Micah the Graduate Student couldn’t believe that he was sitting across from legendary televangelist Pastor “Prosperity” Jones, but it was almost Christmas and that starvation wage he earned grading papers for the Online University of Nearly College Studies just wasn’t paying the bills.
“So what do you know about George Washington?” asked the ruddy-faced, bulldog-jowled cleric.
“Um…I can’t…er…say that I’ve given him much thought,” Micah stammered. During his fifteen years under eminent theoretician Jonas Ruggeleteapot’s tutelage, he had never stooped to consider an old chestnut like the cherry tree-chopping Washington.
“Prosperity” shot Micah a withering look. “You mean to tell me you haven’t given much thought to the Father of our Country? Are you a fruitcake, son? A trade unionist?”
“No, no,” Micah said. “Far from it, sir. It’s just that I’ve spent the last decade identifying aporias and de-reifying gender dichotomies in some of the best books never written.”
“Prosperity” reached across the desk and put a fat, purplish-red hand on Micah’s narrow shoulder. “I don’t understand a word of that, boy, but I’m guessing it means you can read and write. And you’ve got that Ph.D., right?”
“Yessir, a Ph.D. in Post-Literacy with a certificate in Advanced Knowledge,” Micah lied. It wasn’t much of a lie, though: He had been “ABD” for years, and his dissertation was only a few hundred pages away from being written.
“Well, we’re in need of brainpower like yours here at the ‘Prosperity’ Jones Institute for Wealth Studies. Do you think you could write a paper about why George Washington would’ve opposed the income tax?”
If the money were right, Micah figured he could write a paper on any topic. Besides, “Propserity” Jones was probably right about Washington’s position. “I’m sure that George Washington wouldn’t have wanted anybody taxing his slave plantations and powdered-wig shops.”
“Prosperity” nodded his approval. “Merry Christmas, Marco. You’ve got yourself a big boy job now.”
Two years later, Micah published a best-selling book about how Jesus was the earliest believer in Reaganomics. Guided by the invisible hand of a marketplace powered by rational maximizers, he became rich—richer even than Ruggleteapot, the great scholar he had once come so close to actually meeting. His heart was in the work, much as Carnegie’s had been, with a precisely similar purpose.