In My Country, Joke Tells You!


Because gulags are high-larious, Britain's Prospect investigates the special brand of humor generated by communist regimes as one of the few available means of protest. Though lest we imagine it's a unique brand of humor, consider this one, cited by the author:

Three prisoners in the gulag get to talking about why they are there. "I am here because I always got to work five minutes late, and they charged me with sabotage," says the first. "I am here because I kept getting to work five minutes early, and they charged me with spying," says the second. "I am here because I got to work on time every day," says the third, "and they charged me with owning a western watch."

That sounded awfully familiar, and in this paper on antitrust, I found Ilana Mercer making the connection to another domestic joke:

Three prisoners were sitting in a U.S. jail, found guilty of "economic crimes" and were also comparing stories. The first one said, "I charged higher prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty of profiteering, monopolizing and exploiting consumers." The second one said, "I charged lower prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty of predatory pricing, cutthroat competing and under-charging." The third prisoner said, "I charged the same prices as my competitors, and I was found guilty of collusion, price leadership and cartelization."

UPDATE: David Boaz reminds us in the comments that the original version (or at least one early famous version) of the joke comes, in poetic form, from The Incredible Bread Machine, which a few years back was reissued in expanded and illustrated form:

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!