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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko: 11, November 1999

The Gecko: 11, November 1999

Perhaps it would be worthwhile at this juncture-as the Kingdom marches bravely

and progressively forward with the sustainable development of a free market-based

economic system-to review some of the basics of how capitalism really works.

As any student even remotely familiar with the famous Scottish economist Adam "Pinch-a-Penny"

Smith (1723-90) knows well from a cursory glance at the Wealth of Nations, the First

Law of Capitalism is:

"There ain't no gawl dang free lunch so if the 'Invisible Hand' hasn't passed

by your neighborhood lately then you ain't seen nuttin' yet."

The Second Law of Capitalism, as amply demonstrated during this week's Independence

Day celebrations, is:

"And there ain't no free fireworks neither so expect the 'Visible Hand' to be

in yo face to collect."

Such was the experience of many of the cafe owners along the waterfront who received

polite visits from the Office of Fire Fighters soliciting donations of two cases

of beer per establishment. After all, what fun are fireworks without a few cold ones,

especially for the guys who deal with the issue daily!

The Third Law of Capitalism, evolving logically from the first two, says:

"Given that lunches ain't free, and recognizing that you ain't got no bread

to buy one, down a few bruskies and then just go out and steal it."

The expat donors who are supporting a program at Wat Unalom, which includes the provision

of a nifty generator, appreciated the defecits of this law when it became apparent

that some clever soul had run a line from the temple's generator to the new lamp

posts installed along the riverfront esplanade.

The donor's pockets were tickled pink to discover that their creatively financed

power bill was about one mile long.

The Fourth Law of Capitalism is quite important as it deals with what happens when

you get snagged on any of the first three Laws:

"Remain humble, don't get angry, give as an initial response 'Heh, heh, heh.

I don't know', and make sure you have a look of complete innocence on your face when

delivering the mandated response."

This Law was proclaimed because ignorance of the Law is totally excusable or, at

the very least, negotiable. Be prepared to bargain!!

The Fifth Law of Capitalism is as old as time itself and was best phrased by Thucydides

(c460-400 BC) in his The History of the Peloponnesian War:

"The strong do what they will and the weak do what they must."

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