You have two cows

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"You have two cows" is the beginning phrase for a series of political joke definitions.



"You have two cows" jokes originated as a parody of the typical examples used in introductory-level economics course material. They featured a farmer in a moneyless society who uses the cattle he owns to trade with his neighbors. A typical example is: "You have two cows; you want chickens; you set out to find another farmer who has chickens and wants a cow". These examples were meant to show the limitations of the barter system, leading to the eventual introduction of currency and money.[citation needed]

The "two cows" parodies, however, place the cow-owner in a full-fledged economic system where cows are used as a metaphor for all currency, capital, and property. The intent of these jokes is usually to point out flaws and absurdities in those systems, although non-political jokes have been derived from them.[1][2][3][4][5]

Jokes of this type attracted the attention of a scholar in the USA as early as 1944. An article in The Modern Language Journal discusses the classical ones, such as:[6]

  • Socialism: You have two cows. You give one to your neighbor.
  • Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then gives you some milk.
  • Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
  • Naziism: You have two cows. The Government shoots you and takes the cows.

Bill Sherk mentions that such lists circulated throughout Canada[citation needed] since around 1936 under the title "Parable of the Isms".[7] A column in The Chicago Daily Tribune in 1938 attributes a version involving socialism, communism, fascism and New Dealism to an address by Silas Strawn to the Economic Club of Chicago on November 29, 1935.[8]

Notable usages

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