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The Restaurant Allegory


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I've seen this allegory (see below) mentioned on several websites when discussing taxes, and I just don't get it. So, I was hoping someone out there might be able to explain it to me. I am NOT looking for opinions on whether you agree with it or not. I'm looking at this more from the viewpoint of a study in rhetoric, i.e. What is the author's main argument?




Every night, ten men met at a restaurant for dinner. At the end of the meal, the bill would arrive. They owed $100 for food that they shared. Every night, they lined up in the same order at the cash register. The first four men paid nothing at all. The fifth, grumbling about the unfairness of the situation, paid $1. The sixth man, feeling very generous, paid $3. The next three men paid $7, $12, and $18, respectively. The last man was required to pay the remaining balance, $59. He realized that he was forced to pay for not only his own meal, but also the unpaid balance left by the first five men.


The ten men were quite settled into their routine when the restaurant threw them into chaos by announcing that it was cutting its prices. Now, dinner for the ten men would only cost $80. This clearly would not affect the first four men. They still ate for free. The fifth and sixth men both claimed their piece of the $20 right away: the fifth decided to forgot his $1 and the sixth only paid $2. The seventh man deducted $2 from his usual payment. The eighth paid $9 and the ninth man paid $12. The last man was left with a bill of $52.


Outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings, and angry outbursts began to erupt. The sixth man yelled, “I only got $1 out of the $20 and he got $7!†pointing at the last man. The fifth man joined in. “Yeah! I only got $1, too! It is unfair that he got seven times more than me.†The seventh man cried, “Why should he get $7 back when I only got $2?†The first four men followed the lead of the others: “We didn’t get any of the $20. Where is our share?â€


The nine angry men formed an outraged mob, surrounding the 10th man. They carried the tenth to the top of the hill and lynched him. The next night, the nine remaining men met at the restaurant for dinner. But when the bill came, there was no one to pay it.

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