Most people know Dr. Seuss’s children’s story about the Grinch who conspired to steal Christmas. While the fairy tale Grinch had a last minute change of heart, the real life Grinch can be very different, especially when employed in the service of the state. In communist countries, Commissar Grinch administered central control and state planning over the state-run supermarkets where the shelves were usually bare, and food rotted on some other shelves. Citizens were required to respectfully bow to Commissar Grinch, whose economic planning left them with little to serve on their Christmas dinner tables.
In other nations, Commissar Grinch was in charge of planning and controlling the intercity transportation of the nation’s citizens. As Christmas approached, many of them were anxious to visit relatives and family who lived at distant locations, but they were going to learn a lesson straight from Bethlehem, where a certain family sought accommodation at a local hotel. The hotel’s managing Grinch told them that there was no vacancy at his establishment and sent them on their way. In their desperation, they had to accept accommodation in a stable that housed farm animals.
With Commissar Grinch in charge of the nation’s transportation of passengers, higher government officials expected that the system would operate perfectly. People were invited to use the latest telecommunications to book their trips and pay using modern money transfer technology. Their tickets were to be sent to them using modern telecommunications technology. But three weeks before the peak Christmas travel period, there were no more economy seats on the state’s trains that carried passengers along the nation’s busiest routes. Even the privately owned daytime buses that operate with the permission of Commissar Grinch were full, like the Bethlehem hotel.
It was not always thus. There was a time, long ago, when private bus companies could actually provide transportation to customers during the busy Christmas rush period. They not only carried passengers on their own buses, they invited many other private bus owners to assist in carrying the throngs of passengers, including aboard the humblest of buses, like a certain important personality who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. When the premium buses were full, the humble donkey buses carried passengers to their destinations for Christmas.
There was a time when like the hotel at Bethlehem, there was no vacancy aboard the premium accommodation on the state’s long-distance trains as people began their Christmas journeys. But accommodation was available at the stable, where willing passengers travelled standing in the baggage carriages. What of the humble trains that carried people to and from work in the big cities, parked on the sidings during off-peak periods and on weekends? Commissar Grinch decreed that these humble trains will remain parked.
There might actually be a sufficient amount of time during the off-peak period for a pair of humble trains to travel from the biggest cities in the land to meet each other at a half-way point, where passengers will transfer between humble trains that will then return to their home cities for evening peak hour duties. The modern telecommunications systems could actually allow passengers to book passage aboard such trains, possibly at very affordable rates. But Commissar Grinch would never want to hear of humble trains carrying Christmas passengers between large and distant cities.
When there are no more vacancies aboard the premium daytime long-distance buses that carry passengers between the largest cities, many humble buses that only carry passengers during morning and afternoon peak periods remain parked and out of service. During the Christmas season, people may seek affordable transportation services between towns and villages that are usually without such services. But Commissar Grinch forbids the operation of occasional transportation services that could only be feasible during a few peak travel periods throughout the year. In so doing, the Grinch actually steals Christmas from many people.
Under the administration of Commissar Grinch, the government-controlled intercity transportation system operates like a supermarket in a centrally planned communist country. Like the empty store shelves, some buses travel empty through most of the year, never earning enough revenue to cover their operating costs, just to maintain their operations along more lucrative regulated routes. It is the decree of Commissar Grinch that the people, who travel between big cities at affordable costs, will subsidize the cost of intercity bus travel for citizens who live in small towns and villages located between the same pairs of big cities.
It was many years ago that the King’s first minister decreed the mission of Commissar Grinch to protect intercity passenger train and bus transportation services for the benefit and convenience of the citizens who depend on them. Over a history spanning 70 years, the operation of intercity trains and buses has been subject to the control of Commissar Grinch, and over that time, many intercity passenger train and bus services have closed, abandoning many towns and villages. During that period, the deputy to the King’s first minister has always ensured the security of the office of Commissar Grinch.
* Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.