“There is America, which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners, yet shall . . . show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world.”
Edmund Burke, Speech on Conciliation with America (1775)
I recently crossed Louisiana on Interstate 10, and by close reading of the passing billboards formed a clear idea of the state’s economy. The foundation of Louisiana’s economy appears to be the fees and settlements connected with lawsuits against homicidal trucking companies. Although I did not notice too many Louisianans squashed on the roadway, “big rigs” were out in plenty, and their drivers did not look like men who were inclined to swerve. Thus, from half of the billboards along the highway, there glared the square-jawed faces of legal bulldogs who promised to mulct these truculent teamsters to the enrichment of squashed Louisianans.
Once a Louisianan has been squashed by one of these truckers, and has been awarded a handsome settlement with the aid of one of these square-jawed bulldogs, he or she obviously heads to a casino and engrosses that nest-egg with a spin of the wheel or a toss of the dice. I know this because, on the billboards that did not depict the snarling visage of a legal bulldog, there were photos of ecstatic Louisianans clutching wads cash and raising their eyes to heaven. In raising their eyes to heaven, I should add that these ecstatic Louisianans must have been tearing their eyes away from sumptuous buffets, for few billboards left the delights of their tables to the imagination.
When his legal settlement has been sufficiently engrossed by sure-thing gambling, a well-fed Louisianan has the means to invest in the third leg of the Louisiana economy, and thus sets himself up in a drive-through daiquiri stand. And here, I believe, is the secret ingredient in Louisiana’s economic formula: these daiquiri stands have elevated windows to pull in the trade of the truckers whose squashing of Louisianans got the whole economy started in the first place.
This is what right-thinking economists call a virtuous cycle or a positive feedback loop, where growth in one sector of the economy necessarily drives growth in the other sectors. And in this as in so much else, Louisiana is harbinger to the nation, for what is our postmodern economy but a benevolent web of litigation, speculation and inebriation.