A Social Parable

A Social Parable

Once upon a time a group of 100 people were on a flight over the South Sea Islands. They hit turbulence and the plane crashed near a small uncharted island. Fortunately, every single person survived and made it to the island.

The first order of business was survival. They surveyed the island backwards and forwards and found it contained various fruits like coconuts, bananas and berries as well as some nuts. Unfortunately, there were not enough resources to comfortably feed everyone. A man named Barry stepped forward and volunteered to organize the group to ensure their survival. He said, “there is some food here but not enough to feed everyone comfortably. Therefore, we, as a group, must cooperate together and share everything equally as well as work together to create more produce. To make this work you will have to accept me as a powerful authority and do what I say or suffer repercussions.”

The group reluctantly accepted Barry’s proposal and cooperated the best they could. He ordered the group to gather up the food and place it in one location. He then placed guards there so no one can steal it. Next, he made work assignments which included building huts and planting additional food so they could have enough for future needs.

This seemed to work for a few days but then hunger got the best of a number of them and whenever the guards were not paying attention rebels sneaked past them and stole some food. In addition, the guards also stole food. Then to make matters worse people began to grumble that their neighbor wasn’t doing his share of the work. This caused those who initially worked hard to not work so hard. It wasn’t long before not very much was getting done and the food supply became depleted.

Finally, the group conspired together and overcame the guards and stole all the food and ate most of it within the next three days. Barry was very upset at them and said, “what’s the matter with you people? Because you refuse to obey orders and cooperate, we may all starve to death in this godforsaken place.” But instead of listening to Barry they were angry with him because they had no food. He was their leader and he was supposed to provide. A number of the group rushed him, beat and stoned him to death.

A cloud hung over the group for the next few days. Several thought of stepping forward to lead but did not because of Barry’s fate. Finally, Ron decided to take a chance. “My friends, we must proceed a little differently this time. We must make sure that each person has incentive to do his share. Instead of me assigning you all jobs we will list the jobs available and let individuals pick what they want to do and be responsible for their choice. Each individual will also take responsibility for producing or gathering some type of food supply. Once he obtains this it will be his own and then he can trade or barter with it for other things he needs.”

They proceeded with this new program and it was difficult at first but they slowly began to acquire enough for their needs. Some worked harder than others and obtained a greater supply of goods. Some shared their produce and some did not. Some of those who lacked because of avoiding hard work stole from those who had abundance. Then those who had abundance paid several other members of the group to act as a police force to protect the property of their labors.

Quite some time passed and their labor produced abundance, so everyone at least had enough to eat. There always seem to be enough sharing so that no one did completely without. Unfortunately, there were a handful who just didn’t want to do any work unless they absolutely had to. Some of them lived in huts because that’s all they were willing to make for themselves and others made some pretty nice abodes. Some of those who had abundance hired others to work for them to make comfortable dwelling places. By the second year about 10% of the group were living very comfortably and possessed much more than that the average member. The bottom 10% barely survived for they did very little work and often begged for food. At least half of the group never seemed to have enough and were resentful of the other half that did have enough. It did not occur to them that the labor of the comfortable half was the reason for the difference. Even so, the half that lacked began to feel that the half that had abundance should give to them of their abundance.

And often those who were better off did share with those who had less, but some of the richer ones became resentful because they knew their associates could also have abundance if they worked as hard as they did. This resentment increased on both sides.

They had a democratic system worked up among them to resolve problems, and at this time some of the poorer members began to demand a vote to implement a tax according to how many possessions a person had. Then the products from the tax would be shared by the less fortunate.

A huge dispute arose among them but finally the majority agreed to a vote. Almost all those in the lower 50% voted for the tax because they would benefit from the free produce derived therefrom. Most of the wealthier 50% voted against the tax but a handful of altruistic souls also voted for it.

The tax was thus implemented and wealth was taken from the higher 50% and given to the lesser 50%. The wealthier 50% became resentful and didn’t like the idea of working for produce that was taken from them by force. They then coordinated together and gathered up all the movable wealth and hid it in a cave. Then they only worked hard enough to survive. It wasn’t long before no one seemed to have enough. Some people called for more taxes and more redistribution.

Finally, another leader, named Paul. stepped forward. He had Ron killed and they seized all available wealth of not only the rich, but the poor. He promised the group they would all be rich because they were going to find all the wealth of the rich and redistribute it. They tortured the rich until they showed them the hiding place in the cave. This wealth was shared among all the people and they rejoiced for a while. But after a short period of time all was squandered and no one had enough. The group was ready to rebel against Paul until he exercised a strong hand and tortured anyone who challenged him. He then forced everyone to go to work to do exactly as he commanded.

Everyone felt resentment and only worked hard enough to keep out of trouble. It wasn’t long before only Paul and his police force had enough to eat. Everyone else was starving and suffering lack in every way.

Finally, another leader arose. His name is Carl. He found others who believed in hard work and responsibility the way he did. These were 20 in number and they escaped in the middle of the night and fled to the far side of the island. There they built a fortress and gathered what food they could and prepared for the worst.

Paul was angry that they had left and gathered together his people and went after them. He commanded his people to fight them, but they did not have a heart for such a fight and many joined Carl and his group. It wasn’t long before Carl’s group put Paul’s group on the run. Then they returned home, reclaimed their properties and began anew. They now knew that people had to have personal incentive if they were going to create wealth. The new system they created gave each individual personal responsibility, personal incentive and complete ownership over all he created and produced. The one thing that was different from the past was that Carl and his associates went forward and taught his people about the responsibility they have one to another. He not only taught the wealthy the responsibility of sharing with the less abundant half but also the importance of hard work, intelligence and creativity.

They thus built a community that was self-sufficient and had no poor among them but there were many who had abundance. They lived quite comfortably for several years until they were finally rescued. But many of them were so happy with the system they had that they decided to stay and build a better world for themselves unfettered by the governments of the outside world.

The secret of success is to do the common thing uncommonly well. – John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Sept 10, 2008

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