My daughter Julie called this morning and asked if we could bring 3 dozen hamburger buns to our family 4th of July celebration. Right then I wondered if we could find that many buns at the last minute. With millions of people purchasing hamburger buns today, I worried there might be a shortage.

After lunch Marieta and I went to Costco expecting and finding a very crowded store. I started to panic when I saw no buns in the bakery department, but Marieta suggested we would find some bakery items in another part of the store. She was right (of course). Near the freezer cases there were racks and racks of bread and buns. The hamburger buns were fresh, inexpensive, and plentiful. Because Costco sold the buns in bags of 2 dozen each, we bought four dozen. I was impressed. This whole capitalism thing is amazing.

I thought about how different it would be with a “planned” economy. A government commission would start meeting months in advance of the holiday. Studies would be commissioned and data collected. Resources would be allocated to produce exactly 1 hamburger bun for all persons over the age of 3 (who needs 2; we’re all too fat). Literally hundreds of laws would be passed to insure that all buns were produced by union workers, that all ingredients were properly approved and inspected, that buns contain only organic, whole grain flour, that each bun had exactly 17 sesame seeds (some people don’t like sesame seeds, so the seeds would be kept to a minimum), that each bun would conform to a certain texture, freshness, and size (forget the idea of an extra large, high calorie bun), and that all packaging would be biodegradable and recyclable. Millions of dollars in advertising would be spent to encourage us to line up early for our buns and to remind us how lucky we are to have the government protecting our right to have only non-trans fat oils in our buns. Prices would be fixed, profits would be limited, and special bun taxes would be added to provide buns for those people who could not afford them.

Many congressional leaders would be taken by surprise when they learned of the hamburger bun disaster. Shortages in organic flour and union bakeries would significantly slow the production process. Allocation problems would leave some areas of the country, notably Washington, D.C. and Chicago, with way too many buns, and other parts of the country with way too few. Protesters in support of birds and insects would stop a last-minute attempt to use non-organic flour. The average police person, used to spending most of the Independence Day weekend with his or her family, would have to work overtime to keep the bun lines orderly. Many people would spend hours in line only to learn that there were only enough buns for children and seniors.

The government commission would eventually apologize for the shortages, but it would not accept responsibility for forgetting to provide buns for hot dogs or for the arrests of those mothers and fathers who attempted to make homemade buns. Eventually the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision would reaffirm our right to eat high-fat hot dogs and to bake our own buns, but that would not happen for almost a decade. The President would interrupt all fireworks displays to tell us that President Bush was responsible for all the bun problems (he had not thought to create a government bun commission sooner) and to announce a new bun stimulus program which would guarantee Independence Day buns to every American for years to come. He would also notify us of an executive order which would rename the 4th of July holiday to Government Appreciation Day.

Fox News would probably be the only network critical of the name change. The Tea Party movement would likely rename itself to the Kiss My Buns Party. Al Gore, completely misunderstanding the meaning, would likely try to join the party. A few friends of President Obama would lobby for a law requiring green food coloring in every Government Appreciation Day bun. The only company approved by Congress to make the GAD bun food coloring would be located in Chicago.

Happy Independence Day. Pete