The Year of the Ox -- a Castrated Bull -- Is the Economic Metaphor for Our Times

You lost your 401(k)? I lost something more!
Unlike so many kids who grew up in the city, I never thought vegetables actually grew in the supermarket -- my mother informed me they germinated beneath the fingernails of children who didn't wash properly.

And yet, it wasn't until we slipped into the Year of the Ox on the Chinese Astrological Calendar earlier this week that I realized an ox wasn't just a yak- or buffalo-like creature. No, an ox is simply a castrated bull (four years or older and taught to work). So now we're settling into the Year of the Castrated Bull -- officially.

Spotting a good metaphor, I wanted to see how far I could carry it along. So I dialed a few large animal farm veterinarians to see just how an economy -- sorry, a bull -- behaves when you separate him from his balls.

Bull: Dr. Scott Pertzborn of the Lodi Veterinary Hospital in Lodi, Wisconsin notes that "A bull is much more aggressive ... and oxen don't have all the secondary male characteristics. The head isn't nearly as large."

Economy: Aggressive? Like bundling together risky subprime mortgages into a commodity? That work? As far as the shrunken heads, if that has something to do with a reduction in executive compensation, we're all for it.

Bull: Pertzborn notes that castration is almost always done early in a bull's life -- "it's a more traumatic procedure as they're older."

Economy: You think?

Bull: Dr. Jim Quigley of Ames, Iowa (yeah, he's the guy who writes Calf Notes) points out that  "Bulls are mean and very difficult to handle and would be impossible to teach to work."

Economy: Does that mean that our castrated bull economy is more open to regulation?
Bull: Pertzborn adds that "An ox doesn't grow as fast, it tends to put on more fat and less muscle. It's more of a complacent animal."

Economy: Yeah, things stink right now. How bad? This bad.

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