Incredible Bread Machine
Introduction by Mitch Rossow
I found this poem in a book titled The Incredible Bread Machine. Long ago, when I was short, my parents had bought a Bread Machine. I was fascinated that you could put the ingredients in, and out came bread. I started looking for recipe books; one day at a used book shop, I found this book amongst the bread machine books. I skimmed it and discovered that it was not about baking bread, but about the history that we don’t learn in Government-run schools, the history of government meddling in the marketplace. The Incredible Bread Machine was written by a group of twenty-somethings in the early 70’s and it had a profound influence on my attitudes toward economics and the reasoning behind limited government. The title of the book is from the following 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, had 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 imagine 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!)
The following documentary was produced in 1975 based on the book The Incredible Bread Machine.
The Great Bread Machine – From Minnesota
Released in 1975 by World Research, Inc. Includes an introduction by then-Secretary of the Treasury, William E. Simon, and interviews with professors Walter Heller (University of Minnesota) and Milton Friedman (University of Chicago). Moderated by Dr. Richard Rogge (Wabash College). The film also features a cameo appearance by Murray N. Rothbard. Written by Karl Keating, Susan Love Brown, Patrea Post and Stuart Smith, based on Richard Grant’s provocative poem.