazing bread.

This and other honors too

Were heaped upon his head.

 

But isn't it a wondrous thing

How quickly fame is flown?

Smith the hero of today -

Tomorrow, scarcely known.

 

Yes, the fickle years passed by:

Smith was a millionaire,

But Smith himself was now forgot -

Though bread was everywhere.

People, asked from where it came,

Would very seldom know.

They would simply eat and ask,

"Was not it always so?”

 

However, Smith cared not a bit,

For millions ate his bread,

And "Everything is fine," thought he,

"I am rich and they are fed!"

 

Everything was fine, he thought?

He reckoned not with fate.

 

Note the sequence of events

Starting on the date

On which the business tax went up.

Then, to a slight extent,

The price on every loaf rose too:

Up to one full cent!

 

"What's going on? the public cried,

"He's guilty of pure plunder.

He has no right to get so rich

On other people's hunger!"

 

(A prize cartoon depicted Smith

With fat and drooping jowls

Snatching bread from hungry babes

Indifferent to their howls!)

 

Well, since the Public does come first,

It could not be denied

That in matters such as this,

The Public must decide.

So, antitrust now took a hand.

Of course, it was appalled

At what it found was going on.

The "Bread trust," it was called.

 

Now this was getting serious,

So Smith felt that he must

Have a friendly interview

With the men in antitrust.

So, hat in hand, he went to them.

 

They'd surely been misled;

No rule of law had he defied.

But then their lawyer said:

"The rule of law, in complex times,

Has proved itself deficient.

We much prefer the rule of men!

It's vastly more efficient.

Now, let me state the present rules,"

The lawyer then went on,

"These very simple guidelines

You can rely upon"

You're gouging on your prices if

You charge more than the rest.

But it's unfair competition

If you think you can charge less.

 

"A second point that we would make

To help avoid confusion:

Don't try to charge the same amount:

That would be collusion!

You must compete. But not too much

For if you do, you see,

Then the market would be yours

And that's monopoly!"

 

Price too high?  Or price too low?

Now, which charge did they make?

Well, they weren't loath to charging both

With Public Good at stake!

 

In fact, they went one better

They charged "monopoly!"

No muss, no fuss, oh woe is us,

Egad, they charged all three!

 

"Five years in jail," the judge then said

"You're lucky it's not worse.

Robber Barons must be taught

Society Comes First!

 

Now, bread is baked by government.

And as might be expected,

Everything is well controlled:

The public well protected.

 

True, loaves cost a dollar each.

But our leaders do their best.

The selling price is half a cent.

(Taxes pay the rest!)

 


Now this is not the typical parable you hear in church but it is a parable presented as a poem. A parable according to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition is, “A simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson.” And so today’s sermon is not about politics, although it may seem that way, rather it is about morality and it’s distortions in the world we live in. Like any good parable the message is timeless.

 

Tom Smith was pretty much an ordinary man until he invented a way to make bread both cheap and plentiful. At first he was heralded as a hero but with time the memory of his accomplishment was forgotten. People took it for granted that bread was plentiful and cheap. It seemed to them no big deal, “Was not it always so?” they said. After awhile it seemed as natural as air and water that bread should be readily available. It became theirs by right they thought.

 

Consequently when government forced the price up even slightly by taxation the people became indignant. Soon there was such an outcry that the same government that created the problem posed as the champion of the common man. They ignored or rewrote laws with the avowed purpose of correcting this terrible injustice. But in fact they made it worse, in actuality, while making it seem as if they had made it better. Certainly some people may have indeed gotten cheaper bread but many people were paying much more for bread but in ways that were very difficult to trace. (Taxes pay the rest!)

 

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Edmund Burke

 

This poem tells of a great evil: Men being forced to pay a very high price for something that should be quite cheap and yet being fooled into thinking they have received a great favor from great men that rule over them. And yet as Edmund Burke points out it exists because good men do nothing. What is true in this story is repeated over and over again in other ways. You, my brothers and sisters, are good people. What will you do about these evils? Do you have an obligation to do something? Let’s consider just a few Bible verses.

 

*   (Exo 20:15-17 NIV)  "You shall not steal. {16} "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. {17} "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

*   (Mat 7:12 NIV)  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

*   (Luke 6:31 NIV)  Do to others as you would have them do to you.

*   (1 Cor 9:9-10 NIV)  For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? {10} Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.

*   (1 Tim 5:18 NIV)  For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages."

*   (Lev 19:15 NIV)  "'Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

 

Now here is the point I want to make.

*   (Prov 3:27 NIV)  Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.

 

What can we do when we see injustice in high places?

*   We can speak with moral clarity to our family and friends based on Bible principles.

*   We can write letters to the editor, to our congressmen, to our president, to whatever the offending entity is.

*   We can call talk radio.

*   We can publish our thoughts on the internet.

 

And perhaps most importantly we can vote. Voting for faith and values is a “good” we should not withhold! Of course your vote will seldom make a difference: On its own. And why should it? How vain are we when we think we should always have the deciding vote. And how futile is it when good men do nothing? There certainly is strength in numbers. Let’s do our part to make those numbers work on the side of Godly men and women for a Godly people for God!

 

Ok, I will close with two quotes I have already used. They will make my point for me. Let them make the point for you.

 

 

*   All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Edmund Burke

*   (Prov 3:27 NIV)  Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.

*    (Prov 3:27 RSV)  Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.