Boiling Frogs

As I haven't been sent any questions lately I decided to set myself one:

Michael, you gorgeous brute,
Reading political essays I frequently encounter the trope, 'If you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water it will leap out. However if you put a frog in a pan of cold water and gradually increase the heat until it is boiling, it will stay there until it is scalded to death. By just such a gradual process are we losing our civil liberties/enduring increasing taxation/or whatever.' Everyone seems to blithely accept this, but belatedly it occurs to me to wonder who first came up with this metaphor - more to the point, which maniac first observed this behaviour on the part of frogs?

It was Leopold Stomm (1924-2003), the great political and economic theorist, amateur naturalist, and sadist.

Here are some of his other apercus and extracts from his political writings:

'If you blindfold a mouse and place a piece of cheese on the other side of a deep pit with metal skewers at the bottom, it will eagerly scurry off the edge and impale itself. In just such a way are we walking blindly into recession.'

'If you try to seal a cat in a revolving heated metal drum it will screech and claw and endeavour to escape. However if you lure it into a tumble-dryer with a well-placed kipper and then slam the door on it there is nothing it can do about it. It strikes me that post-Tito Yugoslavia will be subject to just the same centrifugal forces as a cat in a tumble-dryer.'

'If you file off the dorsal feathers of a parrot it will seem to fly normally at first but gradually lose balance and direction, veering erratically this way and that before finally crashing into the wall with an annoyed squawk. The Japanese economy is currently in the first stage of this process.'

'If you push a possum down a long flight of stairs it will arrest its descent long before it reaches the bottom. But if you first glue its feet to a skateboard with a detonator cap wired to the prow the results are much more satisfying. Thus it is that the Christian Democrats have remained the dominant force in German politics for so long.'

'Tie a dog to a railing outside a shop and it will pant and whine a little but on the whole wait patiently. Tie a dog to a railway track and it will do completely the same no matter how much you snigger and cackle. I was reminded of this recently while musing on the British electorate's seemingly boundless complacency towards its political class.'

'It is possible, by the use of drugs and electro-shocks, to train a monkey to chainsaw its own feet off. But it will not thank you for it. Mr. Chirac should bear this in mind.'

'In introducing this bill President Carter has, metaphorically speaking, just showed us all his pet armadillo and asked us to admire it. But will he have the courage to nail it to the wall?'

'The communist system became bloated and distended and then expired with a bang, like a hen pumped full of helium.'

'It is noticeable that when the stock-market plummets sharply there is often a small bounce after it hits the bottom. I like to call this a dead-cat bounce, as the same phenomenon can be observed if you drop one off the top of a high-rise building.'

21st of December 2005

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