A co-worker reminded me Monday of a less stressful time in my life.

In fifth grade, every male who was any male played pogs, that fantastic game where one takes a thick, circular piece of plastic or metal and uses his childhood understanding of physics and forces and angles and whatnot to slam it (it's actually called a "slammer") onto a stack of thin, circular cardboard "pogs" so as to blast them high in the air and watch them flip over, thus claiming them as his.

Whoever flips the most pogs at the end of the match receives the spoils and (when the game is taken seriously) the loser's pogs.

That's right, it's a competition, Big Boy, and if you're not prepared to risk every little colorful piece of cardboard you own, go spend your recess cramming grass down your underpants.

Yes, fifth grade.

And one day I was devastated to learn that, apparently, the games had gotten out of control, several feelings had been hurt and no longer were we allowed to "slam" during recess.

I didn't get it. I didn't appreciate the violation of my rights, even then. But I hadn't been one to play pogs for keeps.

I liked my shiny circles that boasted pictures of skulls and crossbones above the macho word "Poison." I liked that little cartoon character who played various sports with a big smile and cool sunglasses.

I wanted to keep mine, I suppose, because they were mine, and at age 10 I was already beginning to understand the materialism of my culture.

But what I didn't understand was the competition, which was why I didn't want to take anyone else's pogs, either.

Ten years later, I understand competition. I just hate it.

I understand that it is an absolute terror that is harnessed, promoted and shot in the ass with steroids by nation states, corporations and other selfish people with power. And I understand it is mostly unavoidable.

What I don't understand is why the United States doesn't at least try to act like my fifth grade teachers and regulate the behavior of those battling each other on the library floor.

We're constantly fed bologna intended to convince us that less government regulation of the free-market benefits everyone. But the idea of a "free-market" is bogus. Majorly bogus.

How well would my fifth grade peers have functioned pog-wise if our teachers routinely provided special slammers to those students who aligned themselves with the teachers?

What if favored pog players received multi-million dollar tax-payer-funded building contracts after a national disaster?

The examples of favoritism in American capitalism are plentiful. The people exploited as a result span the globe. The American ignorance of these situations is undeniable. But then again, ignorance is bliss.

And behind that velvet curtain, the free-market stands as it is: a corrupt game of pogs; one that needs to be regulated before it gets any more out of hand.

--William W. Savage III is a journalism junior and The Daily's opinion editor. He still has his pogs, somewhere.hello there & you too

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