CEI Annual Dinner 2019: Dave Barry


We here at the Competitive Enterprise Institute were excited when the funny and insightful writer Dave Barry agreed to deliver the keynote address at our 35th Anniversary Dinner and Reception. I am happy to report that his delivery exceeded even our expectations. You can watch excerpts from his remarks below, or read the attached transcript. Also, please accept the advice of CEI President Kent Lassman and save the date for next year’s dinner on June 17, 2020.


I’m here to talk about the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and I’m very excited to be here because this is an organization that is all about economic liberty and freedom and common-sense solutions to the world’s problems, to the political and economic problems facing us.

Which is why it’s so inspiring that the theme for this evening is a TV drama where the political system is based on dragons. That’s the kind of practical and innovative thinking we need.

No, we need something. We need something in this country. We’re living in turbulent political times. This is a crazy time politically.

By show of hands, how many people here tonight are not seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States? So, nobody.

No, it’s nuts. They’re swarming all over Iowa. They’re threatening the food supply. Farmers can’t outside; there’s Cory Booker there to explain his plan for upgrading infrastructure.

That’s the Democrat side. Meanwhile, President Trump just launched his reelection campaign [with] a big rally in Orlando, Florida. 14 million people went to that. Terrific, it was terrific.

So, there’s a lot of activities on both sides of the political spectrum. Everybody’s really looking forward to the 2020 election except for one group of people which is the American public. I don’t live here Washington. I don’t sense a great deal of excitement with what the choices are.

Here’s how I think most Americans view the two major political parties. Let’s say your car breaks down by the side of the road. The Republicans would drive past you. They go, “Hey, you should have learned how to fix that car yourself, learn to maintain it. You’d be better off if you deal with that problem yourself. You’ll be fine. Just suck it up and do it.” The Democrats will stop, but they will make it worse. So those are the choices that America sees: ointment or suppository.

And, I say we need a new way. We need a third way. We need a better way. And, that’s why in a moment, I’ll pause for your spontaneous applause. But as Katherine said, I am running for President of the United States. Thank you, thank you.

And I’ll tell you my views. And, I don’t want to offend anybody, but I am not a wishy-washy, hold-a-finger-to-the-wind, take-a-poll kind of candidate. I’ll tell you what I think, I’ll speak from the heart, I’ll lay it on the line. Take it or leave it, okay? I agree with you. About everything. If you change your mind, let me know. That’s the kind of leadership… no, I do have some actual views, some policies.

Katherine mentioned the first one, the one that got me into it in the first place. I favor the death penalty if we can find this person, whoever’s responsible for making us use low-flow toilets in this country. Young people don’t realize this. We used to have great toilets in this country. We had mighty toilets. We had toilets that could suck down a mature sheep. We didn’t do it except at parties, but we had the power. Now we have these toilets that “save water” by making you flush them eight times to get a ping pong ball to go down.

Well, you’re probably wondering: is he going to say anything useful tonight? And, I am. I’m going to conclude and actually it’s a story of hope. We talk about how, you know, people who argue against libertarianism always say, “well, it’s good as far as it goes, but there are certain things – big things – that only government can do. Only government is equipped to handle these certain big tasks that society needs done.”

So, this is my story about that, and this is a true story. In fact, one of the wonderful things about this story is that the day it happened, there was a television news crew there to film it. And, the film of this TV news broadcast ended up being legendary on the Internet. But, it’s my favorite single example of government taking care of a big problem that we shouldn’t leave to private enterprise. If you don’t believe me when I tell you this story, please go to YouTube and look it up because if anything, I will be underrepresenting.

Anyway, so what happened was – the big problem that private enterprise couldn’t solve – was that a dead whale washed up on the beach in Oregon. Some of you may be familiar with this story. It’s the best story. The human race should have ended the day this story happened. We’ll never have anything as good as this happen again.

So, there was a big storm off the coast of Oregon, and this very large whale – 43-feet-long, eight ton – whale washes ashore, dead on the beach, and lies there in the sun. Starts to rot and stink. So, obviously this is a problem too big for private enterprise, so they brought in a government agency to handle it. Specifically, they brought in the Oregon State Highway Department, which is called the Oregon State Highway Division.

I’m not sure what the thinking was there. I guess a whale is a big thing, and a highway is also a big thing so these people would have the expertise needed. So the TV news broadcast, which is truly wonderful, begins with a man named Paul Linnman, who was then a young television reporter in Portland, standing in front of this huge whale carcass with seagulls walking around on it. And he says, “you might say they had a whale of a problem here.” It’s TV news.

He then introduced the head of the Oregon State Highway Division crew, a serious man in a hardhat to explain what they’re going to do. And, this guy does not come right out and say that they’ve never disposed of a dead whale before, but you begin to suspect that might be the case when he reveals that the solution they’ve arrived at is to use dynamite. And he states that they were not sure how much dynamite might be needed, so they with half a ton. Half a ton of dynamite.

And sure enough behind him, they’re digging a hole under the whale and putting these big cases of dynamite under this whale. It’s a highway crew. I don’t know if they followed the full highway crew procedure and put the orange cones behind the whale, you know, and a guy with a flag in case another whale comes along.

Anyway, the guy explains the plan, and here’s the plan. They’re gonna blow up the whale with the dynamite. The whale will then be in little pieces. These pieces will then be eaten by… the seagulls and other marine scavengers. And there you will have it: a textbook whale disposal.

So, the next scene, we have backed the camera up behind a sand dune about a quarter of a mile from the whale, looking over the dune at the whale. They’ve also backed up the spectators, and quite a few people came out to see this event because let’s be honest with ourselves, if you knew that they were blowing up a dead whale anywhere in the District of Columbia tonight, you would not be here.

So, anyway, so you’re looking over the dune, and it’s a peaceful scene. There’s the whale, Pacific Ocean, seagulls walking around. And you hear a countdown: ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Then you hear an explosion, huge explosion. A huge cloud of smoke envelops the whale. You cannot see the whale at all at this point. Then, you hear some people cheering, going “Yeah!” Then, you hear a voice go, “Oh my God.”

And then a smear appears on the camera lens. And then it goes dark. Because what’s happening now is gravity. Gravity, which apparently no one had informed the Oregon State Highway Division about. Gravity is causing this substance – and I have talked to people who were there that day and say that it was the most disgusting thing you ever saw. It was the rotted insides of the dead whale coming down, coming down all over the place. All over the beach, all over the spectators and well-beyond.

And some of these are very big pieces of dead, rotting whale, and we know this because the next scene we see is the parking lot where the cameraman has run with everyone else fleeing this goo from Hell. And, he gets his camera cleaned off enough to get it going again. The first thing you see is a car whose entire roof has been caved in by what looks like a booger the size of a refrigerator. Wouldn’t you like to listen in on the phone with that insurance agent?

“You say your car was struck in a parking lot by a whale? Oh a whale from the sky.”

And then the camera goes back out onto the beach. And there on the beach where the whale had been, is the whale. It’s a different shape now, but there’s a very large quantity of dead whale right there on the beach. What there is no longer any of on the beach is seagulls. Maybe some seagull molecules, but any intact seagulls are on their way to Alaska at this point.

So, let that be a reminder to you, CEI people, there’s a limit to how much you can do with private enterprise. Turn the big jobs over to the government. Thank you very much. If I am elected, you can all be on the Supreme Court. Thank you, thank you.