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I want to make a short story about an Earth just like ours except it's commonly accepted that at the age of 43, the government allows people to have a llama in their house and the government pays for the llama and the food during that year and that year only. Most people just have a Llama day where they spend a day with a llama, totally government funded then go back to normal life. Others prepare and spend the whole year with a llama and have rad experiences.

Obviously this is ridiculous but I want a reason why everyone would be more or less fine with this and somehow keep Earth relatively the same in terms of social norms, religion, wealth distribution, etc.

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closed as off-topic by James Sep 21 '17 at 19:08

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  • 234
    $\begingroup$ Good absurdist humor doesn't really need a reason, except that the reason itself could also be absurd. In the world today, people buy 100,000 dollar work trucks that could earn them thousands of dollars a day, and instead polish them, paint them and modify them at extreme expense and run them loudly up and down my street in what appears to be some kind of mating ritual. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy Sep 16 '17 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ There is no parodical government plan so absurd that life hasn't emulated it. Venezuela's 'Plan Rabbit' encounters 'cultural problem' $\endgroup$ – Richard Sep 16 '17 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ put the llama on their flag and make it part of the national identity. If eagles made good livestock you know this would happen in the US. We subsidize many cattle ranchers as is. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 16 '17 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ @SeanBoddy In Europe (or really anywhere but US) people are for some reason very exiting about 22 man running after a round object and putting it into net. This is very interesting phenomena where people engage in ritualistic battles including war paint, chanting and ritual music. This is often subsidized by governments for some reasons. I really don't think humans need any reason to behave strangely (even mating ritual is a reason). $\endgroup$ – Maciej Piechotka Sep 17 '17 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ A more satirical alternative: it might have been a poison-pill amendment. The classic example is how the law against discrimination against women would not have passed Congress on its own in 1963, but southern conservatives tactically joined progressives in amending the Civil Rights Act to include it. The opponents of civil rights were hoping that would be too much for the moderates and the entire bill would fail, but they miscalculated and it was enacted, with the amendment against sex discrimination. $\endgroup$ – Davislor Sep 18 '17 at 3:19

32 Answers 32

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There are a few reasons the government might want you to own a llama for a day:

  1. IT could be a religious rite of some sort. If llamas are held in high esteem by priests and government, and they want to bless the people, having them care for a llama is the way to do it. The holy book says be good to llamas to get to the better afterlife, so let's get all our people to the afterlife. We're the good guys!
  2. Encouraging agriculture. 43 years old is a pretty good time to catch people in the middle of a midlife crisis. Give them a llama for a year and say "this one's free, and if you breed more, you could make money!" Someone in a dead end job might think that's a darn good idea. If the country is having a trouble maintaining it's own food supply or needs pack animals for some reason, it's worth a shot. If 1 out of 100 llama-takers decide to embrace the new llama-job, then there's a significant increase.
  3. It could all be a joke at this point. It's one of those laws that got written in the books forever ago for some reason and just never got removed. The people think it's good fun and "traditional" at this point, and the government has enough clout to keep it in there. Every year there are whiners who claim that 43 year-olds are wasting government money to play with a llama, but they're largely ignored.

I can't imagine the government of a very large country would do this, but if it were smaller, it could be a nice cultural test.

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    $\begingroup$ Re; #3 - See the Running of the Reindeer, an annual event in Anchorage. Sometimes absurdity is the whole point. $\endgroup$ – Jolenealaska Sep 17 '17 at 2:59
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    $\begingroup$ If I could give a +27 to reason #3, I would. I think this is the one that makes the most sense. To really create the laughs, make it compulsory. $\endgroup$ – Doug R. Sep 19 '17 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ If you think that reason number 3 is ridiculous, pause for a moment and consider daylight saving time. $\endgroup$ – JDB Sep 19 '17 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ Funny thing about point 2 is that there already exists a stable demand for llamas so breeding them makes sense. $\endgroup$ – Nick Dzink Sep 21 '17 at 22:25
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It's a computer error. The original constitution of the country mandated that all people aged 43 should consume more foodstuffs containing umami, to improve public health. However the spell-checker used in preparing the original document refused to accept that word and substituted "llama."

Since the most politically influential group in the country adopts a "literalist" view of interpreting the constitution, if it says "llama", then it means "llama" - no further justification is required.

(Any satirical resemblance to US politics is pure coincidence, of course).

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  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @Prime Just turned 43, LLAMA. $\endgroup$ – immibis Sep 18 '17 at 5:58
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    $\begingroup$ The right to bear llamas is a one of the moral pillars our country was built on. How dare you criticize it as a mere spelling error? Our founding fathers would be rotating in their graves if they could hear you. Their wisdom is eternal and infallible and anyone who disagrees is an unpatriotic traitor! $\endgroup$ – Philipp Sep 18 '17 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ Or along the same lines: typo of "lama". I guess this country has no separation of church and state. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Sep 18 '17 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Philipp "The right to bear llamas" deserves its own answer. $\endgroup$ – Grimm The Opiner Sep 19 '17 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ What if, the point of the US Constitution's second amendment was in fact not the right to bear ARMS (to bear weapons) but to BEAR arms (the external limbs of a bear) and that the right to own weapons is just a logical effect of the logistics of everyone's right to hunt bear so they can acquire their arms. $\endgroup$ – nitro2k01 Sep 20 '17 at 11:33
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A reclusive multi-billionaire wanted to show how ridiculous government intervention can be. So in his will he left a bequest in perpetuity - two dollars to the government, no strings attached, for every dollar spent on pet llama subsidies.

Unfortunately the bureaucrats didn't understand that this was intended as criticism - no! They jumped on the idea, forming study committees and boards and writing proposals:

  • Small business advocates were concerned that conglomerates might find a way to monopolize llama care, so proposed limiting the subsidy to no more than one llama per dwelling.
  • Child-care advocates were concerned about llama effects on child safety, thus proposed that children ought not be exposed to llamas in the home.
  • Equal rights advocates were concerned that childless couples might have an advantage over those with no children; thus it was decided that those of childbearing age ought not be allowed a llama subsidy regardless of whether they had children or not. After rigorous study, the "minimum llama carer age" was set at 43.
  • Poverty advocates worried that rich people would put a "glass llama ceiling" in place, restricting access to llamas by the poor. They protested for "equal llama accessibility" laws, but after the law was passed, it was discovered that the bill was worded such that everyone had to have not just the RIGHT to a llama, but an ACTUAL llama.
  • Llama quotas were set, to ensure everyone was able to get their llama. To ease scheduling, it was decided that each person was only allocated one llama-year, and that the llama be delivered on the recipient's 43rd birthday.
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  • 42
    $\begingroup$ Let’s run some numbers. Internet suggests llama upkeep costs are around \$1,000 a year; the cost of an adult llama is as much again. Presumably the latter would go down significantly due to economies of scale, but to be conservative, suppose not. Add another \$1,000 per llama-year for admin overhead. Around 1.5% of the population will be 43 each year. So per million of population, this scheme will cost \$3,000 * 1.5% * 1,000,000 = \$45m. So an investment fund of c. \$ 2 billion with 2.5% yield would fund it in perpetuity, or at least until the alpaca revolution comes. $\endgroup$ – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Sep 18 '17 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ Anyone who is against the llama laws wants to destroy all the jobs in the llama breeding and llama food industry. People need these jobs to feed their families. When you are against llamas, you want children to starve to death. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Sep 18 '17 at 8:44
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    $\begingroup$ @PeterLeFanuLumsdaine: while I can understand you skipping over the economies of scale (since those are rather unpredictable), you have neglected to account for the fact that llamas are reusable. The llama I got this year can be given to someone else next year! Wikipedia says llamas live between 15 and 25 years, let's say that each llama has 10 years of service in it, minimum. All of this assuming the government would lease these llamas from the private sector and not just start their own breeding program. $\endgroup$ – Falc Sep 18 '17 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Falc: indeed, I ignored all those factors for several reasons. Partly to fit into the character limit, partly because I was going for an upper bound estimate, and partly because it doesn’t affect the answer vastly, by back-of-the-envelope standards — even if we take out that component of the cost entirely, it brings the final answer down by a factor of 2/3, which is smaller than the margin of error in all the components anyway. When we prepare the fully-costed llama proposal that we will actually present to parliament, we will certainly take such factors into account. $\endgroup$ – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Sep 18 '17 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ Congratulations Falc and @PeterLeFanuLumsdaine, your joint Llama proposal is already more believeably costed than any policy presented by a major UK party in the last 20 years. $\endgroup$ – Joseph Rogers Sep 19 '17 at 8:35
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The sequel to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is about how he adopted a llama, when he was 43 years old and in poor health, and it added many joyous years to his life. It became a tradition in New England, and later the rest of the nation, to spend a day with a llama at the age of 43, and was enacted into law by a bunch of elitist Ivy Leaguers.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is the least world-changing and not too out of the ordinary (well, all things considered). The seventh inning stretch in baseball simply MUST happen. It's a fact of baseball, but it wasn't always. Everyone at baseball games stands up when the president leaves. Way back when a president got up in the 7th inning, so everyone else did too. Turns out he was just stretching, a laugh was had by all, now it's a tradition. At my old HS seniors shave the freshman's heads because 20ish years ago they did in solidarity for a student with cancer. Traditions are allowed (supposed) to be wacky. $\endgroup$ – Lord Farquaad Sep 18 '17 at 21:18
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Misdirection

The government intends to secretly do any of the following:

  1. [Implement / revoke] civil liberties
  2. [Invade / protect] a neighboring nation
  3. Use national funds for [corrupt / unpopular but wise] purposes
  4. Assassinate a [tyrannical dictator / civil rights leader]
  5. [Subjugate / empower] the citizenry

In any case, to achieve this plan, national attention needs to be focused elsewhere for an extended period of time. Llama day!

Citizens, media, and the internet will spend their time trying to answer questions like...

  • Is it a good idea to legalize llamas for recreational use?
  • Will you be covered if you have a pre-existing llama?
  • Should there be a wall around your llama, or would a fence be ok in some spots?

...while the government puts the finishing touches on the secret military space station on the moon.

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    $\begingroup$ Everyone else is trying to figure out the fake reason the government would use but Steve here is already reading between the lines. $\endgroup$ – popctrl Sep 19 '17 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ But it's not on the moon, it's on mars... oops, I've said too much. $\endgroup$ – Pharap Sep 20 '17 at 5:48
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There are already lots of answers here, so I'll add a brief one that might provide a simple explanation.

Suicide rates peak around the mid-40s of people all over the world, due to purely biological reasons. This is exacerbated by loneliness, and studies have shown that having someone or something to care for vastly reduces this statistic.

Rather than funding any mental health initiatives, it is actually much cheaper to provide the company of a subsidized llama friend. They have massively decreased suicide rates in people in their 40s, as it provides people something to look forward to.

But, why did they pick a llama, and not a dog or a cat? Well, llamas (specifically the alpaca) are hypoallergenic, so it is available for everyone, as some people are allergic to some animals.

Their lifespans are also around 20 years, which means that they are unlikely to die unexpectedly on their owner, which would be a problem for those at risk of suicide.

And, surprisingly, they are good guard animals for those who may worry about their safety in the years where their fitness begins to decline (admittedly they usually guard sheep, but I'm guessing even hostile humans would be somewhat intimidated when coming face to face with a full grown alpaca).

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    $\begingroup$ I'm upvoting for Guard Llamas alone. If I ever need something guarding I'm getting a llama instead of a dog. $\endgroup$ – Pharap Sep 20 '17 at 5:55
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    $\begingroup$ Love this answer. The reasoning is so plausible that it had me thinking, "Wow, that might actually be a good idea..." $\endgroup$ – DLosc Sep 21 '17 at 4:24
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The llamas could be therapy animals in a stressed out overworked society that can't have good relationships anymore because everyone and anyone might secretly be a social media troll, even your own Mom.

When another economic recession makes llama farmers unable to pay their bills, they dig a bunch of change out of their car seats and bribe Congress to get them to pass the American Personal Llama Therapy Act. The APLTA, trumpeted by the media as "Apple-Ta", mandated a Personal Service Llama for every 43 year old adult for a period of 1 year. 43 year old adults were the most likely to suffer stress related productivity loss, so the government selected them to be the privileged few to get residential home care llamas in a desperate bid to get 43 year olds the therapy they need so they can get back to work and save the economy.

As it turns out, the grounded no-expectations unconditional affection of a warm fluffy llama works wonders, and people start reporting profound peaceful experiences just hanging out with their llamas. In the mountains, on the beaches and in the forests, 43 year old people go camping, hiking or just serenely contemplate the joyful peace they never knew they could have clinging to warm accepting fur of their llama. Soon people start meeting on the country trails and secluded tree-lined city parks built especially for people to be with their llamas. Emotionally refreshed by their llama experiences, people are able to socially reconnect and relate to each other as positive compassionate human beings. A new renaissance of consideration and understanding starts happening as people start reconsidering society's uncool anti-social demands, reject them, and learn to show love and compassion by caring for their non-judgemental llamas and their new positive friends. Soon llama programs spring up worldwide, and people from all over the world are hanging out with their llamas in peace, guided by their llamas' simple imperturbable joy in being alive and being affectionate with their human caretaker.

Maybe the story could end with people changing society to value the positive connection between compassionate people, as shown to them by the llamas, and then schools start having a few llamas on the grounds instead of medicating kids, and there is finally hope for the future.

:D

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It's interesting that in this very moment you have 43 Points. $\endgroup$ – J_F_B_M Sep 17 '17 at 16:45
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The country is in fact being run by a secretive society comprising wealthy power-brokers ..."The Illamanati".

They are a genetically mutated group of llamas who manipulate government and the press in a bid to "ellamanate" humankind and to turn the planet into a haven for llamakind by slowly building up the llama population and placing them into the households of influential people thus allowing their influence to spread further. It being a well known fact that a human's influence starts to really develop when they reach the age of 43.

They see this approach as the only way of conquering an enemy who have the advantage of an opposable thumb, allowing them to make tools and use weapons which far outweigh those that llamas are capable of producing.

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    $\begingroup$ * puts on tin foil hat * $\endgroup$ – Pharap Sep 20 '17 at 5:50
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    $\begingroup$ laughing too much....can't breath....sooo may puns.... :) you just made my day $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Sep 20 '17 at 18:34
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It was added as a rider to non-llama-related legislation by a legislator who was trying to kill the legislation by adding the most ridiculous thing he could think of. But it passed anyway, so now the government is stuck with implementing it.

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  • $\begingroup$ best answer yet $\endgroup$ – Amoeba May 8 '18 at 0:03
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In my country, we have many such stupid laws in place. Most of them are due to strict religious rules observed by a fringe sect with a lot of political power.

You think llamas are weird? Here, you can't buy bread for one week every year and we don't have public transportation one day every week.

All you need is a parliament with two major parties, each controls about 45% of the house seats, and a small llama-crazy party that controls the other 10%.

Within a month, every 43 year old would have their llama.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding GilZ! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Sep 18 '17 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ What country is that? (I might have guessed Israel except for your "fringe sect" comment.) $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Sep 20 '17 at 2:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Wildcard Yes, it's Israel. Although most of the population is secular, many laws are the result of a later interpretation of the Jewish law by the ultra-orthodox, a minority group in with a lot of political power $\endgroup$ – GilZ Sep 24 '17 at 9:01
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Climate change is threatening the llamas and zoos have been shut down by PETA. So, to prevent llama extinction, because their fur is the only thing propping up the failed economy (climate change) the government needs rotating homes for them.

So, with no zoos, and population increasing, taking more habitat from llama-land, the government has had to find a new solution. It has decided that at age 43 most people can accommodate a llama. Partly because any children will be old enough to not be hurt by llamas or perhaps help with their care. partly because most 43 year olds are still young enough to manage a creature like that, and if they have children it might be a nice distraction.

Why llamas? Perhaps Monty Python's Holy Grail becomes a cult favorite of the next governmental administration and John Cleese's evil plan can finally come to fruition. (Some will not understand the reference but there is a good chance the original questioner will.)

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    $\begingroup$ I think, you have missed least “world changing” in the title. $\endgroup$ – Revolver_Ocelot Sep 16 '17 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Revolver_Ocelot PETA shutting down zoos, whilst largely illogical (most zoos are conservation-with-some-glass-to-get-more-funding-but-many-animals-are-completely-hidden-from-the-public zoos, not let's-whip-the-dolphins-to-make-them-jump-through-hoops zoos), wouldn't require much of a change to the present-day world to occur. Climate change, if we don't work towards reducing the effects of, will cause problems. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Sep 16 '17 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you @wizzwizz4 . I was puzzled by the comment. I made the changes you recommended. I might leave this reality now. But I'll likely be back, since housing anacondas is the next timeline over and .... yuck. $\endgroup$ – DPT Sep 16 '17 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ @DPT I wonder what the sociological effects of relatively common timeline-flipping would be? $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Sep 16 '17 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ Hi @wizzwizz. When I flip over to another timeline for a few days the house here goes to absolute hell. I had to flip back this morning to feed the cat, scoop its litter, and clean the kitchen. Need to find a line where women don't have to pick up after everyone else. See ya. $\endgroup$ – DPT Sep 19 '17 at 14:19
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43 Years of age is the calculated statistical sweet-spot for a once-in-a-lifetime Human/Llama Bonding Event (and it is often slightly earlier).

It seems that it is only at the age of 42-43 that a human and llama can reach a telepathic understanding - whereby they can share thoughts and experiences etc. This discovery of a still-unexplained telepathic relationship between mankind and llama continues to defy all scientific explanation and has led to a manic pursuit to understand the phenomenon.

Over time, it has become commonplace to adopt a llama at roughly 42 years of age, for up to a year, to see what happens.

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Because they're a national symbol that is becoming endangered

Perhaps in the past llamas were work animals - much like horses. Their wool was prized, their work was valuable, and somehow they contributed greatly to society. But, as mechanization and industrialization marched onward, llamas were no longer useful. Synthetic fabrics replaced their wool, laboratory-grown meat replaced farm-grown, and automation outperformed them in labor. The country is so small that wild llamas are hard to find, and the population of llamas dwindles every year - endangering them.

This society prided itself on its llamas, maybe they're the national animal, or the flag has a llama silhouette on it, or they're mentioned in the national anthem; either way they're a symbol of the country's industriousness, stubbornness, and toughness. It wouldn't be right for a country like that to let its symbolic animal die out.

So legislators propose the "free llama" program. With it come nationalized llama farms (that can act as little zoos for citizens and tourists to learn how llamas shaped the country in its infancy), special celebrations on one's 43rd birthday (which in other countries is a dull and depressing affair), and the export of culture: other countries see the positive impacts and decide to enact similar legislation with their national animals.

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Note: This answer would work much better with an earlier monarch, which is what I started with, before realising that llamas were not discovered by Europe until 1750-ish. If you pick a different animal then you can pick an earlier monarch, and it won't seem so forced.

King George III of England was king of England shortly after the Llama was discovered in South America. He also had frequent fits of madness. So, he happens to get a Llama as a gift from some Spanish Merchant for his 24th birthday (1762). He finds the thing incredibly therapeutic, and decides his people deserve this kind of love as well, so he arranges for every citizen of the British empire to have a llama of their very own ... but there aren't that many llamas, so eventually his advisers haggle him down to everyone getting one for a year when they turn 42! (He's 24, but thinks he's 42 I guess?).

Needless to say, this practice is extremely popular all over the empire. Even when territories leave the empire they keep the tradition. This leads to everyone in India, GB, USA, Canada, Hong Kong, etc having a Llama for a year. And from there the practice has spread throughout the world. Many more governments, especially in Europe and Asia, have adopted this practice. In others, only the rich can afford a Llama Year. Charities exist to provide Llamas to the impoverished. etc.

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    $\begingroup$ This has the beginnings of a Pratchett-esque feel to it - perhaps he got a horse and accidentally called it 'llama', only for llamas to be discovered shortly after? Great answer anyway :) (although I don't know what the criteria is) and welcome to Worldbuilding! $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Sep 19 '17 at 12:13
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    $\begingroup$ "(He's 24, but thinks he's 42 I guess?)" More likely his scribe has Dyscalculia. $\endgroup$ – Pharap Sep 20 '17 at 5:52
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religion

Religious rituals that require you to keep a llama for some ritualistic reason that is described in the Great Holly Book of Llamaism. It isn't llogical. But then again, it is what the Great High Lllama-don tells us we must do.

farm subsidies

Apparently the llama farmers got together at some point in the past and llobbied government for farm subsidies. Over the years since this program began, the llaw has been modified to include some rather strange amendments... resulting, finally, in the current llaw that everyone own a llama for a year.

agricultural education

coupled with the above llama subsidy, that incredibly powerful llama Super-PAC llobbied, successfully, for an agricultural education subsidy. So everyone gets their very own llama for a year. To make sure they and their children llearn about farming. Why 43? That change is how one congressperson ensured their district got that new interstate they needed. Government appropriations are weird.

science!

Some strange scientific experiment. There's a grant. Paid for (with the support of that same llama Super-PAC!) by the National Institutes of Health and Llama Services, to increase the llama population. There's probably a reason. Maybe the llamas are genetically modified to provide organs for aging humans for example.

food reserves

Mmm. Meat. Llama steaks. The Llama super-PAC convinced us all that raising llamas was a healthier choice than raising pigs (the pig PAC, while alliteratively beautiful, failed to raise funds. They thought their all-things-bacon internet viral marketing campaign would win, but didn't llobby congress hard enough. Alas.) Llama, the other other white meat.

national defense

I can't explain how the llamas factor into national defense. That's a state secret. I suspect the llama Super-PAC is involved. Somehow. [conspiracy theories go here.]

fad

It's some strange fad that became enshrined in our traditions. Llike university-sponsored bonfires and holiday turkey pardons. No one is quite sure how this whole thing got enshrined in government-funded llama infestations. An attempt to research the history resulted in members of the llocal Llama Super-PAC showing up with tire irons and a strongly worded recommendation that I "should maybe search for something else, if you know what's good for you." I know what's good for me. So I stopped searching.

for the llols

Maybe adults thought that doing this, as a national-llevel prank would amuse their children. The llevel of tomfoolery here is epic, to be sure. Much llike the Great Pumpkin, Santa Claus, and other holiday traditions, the history here is a bit murky. But rest assured, somewhere at the root of this, you'll find the llama super-PAC. I just know it. But that's okay. Llaugh along with the 43-year-olds. I'm sure no harm will come of it.

The llama Super-PACsource

When the moose super-PAC was disbanded in 1975 by Monty Python, the leaders regrouped, quietly in a dark pasture somewhere nearby, and formed... The llama Super-PAC. It's been all llamas all the time, since then. But never fear-- oh no. Those men with the tire irons are back. I've obviously said too much.

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    $\begingroup$ "But then again, it was the Great High Lllama-don tells us we must do." Surely you mean the Dalai Llama? $\endgroup$ – Pharap Sep 20 '17 at 6:01
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Why is there an Easter Bunny that lays eggs filled with candy? And how is that connected to the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus?

Why is a fat man living with a bunch of fairies? And isn't it a bit suspect that he lives on the north pole and rides around in a sled giving toys to children? How is that connected to the birth of Jesus?

Many rites in the modern world are absurd. The cases above are the fusion of old traditions with religion and then mashed unrecognizible by capitalism.

Can you answer the above questions? I can't!

So you don't really need a reason. The world is full of absurd rites that most people are ok with and where they don't know why they do them. "It's tradition!" seems to suffice.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you seriously looking for answers to those questions? Because they do exist, without ruining your “it’s tradition” punchline. $\endgroup$ – DonielF Jan 2 '18 at 22:23
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It's important to the country to have a lot of llamas, like some kind of Strategic Llama Reserve. Possible reasons for this:

  • superstition that the country's fate is linked with the fate of its llama population
  • llamas as environmentally friendly lawn mowers
  • llama manure for agriculture
  • etc

But it's also important to the country that llama-tending not just be the work of a minority, lest they become a permanent underclass and lest the non-llama-tending people forget the importance of the SLR. So every citizen has to spend a year taking care of a llama as a form of national civilian service. It happens in middle age because youngsters are just not that good at taking care of llamas, but they also want to wait for people to get sufficiently established in their careers that a year-long absence won't mess them up too much. Many people do in fact skate by with just a day of llama-tending, but many people take their duty seriously and find it to be a life-changing experience.

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Mankind is beset by an insidious virus. Its modifications to the host's DNA are virtually undetectable. In the time it's taken for us just to realize the virus exists, it's already infected every living human. These changes are folded into a part of our genome that's always transferred completely to offspring. Attempts to remove them have all failed disastrously. The entire human race is irreversibly infected.

The effects of infection only manifest in response to certain biological events occurring specifically during the 43rd year of life. I won't go into the gruesome details here, and ultimately they don't matter because there's fortunately a viable form of relief: llamas.

By simply spending a short time in the company of a llama just as symptoms begin to manifest, the effects of the disease are negated. The most worrisome of these effects are quite brief, only lasting a day or so, but some individuals experience long-term discomfort lasting several months or more. It may be necessary to keep a llama for as long as a full year to ward off the unpleasant effects of the disease.

The llama's ability to fight the effects of the disease is an as yet unattainable holy grail to pharmaceutical companies. While the mechanism is fairly well understood, the technology to faithfully reproduce its effects simply doesn't exist. It will be a long time before an artificial, more convenient alternative can be safely, reliably, and affordably developed and manufactured.

This has led to explosive demand for llama companionship. The private llama industry has erupted, and llama prices skyrocket despite the best attempts at regulation. There are also the worsening issue of llama abandonment as people irresponsibly buy llamas purely for their healing qualities and then discard them on roadsides, leaving them to fend for themselves (typically at great cost to the local environment).

Already reeling from the tremendous expense of hiring llama cowboys en mass to wrangle the growing herds of abandoned llamas, and concerned for their poorer citizens who are forced to suffer the terrible effects of the disease as they can't afford now-expensive llama therapy, more and more governments are taking on a stance of direct intervention. Government subsidized llama ranches now offer rental services, even offering free rental and expense coverage with medical necessity.

A government llama is likely to be less than ideal, but serves its purpose well enough. This has not only solved all llama-dependent medical crises, but also stabilized the private sector once more as private llama vendors now compete with the government's minimal baseline by breeding quality specialty llamas for ever more-desirable traits such as portability and diversity of appetite. Many young people, and conservatives of all ages, tend to complain about the resulting increased taxes, but since nobody has any better ideas the slight financial discomfort of all is generally considered an acceptable preference over the otherwise terrible fate of those who most benefit from it.

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International superstar, Alice Dunderhead, gets widespread attention when she shows up at the 67th annual Inane Awards with her pet llama instead of a dog or cat(it had become fashionable to attend with one's pet.) In the dozens of subsequent celebrity interviews, Alice swears that her llama is the source of all joy, reduces stress, improves her love life, and slows the signs of aging. Immediately, every A-list celebrity is sporting their llamas.

Soon, llama-keeping is next big thing in all upper-income homes. Television shows popularize it further. Pop music celebrates the purity of llama's love for their keepers. Llama-keeping creeps lower and lower in the class brackets.

Since llama-keeping isn't cheap, a disparity emerges between the haves and have-nots. After much debate about fiscal responsibility, equality and pax-llama (i.e. the inner peace generated by being around llamas for a least a year) the government acts. The age of 43 is picked because 42 was too much like Hitchhiker's Guide. The law is made to be universal to prevent the have-nots from feeling singled out, and as a bone to the lama industry, who are trying to increase market share.

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Prostate Cancer

It turns out that llamas are almost always carriers of the Toxoprostmosis bacterium, which, in humans, suppresses prostate cancer so effectively that the AMA doesn't even recommend prostate exams for guys who keep llamas for a year. 43 is just a nice middle-aged age for doing this so that it's maximally effective.

It's not necessary to kiss the llama or anything, just be around one.

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  • $\begingroup$ The more you know! lol $\endgroup$ – Jaden Travnik Sep 20 '17 at 18:49
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One politician wanted to prove to a very wealthy lobbyist that his skill in congress could get any law passed in order secure that lobbyist's financial support. The passing of the related law is his proof of ability.

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A bit late to this, but here we go.

TL;DR: Politics. What was intended as a test program for a few thousands gets unexpectedly popular. By the time politics align to get rid of it, it is to popular to touch, and much to expensive to expand.

Background

So there is a report, based on lots of research, that getting an animal between the age of 35 and 55 is very beneficial to the individual, and therefore to society. [Note: this may even be true. There may even have been one!] It makes the caretaker move more! You meet new people and make new friends at an age where that is not so easy. If you have children it is good for both their health and their development. The list goes on - there are lots of benefits! Few disadvantages! Clearly the government should be supportive of middle aged people getting an animal. And in principle that is something everyone can get behind. But exactly how? And so we get to politics...

It's complicated - and expensive

There is this faction that thinks getting an animal should not be dependent on the person’s income. Why should only rich people get a better life!? The government should pay the full cost of having an animal! There is this other faction that thinks that a small tax break for all would be best. Some think all animals and pets should be allowed, others want only animals with a scientifically proven effect over a certain threshold to be included. (There is no agreement in the later group on how high that threshold should be.) What should the lower and upper limits on age be? How about married people - should they get support while either is in the supported age interval? Or do both need to be inside? What about people that already have pets when they reach the lower age limit- should they be supported? Or are only people getting an animal covered? Actual policy is hard! The list of things that needs to be resolved is long! And we are not even at the big thing: COST.

Because any sort of support will cost money. And that money will be need to be found. Supporting all pets from 35 to 55, even with a modest amount, would cost more than the government spends on infrastructure and housing combined. So that is out. In fact cats and dogs are not possible either - there is just too many, finding that sort of money is not possible. Not to mention horses - lots of them around, and very expensive.

But money can be found for something ...

In the end a compromise is found. Any citizen will receive support for a Llama while they are 44 years of age. Llamas was one of the animals with the best effect. (This is later shown to be a statistical artifact, but by then it does not matter.) More importantly there are not that many around, so it will not cost that much regardless of how many would like one. And while no-one says this, a Llama is not the most convenient animal to have, so this should keep signup low. And the costs covered are stingy, so it should not be possible to make much of a profit to provide Llamas, preventing Llama speculation!

So the law goes into effect. It is marketed as a trial - if it is successful it will be expanded, if not it will be canceled. But due to some arcane budget resolution rules and the way it was bundled with other stuff in the budget it was passed as a benefit that the government needs to cover regardless of cost. No-one cares much about this at the time. “Llamas at 44” is a small sum compared to other stuff and projected to stay that way.

... which turns out to be unexpectedly popular.

But once the law goes into effect it turns out to be fairly popular. Not wildly, that will come later. But more popular than expected. And Llama breeders all over the world suddenly see an opportunity, and avert the expected Llama shortage. It also turns out that renting/leasing people their 1-year Llama is - as designed! - a lousy business, lots of people are generous with the Llama provider, in particular when delivering the animal back (Would you like to give your Llama a three-month free range mountain vacation before the next person takes over? Of course you would, if you can afford it!), so there are some money to be made after all. (Unexpected tax-avoidance thing having to do with how Llama refund is structured is also promising in explaining how the Llama provider business took of much more than expected.)

This concerns some people, but none of those who voted for it wants to reverse course so soon and seem a flip-flopper. Much better to wait a bit until the initial enthusiasm have died down and scale the program back. And some of those very much against it, now sees that some government-supported Llama jobs will not hurt their chance of reelection. And honestly, while it is now projected to be more expensive than initially, it is still pocket change. Why create lots of trouble for yourself now, when it is likely that once someone have been killed by their Llama the voters will be in favour of removing the program? Finally there are much more important battles to fight than Llamas. Llamas can wait.

And so one year of Llama program turns into two, and three and four. By now it is really getting popular and costing LOTS of money. But gridlock means that the votes to change it cannot be found. Perhaps a compromise could be found, but the no-Llama faction shows no interest in a compromise with the less-(expensive)-Llama faction. Without that the program continues unchanged.

Why it is not removed

So it takes 13 years from the first Llama was handed out before no-Llama has control of the government. “Less waste” have been their election slogan, and while no-one said that Llamas needed to go - indeed many of them promised the opposite - they now make clear that the government have no role in Lllama-support and it will be canceling the program ASAP.

But it turns out the program is very popular. There is the 9 year old that comes to a town hall meeting and begs her representative to vote no. They were getting a Llama next year and without government support they cannot afford it. It is so genuine and precious; it is the viral sensation of the week. There are a surprisingly large number of men in their early forties that are enraged that their supported Llama will be taken away. Variations of “I paid for all those Llamas - I want mine!” are heard by phone operators for no-Llama representatives all over the country. Children and young adults have been looking forward to their Llama. Grandparents thinks it is idyllic that their grandchildren can have one. Polls indicate that women in particular thinks Llamas make the country more real, more like it should be. Whatever that means, making the country less like it should be does not seem like a winning reelection strategy.

And the Llama Association (aka BigLlama) have been fearing this since it was started. If Llama support is withdrawn an enormous amount of jobs will be lost (all of that money is after all going somewhere) they warn. There are more jobs in Llama than the automotive industry! More than half of all Llamas would need to be put down in the first year! They have been collecting the mailing addresses of Llama loaners for years and sending out a personal card with a picture of the Llama they had most recently. Now they send out an extra card with “This may be my last card, representative N N does not think anyone new should get to love me”. Even if polling shows many agree in principle that Llamas are a bit of waste, it takes a principled person to support no-Llama when the Llama your father had when you were 12 is about to become sausage.

So getting rid of Llama support is no longer on the agenda. For a while Llama reform is being discussed. Trimming the program in a way that saves real money without being really impopular is not possible. Including cheaper animals like dogs are discussed, but modelling shows that lots of people would still get a Llama, while additional people would get a dog, so that it may end up more expensive! Also BigLlama is very much opposed, and it would shift money from rural Llama jobs to dog owners which is not an election winning strategy for the no-Llama faction.

And why it is not expanded

A few years later a Llama friendly government takes power. It considers expanding the program. Perhaps 44 and 45 year olds? But it would be very expensive, and most people that have a Llama seem happy with the one year limit. Sad to give their Llama up yes, but also glad that their Llama year is up. Expanding to more animals are considered, but are rejected for much of the same reason that no-Llama did. Letting people select a year between 40 and 50 to have their Llama is trialed in certain areas. But it turns out that makes many fret over if and when to have their Llama, rather than being excited or not for their 44th birthday. Changing the age to 42 is discussed, but it would create chaos in the Llama industry during the transition, and some would be upset since “42 is not the right age to have a Llama” as one voter stated when this came up.

Lots of small things are changed. But nothing major. Which means we are where we started: The year you are 44 the government will support your Llama.

Note: Having written this, I realize that it has similarities to what is going on just now regarding health care in the US. This is mostly incidental, as this sort of process is more-or-less builtin to any new entitlement. I have opinions on the government’s role in providing health-care, but I don’t mean to express them by this piece of writing, and don’t think I do.

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An ultra-green initiative to mow lawns without using any fossil fuels. It sounds silly, but O'Hare airport actually mows its lawns with llamas (and other animals): https://www.usatoday.com/story/todayinthesky/2013/08/14/ohare-airport-turns-to-barnyard-animals-to-mow-its-grass/2651645/

If you're going for a darker tone, scarcity rather than conservation could be the motive for energy-less mowing.

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I think the simplest answer is that, in the past, each citizen was paid to raise a llama all their life. Eventually, a politician decreed that nobody under 44 (43?) was responsible enough for this task, and so a lower limit was set. Then later, perhaps many years later, another politician decreed that anyone over 45 was too infirm to handle a llama, and so a higher limit was set.

Maybe it was a single change each way, or maybe it was a gradual process (consider how retirement age keeps slowly increasing in our world)

The biggest issue with "being paid to care for a llama for a year" -- believability-wise, is that we're going from [never interact with a llama] to [very specific interaction with a llama]. By making the change gradual, and in the other direction, it's more believable that people would just accept it.

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You want the least change needed?

How about:

When Theodore Roosevelt was hunting in central and south America, he fell in love with llamas. Once he was president, he added a law saying that everyone had to own a llama during their 44th year.

This would have had minimal impact since the average lifespan was lower then and most people who lived to 44 years old were well off. The majority of the people would have seen it as a joke on the rich.

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  • $\begingroup$ The last 8 years notwithstanding, U.S. presidents do not have the constitutional ability to "add a law" on their own initiative. $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Sep 20 '17 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ No, but he had the clout to bully Congress and the Senate into passing it. Like I said, there would be no downside for them since the average lifespan meant that very few people would be affected. All he would have to do is start a newspaper campaign for it. The average voter would love the idea of sticking a rich person with a llama. It would likely start out as a joke. At first, the rich people would show off their llama. It would be another way of displaying their wealth. At that time, it was important to your social standing to show off your wealth; often with frivolous pursuits. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Sep 20 '17 at 17:18
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The llama is on the country's coat of arms, as it is for Peru. Cultivating llamas is seen as symbolizing national or planetary pride. The retirement age has been lowered to 44, due to the increasing pressure from technology and automation. So they pass a law allowing one to take retirement benefits one year earlier, if one keeps a llama for a year.

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Subsidization of the Llama industry

The llama industry boomed after the trend of llama burgers became popularized. It basically replaced beef and became super popular until the FDA issued regulations against the overconsumption of llamas. Now the llama farmers are left with a huge surplus of llamas and basically nothing to do with them. So the government instituted the llama year thing as a way to protect the llama farmers from losing their jobs and tanking the economy, and to handle the surplus of llamas. It's similar to how the government buys up tons of crops to protect crop farmers, although unlike crops, you can't just legally store llamas away for years and years. Hence, the government sends the llamas to the people on their 43rd birthday to take care of them.

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Obviously, for personal protection... With unanticipated psychological benefits. Studies have shown the age of 43 to be a key vulnerable point, precursor of midlife crises.

Llamas are well known for their tendency to protect the pack they find themselves in. So they get a vulnerable population safely through a weak stretch, where emotional issues often leave them open to outside predation. And llamas are more cuddly than guns and knives. Just no comparison.

Installing a llama at that key moment gives citizens both a physical and an emotional security boost, smoothing them through the very real dip in emotional and physical strength. Immune system and relationships benefit due to decreased stress. Llamas protect fiercely in the short term, and the psychological boost with attendant health benefits lasts a lifetime.

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In the face of worldwide population increase, this country (very much like Europe) is experiencing a population decline. Technology and the desire to work or pursue other interests has reduced both steady relationships and the average number of children per couple. As each generation ages, cohorts of every same age group are dying off- from medical reasons, accidents, or drunken showmanship alike. Economists and the zeitgeist have seized upon a startling fact: the human decline per age group and resulting population count at age 43 perfectly intersects the count of the balanced llama population. Llamas, while generally respected by the humans, had gone largely unnoticed as pets until this fact was pointed out and popularized by a particularly motivated zoologist. Motivated emphatically, as a matter of fact, by his wife being quite vocal about their own family's burdensome llama, who insisted on eating her roses. The population of recreational and working llamas, even after adjusting for everything from their own birth rates, average lifespan, and fascinating advancements in llama medicine, perfectly matched the human population of age 43. Therefore, the llama "status quo" could perfectly match the number of 43-year old human owners (comprising single, coupled, and polygamist households), but not on one year of either side of that human age, as the peer population declined. It was the perfect intersection of both humans and animals on the planet. The harbinger of death- aging- was fought back by hope for the future; finally, society could jettison the fear of the unknown and take comfort in the almost new-age love for balance on the planet between species (if only between humans and one particularly lucky camelid). If the country's 43-year olds would all agree to host the ownership of each llama for one year as they attained and waned from the perfect age (for owning llamas), the zoologist could trailer Dolly off to a welcoming home along with the rest of the country's herd and improve his strained marital relations in lockstep with the condition of his wife's garden. Therefore, as the fact evolved from a esoteric discovery into the welcoming grasp of public consciousness, the public adopted the practice of trading llamas from newly-celebrated 44-year-olds down to newly-celebrated 43-year-olds. Over the course of the year, as the excitement of their friendly, pleasant new pets faded into the tedium of daily coat combings, bizarre "mwa" vocalizations (mostly by the llamas), and the always-unwelcome spitting for dominance (mostly by the humans), the willingness to trade the animals away at the end of the yearly stewardship was always forthcoming. The government stooges, desperate for reelection and the public's good graces, pounced upon the opportunity and tax incentives were hastily signed into law. The Individual Llama Stewardship Act, or the hackneyed nickname it became known by among conservative news channels, "A-Llama-Care", was signed into law among great cries of "everybody knows that the herd is the word" and other unforgivable bad puns.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! This wall of text is very difficult to read as is, would you mind breaking this up into paragraphs? Thanks! $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Sep 20 '17 at 8:24
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I don't really have any new explanation, but I do have several side effects that keep popping up in my headcanon that wouldn't fit in a comment. I can imagine ridiculous circumstances arising such as...

  • a rising surplus of llamas due to falling birthrate ("Millennials are killing the llama industry!")
  • a 24/7 llama channel on cable (reality shows, shopping programs, Llamas 101...)
  • your friend who's Kickstarting a no-kill llama shelter for those who've been lost in the system
  • vets whose focus is in-home llama visits
  • PETA protests and anarchists organizing large-scale llama breakouts
  • workplaces with llama-related leave policies or even llama sabbaticals for the dedicated few
  • lawyers who specialize in llama-related litigation (billboard/television ad: "Does your llama need medical care? Is the government refusing you compensation? Call Bob Smith, the Llama Lawyer! 1-800-LLAMA-LAW")
  • the new go-to excuse for kids is "The llama ate my homework!"
  • op-ed pieces or women's magazine articles with topics like how to handle a llama spitting faux pas
  • this season's hottest llama wool fashion (much like the organic craze, classier stores advertise "free-range" llama sourcing)
  • every so often, the news features a high-stakes forced llama reclamation for those who've had their llama care privileges revoked
  • banks offer a special savings account for your llama year
  • there's a government department that deals exclusively with llama policy, allocation, and distribution (imagine how top secret llama-related clearance would work...)
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