Pecunia non olet (money doesn’t stink)

Dr Patrick Carvalho
Insights newsletter
8 February, 2019

Some would say politics stinks. Others…would say that too.

In Ancient Rome, for instance, Emperor Vespasian decided to impose a tax on urine collected in public toilets. The stinky commodity was widely commercialised, with the Romans using it to create a wide range of products - from mouthwash to laundry detergent.

Disgusting, eh?

That’s precisely what the Emperor’s son told his father about the urine tax. In reply, the Emperor gave his son a gold coin and told him to smell it.

“Are you offended by the smell of this coin?” asked the Emperor.

“No. Why would I be?” replied the son.

“Well, that comes from urine!”

Fast forward to the 21st century, where the latest US government shutdown showed the world an equally stinky example of odoriferous politics.

Indeed, after five weeks of impasse, things started to smell something bad for American politicians.

Literally. The stench of uncollected garbage in front of the White House and Capitol Hill was simply too strong to ignore – even for seasoned politicians.

Who knows, maybe the malodorous state of the nation’s capital was the real reason for politicians succumbing to a temporary ceasefire.

As an insider confided in me, “Whether we were getting the wall or not, both sides of politics agreed that someone had to clean the mess.”

And by mess, the anonymous source meant someone had to wipe away the toilet stains in the Oval Office. 

Dirty politics, as they say.

Getting someone to clean the sleaze and slime, the gunk and gook in Washington, D.C. is precisely what caused the current political stalemate.

Most Americans are unwilling to cleanse the dirt that sustains the American way of life. (And Americans produce a lot of rubbish, mind you.)

Young millennials find cleaning gross. Well-off professionals prefer paying for it. Baby boomers want it done for them.  

But migrants, particularly the undocumented ones, do it for a living. They are the ones cleaning America’s dirt – and could very well be the ones building the wall to keep the aliens out.

That is the festering irony behind the big-and-beautiful wall.

Money may not stink but politics certainly does.

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