A Celestial Conversation
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Said Zeus to Minerva: "Minnie, I wish you would go and see what's the matter with those mortals. They complain that they are short of all the things they need."
So Minerva opened the windows of heaven and looked out.
She reported to Zeus that men were crowded together in the towns, and wanted to know if they couldn't have a new continent to discover.
So Zeus said: "Well, mortals don't get any of the things they need off that unused land; just scoop it all out and make a new continent of it, and set it down in the middle of the sea."
"All right,—said Minerva; "but the new continent will produce more things, and the merchants and farmers—from whom we get the most of our offerings —say they can't sell what is produced now."
"Do what I tell you," said Zeus; "they can't sell anything to the vacant lots, anyhow."
"Well," said Minerva, rather sulkily, "I suppose that will do; but why not let the oracle tell them to fine everybody that keeps one of those patches of earth vacant; the land would be where they could get at it and would be used?"
"You're not so stupid as you look," Minerva." said Zeus; "but I'm afraid they wouldn't do it."
Said Minerva: "Oh. yes, they would. They're always fining each other for all sorts of things—for going into business and for not doing anything, and for making drink and for drinking it, and building houses and buying goods and selling them."
"You make me giddy. Minerva, with your imagination. You shouldn't invent such things."
"They do; it's truth I'm telling you," said Minerva; "they call them 'duties.' and 'taxes,' and 'imposts.' and 'licenses,' and 'tariffs,' and I don't know what besides, and think they do them all a lot of good."
"Well," said Zeus, "if they are so foolish as that, how are they to know how much to charge for each lot that people keep vacant'.'"
Minerva turned away to hide a smile. She said: "I am the goddess of wisdom, and I will tell them to charge each for every piece just what it's worth."
Zeus said: "Minn, you're always springing some new-fangled far-off scheme on me. and I've no time to discuss panaceas for the woes of men. What 1 want to do is to really help those people out of their troubles, so you just start them a Sunday school to teach them common sense."—Bolton Hall, in The Coming Nation.
Source: Bolton Hall, “A Celestial Conversation,” The Public 1, no. 33 (November 19, 1898): 11-12.