Brave Nerf World

By Auren Hoffman

September 9, 2015 The most powerful person on earth is not the President of the United States (George Stephanopoulos) or the UN Secretary General (Mu'ammar Qadhafi) or the CEO of 21st Century Time Warner Disney Fox Inc. (Rupert Murdoch) or even 10 term Senator Strom Thurmond. The most powerful person on earth is Dan Tower.

I met Dan Tower while walking briskly into the local food establishment reserved for the rich and powerful. Tower walks a confident walk -- a man who knows that everyone's eyes are on him. Tower, like most people in the room, orders and gulps down his vegetable proteins, juice shakes, and delicious parsley dessert. Like most people, Dan is conscious about safety. And like most people, Dan watches the Philosophy Channel.

But in a world of conformity, Dan Tower is different. His yellow bulletproof life jacket is a little brighter than ordinary kind you can buy in stores. And it has a tint of red. Some people claim that the red tint keeps him extra safe from being hit by speeding cars at night. His UV goggles are sleeker than most. And his safety hard-hat (which is even rumored to sleep with) has a built-in translator telephone. Dan Tower can be different -- because he has connections. Dan is the most powerful person in the world.

Dan Tower is, of course, the CEO and Chairman of Nerf -- the largest company in the world. With its $16.8 trillion in annual revenue, Nerf has over four times the revenue of the next largest company is the world, Apple Computer. John Sculley, Apple's CEO, himself is a very powerful person. Sculley was the first to see the impending government regulation against computer keyboards -- so he built the first fully functional voice activated home computer -- which today we know as the Apple Strawberry Banana (not to be confused with the popular drink with the same name by Anheiser-Busch).

Dan Tower is a big believer in the healer of government. Though some in the public think government has intruded enough in our lives, Tower believes that there is still much work for government to do. "Take the Life Jacket Act of '04," he says. "After the terrible Mississippi floods, government had to step in and require life jacket use -- and the results are outstanding. Since 2009, when the policy was fully implemented, there has only been one reported drowning in the United States -- and that was a suicide!" Tower fails to note, however, that Nerf controls 97% of the life jacket market, according to Forrester Research (78% according to the Gartner Group). His Bulletproof 2.0 was such a hit that he put all his competitors, including Microsoft (which saw life jackets as the next great operating system and even tried giving them away), out of business.

Nerf also manufactures all the warning labels you see everywhere. The Wall Street Journal's survey of the American family found that the a verage American household had 8.9 Nerf warning labels (compared to only 6.7 Hewlett-Packard labels). Its car seats, condoms, liners, and its traditional line of guns, toys, and sports equipment round out Nerf's product line.

How else has government helped our lives? "For instance, the Second Amendment says that people have the right to bear arms. For 200 years, this country interpreted that as meaning guns. But it doesn't mean guns -- it just means arms [as in body parts]. The world is a safer place now that guns have been eliminated. Gun deaths are quite rare nowadays. Today, police officers and children patrol the streets with Nerf guns."

Though relentlessly pushing his product, Tower has a point. Gun deaths have almost disappeared (though that may also be partly due to the popularity of Bulletproof 2.0).

"I had my share of second-hand smoke encounters when I was growing up," recounts Tower. "But I don't have to worry about that now. Remember that old hassle with the designated driver? Now you don't need one because the 18th Amendment was reinstated in 2001. Heart attacks, though still prevalent in my generation, are predicted to decline by 86% in 15 years. That's because there is no meat. And look at carpal tunnel -- this was a very destructive arthritis inducing syndrome -- and now it is very rare."

Again, Tower has a point. But the new government regulation has seriously affected the economy. Those companies that did not see the changes coming, like Burger King and McDonald's, went out of business and laid off thousands of workers. And companies like Wendy's (which switched to an all vegetarian burger selection in 2005) have become America's favorite food establishment.

As we enter Tower's car, I notice that everything he has is different. The warning labels on his car door (to watch your fingers) and ceiling (to watch your head) are larger than most. I kid with him that he might need warning labels for his warning labels -- but Tower is a serious guy and disregards my comment. Instead, Tower brings up the Stanford insurrection. "Take those kids in Stanford. I can understand where they are coming from and all -- I was once young myself. But these kids are all going to die."

Tower is referring to the uprising last year of a group of radical Stanford students that ceded from the union. They took the town of Palo Alto (now called the Republic of Stanford) by force with guns smuggled from Mexico. The police and the citizenry, fearful for their lives, fled. The Republic of Stanford has no dress code (most of the people don't even wear life jackets) or regulatory safety rules. Even tobacco is not regulated. And though the Republic of Palo Alto currently has the highest per capita income in the world -- all indications are that they are sure to decline once they die off (of course, so are the rest of us at some point).

Tower's philosophy is in line with today's other great figures -- "government is far more capable of keeping you alive than you are." Because of its vast resources, government can do the research to give its people the right decisions. The revolutionaries in Stanford rallied against government because "they treat us as if we are dumb, need to be taken care of, dependent on an out-stretched arm, and a child. But they are wrong. We are capable of making decisions for ourselves."

But it seems as though the Stanford revolutionaries are wrong. We are all now expected to live over 50% longer than just 30 years ago. Some of this increase in longevity is surely due to medical advances -- but much of it is also due to sensible government oversights. Dan Tower, 45, is not expected to retire for another 40 years.

Tower drops me off at the library and we part ways. But he keeps popping back into my mind -- maybe because the walls and desks of all public buildings are now lined with Nerf.

Auren Hoffman is an Analyst with BridgePath and is a member of the Technology Network. You can reach him at