All metaphors and parables are deceitful, to some extent – “here is a little story which is a bit like what we are actually talking about. Isn’t it delightful? Don’t you agree? Quick, now please apply that agreement back to the matter at hand before you notice” – but some are much more deceitful than others, and this rigmarole about babies and bathwater is very bad indeed. We’ve heard a lot of it lately from measured voices who are warning us against letting the global financial crisis goad us into something insane like attempting to reform capitalism.
Whenever it is used, there is some dispute about whether or not a certain thing may be gotten rid of, and it is certainly loading the scales unfairly to represent that thing as a baby. Even those who don’t like babies will hesitate before casually throwing one away.
What kind of monster would do that? A harmless baby!
Throw out the bathwater, by all means, it’s filthy with all sorts of unnameable debris. But look at the baby. Isn’t he beautiful? How could you even think of throwing out a charming little baby?
The baby has big blue eyes, golden curls and cannot work for anything less than $US500,000 per annum. It has simply no idea of how the bathwater got into the state it’s in. It destroyed three investment funds and a merchant bank yesterday because it’s a wicked naughty ickle thing isn’t it! Goo-goo, gah-gah, baby! Smile, baby!