Walter Oi on Government Budgeting
By David Henderson
In response to my recent pieces on Walter Oi (see here, for example), Walter’s widow, Marjorie, sent me an unpublished 26-page, single-spaced reminiscence that Walter wrote circa 1995 about his time as a child in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment camps. It’s fascinating. I will probably have more to post in and might even try to get an article out of it.
Meanwhile, here’s a story Walter tells of some perverse unintended consequences of incentives.
When my father was released from prison and allowed to join us at the relocation center, he obtained a position as a janitor in the mess hall. His duties included not only sweeping and mopping the floors, but also disposing of the garbage from the mess hall to the garbage cans or the coal burning stoves. Each mess hall received an allocation of bread, but Japanese consume less bread per capita than Caucasians. Consequently, the bread would pile up. If this bread had been directed to the pig farms, the pigs would have gained more weight which would have redounded to us in the form of a superior quality of pork. However, the cook and block manager assumed that if bread was found in the garbage cans, they guessed that all of their rations including bread would be cut. The problem could be solved by simply concealing the surplus bread. How might that be done? Simple, just burn up the excess of sliced white bread. So each morning, Papa would throw loaves of bread, not upon the waters but into the burning coals.