“Imagine a parent with one flute and three children, each of whom wants the flute. The first child says ‘I made it’; the second says ‘I’m the only one who can play it’; the third says ‘I have no other toys.’ Who should get the flute?” – Amartya Sen
Ah, the typical neo-communist tales that my friends link to! All the more telling since Sen passes for a freedom-friendly philosopher amongst the general public. To top it all, the tale is meant as a metaphor of society, with government being the parent of the citizens, and the unwitting listener being tricked into emotionally identify with said parent, whereas in actuality he will be compelled to play the role of the kid. Of course, when you accept the State as parent, don't be surprised to see citizens treated as kids rather than adults, and deprived of all rights. Just as with the "free fox in the free henhouse" fable, the story is way more enlightening about the evil point of view of the storyteller than about the reality it purports to describe.
In the private discussion, one commenter to the link even suggests:
The parent asks all three the same question: "Do you mind if the other children and me share this flute with you?" If one says yes then the flute is handed to that one. If none say yes the parent says: "This is mine since none of you wants to share it with the others. I'll share it with you though."She doesn't understand how evil is her proposal. Even when faced with my remark that "that's how, in a communist countries, the leaders keep everything for themselves, accusing the people to not be communist enough", she can see how said leaders are evil, but still wants to find excuses to the parent that would have genuine "good intentions", rather than be "lying". But "intentions" are just pretenses we broadcast to the world. Consequences are what matter. And her parent is just as evil as any communist leader. You judge a tree by the fruits it bears, and here are the fruits (my response to the tale):
The single parent is obviously overwhelmed by her kids and morally crippled.
After she abuses the first kid by confiscating the fruits of her labor, then “redistributing” it away, the kid stops making anything new that is worthwhile until she can leave the home; she can then start a productive life, but remains scarred by the abuse, with a deep emotional insecurity whenever she is creative.
The second kid eventually learns to sell her talents at performing, with the proceeds of which she buys a new, better flute (how did she learn to play, anyway?); but from her childhood she has acquired a twisted sense of morality in which the above abuse was somehow justified, and she spreads more of that evil around her.
The third kid, who already behaves as a beggar towards his own family, has no self-respect, and becomes a low life drug addict and petty thief. All money spent on him is utterly wasted. He eventually joins a sect that gives him the ersatz of a moral compass he failed to acquire from his dysfunctional family.
Ideas have consequences. Raising your children while depriving them from a sense of their self and their property is incredibly destructive. If instead the parent has solid moral foundations, here's what will happen:
The parent rejects with disgust the evil notion that she may dispossess one child for the sake of another one. She encourages the first child to create more things, the second child to develop her talents, the third child to learn how to create, perform or otherwise be productive. The first child grows up to be an inventive creator, the second a great performer, and the third learns self-reliance and eventually discovers his own talent.
Incidentally, the first child, having more flutes than she has use for, is happy and unafraid to share them with her siblings, out of her own free will, because she's not crippled by a sense of insecurity in her property. The flute is worth more to the fluteless player than to the flute-possessing non-player; therefore, soon, the children learn how they can mutually benefit from sharing and exchanging with each other, under formal or informal terms.
Why introduce violence, confiscation, and mutual enmity in what should be a peaceful family? That's how socialists are evil, seeking to destroy everything, from families to societies, in the name of their fanatic egalitarian utopia.
PS: Interestingly, Sen's answer to his fable-question is scarily typical of the totalitarian propagandist intelligentsia. Can you guess what it is? Just you remember that his is a metaphor of the rulers as parents and the ruled as children, and then recall what is the ultimate claim of the totalitarians...