by Mike Kimel
Assume a world similar to ours, but with a major difference. At some point in the 1920s, an inventor came up with a product called Fleem. Fleem has interesting properties, and when applied liberally in a house, gives even the meanest hovel a more homey feel. A healthy market for Fleem develops in the 1920s. John D. Rockefeller, having attributed the presence of Fleem to ridding his granddaughter of impure thoughts, instructs his son to create an organization (“Standard Fleem”) dedicated to making Fleem more widely available.
Over time, the process of Fleem manufacture improved, and prices came down. A number of companies that jump into the market, and by 1968 the Rockefeller Foundation IPOs Standard Fleem on the NYSE. To demonstrate Standard Fleem’s independence, the Rockefeller Foundation retains precise zero percent of the ownership of the newly public Standard Fleem Inc. The Rockefeller Foundation does, however, continue funding research on Fleem, just as it does on various crops, diseases and techniques for ridding young ladies of impure thoughts.
The market for Fleem is healthy and robust. Eventually a new form of Fleem is invented by a reclusive manufacturer of wooden airplanes in Las Vegas. The new product is christened with the remarkably original name of Super Fleem. A few years later, the Rockefeller Foundation develops a new variant of Fleem additive it calls Fleem Plus. Some homeowners prefer it, some don’t. You can’t argue with taste. The Rockefeller Foundation licenses Fleem Plus to any manufacturer that wants it, subject to one caveat: any product with Fleem Plus in it must be sold at favorable rates to minority groups that historically were kept from buying Fleem products.
By this time, the market has segmented. But for our purposes, there are four products out there: Original Fleem, Original Fleem with the Fleem Plus Additive, Super Fleem, and Super Fleem with the Fleem Plus Additive. Eventually it is discovered that prolonged exposure to Super Fleem kills adults whose favorite color is red. It also kills ferrets.
Unfortunately, without precise records, it is hard to tell whether a building had Super Fleem applied to it. The housing market collapses, taking much of the economy with it. Some years later, someone crunches the numbers and finds that most Super Fleem was sold without the Fleem Plus additive.
1. Discuss the culpability of the Rockefeller Foundation for the economic mess in this alternate world.
2. Discuss the culpability of the Rockefeller Foundation for the economic mess in this alternate world, bearing in mind that in our world Fannie Mae was IPO’d in 1968.