Unexpectedly Intriguing!
13 April 2005

Let no one say that economists don't have a sense of humor, although it's true that you may be hard pressed to identify the cheerful human characteristic among that most dismal of groups. Here are excerpts from an e-mail I recently received that define economic theory and practices around the world according the the "classic cow model," which also abuses some stereotypes (and yes, I realize that it has probably circulated around the WWW several hundred thousand million times):


  • You have two cows.
  • The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
  • You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.


  • You have two cows.
  • The government seizes both and provides you with milk.
  • You wait in line for hours to get it.
  • It is expensive and sour.

Capitalism: American Style

  • You have two cows.
  • You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

Bureaucracy: American Style

  • You have two cows.
  • Under the new farm program the government pays you to shoot one, milk the other, and then pours the milk down the drain.

American Corporation

  • You have two cows.
  • You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one.
  • You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to the analysts stating you have downsized and are reducing expenses.
  • Your stock goes up.

French Corporation

  • You have two cows.
  • You go on strike because you want three cows.
  • You go to lunch and drink wine.
  • Life is good.

Japanese Corporation

  • You have two cows.
  • You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
  • They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains.
  • Most are at the top of their class at cow school.

German Corporation

  • You have two cows.
  • You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour.
  • Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.

Italian Corporation

  • You have two cows but you don't know where they are.
  • While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman.
  • You break for lunch.
  • Life is good.

Russian Corporation

  • You have two cows.
  • You have some vodka.
  • You count them and learn you have five cows.
  • You have some more vodka.
  • You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
  • The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.

Belgian Corporation

  • You have one cow.
  • The cow is schizophrenic.
  • Sometimes the cow thinks he's French, other times he's Flemish.
  • The Flemish cow won't share with the French cow.
  • The French cow wants control of the Flemish cow's milk.
  • The cow asks permission to be cut in half.
  • The cow dies happy.

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