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Dec 29, 2015

Parable of Economy

There was an ancient civilization where there was a great store house for food. In the agrarian society, people agreed to bring their grain and store it in this common warehouse. To provide proof of a family's portion, metal-bound certificate was stamped with a denomination denoted the amount of food deposited and given to the head of the household. These metal tokens were used to withdraw grain from the community warehouse during the non-harvesting seasons.
Naturally, during the seasons where food was plentiful and the need to withdraw grain from the warehouse was unnecessary, people bartered with these certificates to secure other goods and services in exchange for the provider to be able to withdraw certain amounts of the family's grain. Thus, these tokens effectively became a money system.
One other detail to note was the person in charge of making these tokens, a kind and compassionate man, but also overwhelmed by so many depositing their grain and the time-consuming process of making the tokens. The man had a forward-looking idea of efficiency to improve upon the process. During the slower times, he made the most common denominations of the certificates in advance to reduce the delay in process for a family depositing their grain and receiving the credit for it.
Over time a large surplus of these tokens accumulated. Several things happened. Some were stolen by dishonest workers at the warehouse. The precision of payment for deposits became more ambiguous due to the desire to use available tokens rather than making a precise marker. Also, an element of compassion developed by some of the clerks when seeing families who were less-well-to-do than others, who simply gave away some extra tokens to them because there was such a surplus of them.
Things were fine for many years. In fact at first this seemed to create a type of prosperity...until one year when there was a time of the extreme drought. Almost no crops were harvested that season. Worse, the winter that followed was bitterly harsh. Everyone in the community needed to cash in their tokens to withdraw their grain to survive.
A sad realization occurred that season. The benevolence, compassion and welfare that had been created by the community bureaucracy had nearly tripled the number of certificates of withdrawal to the actual amount of food stored in the warehouse. The wisest and most astute were able to prepare for this, storing small amounts of their own grain separate from the governed supply and also managing their less-valuable tokens better than others, but that year was easy on no one in the ancient society. Many suffered. Many died. And the repercussions of the governing generosity created more calamity to more people than the mild difficulties that existed without it.

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