The Blacksmith as Analogy (
by Jeff Wilfahrt
Jun 5, 2013, 11:00 AM

Under the spreading chestnut tree

For all too long now the false allegory of government expense as a family budget has held sway. It crops up all the time, the couching of government balancing its budget like a family at the kitchen table.

There is a better metaphor for government. It is much more like a black smith’s shop. A dirty, sweaty, difficult place. Government, like the smithy’s shop, is where the broken tools of yesterday are repaired, a place where the tools needed for tomorrow’s labor are envisioned and fashioned. Over time the smithy refines his work, hammering and bending the tools for better achieving the intended outcomes.

Like public policy, not every tool formed at the smithy’s forge is just right on the first trial. But policy like metal can be reformed to suit its purpose more precisely.

So in consideration of the societal issues we jointly face, is it a better metaphor to see us at the dinner table or in the smith’s shop working out solutions.

The conservatives can continue to sit in the kitchen waiting for their supper, us liberals will be at the forge we call government.

Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought!

The Village Blacksmith, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 1807–1882

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