Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Paulsops Fables and Fairy Tales: The Three Towers

There was an island in the middle of an ocean. It was quite a large island; it was large enough to have three citys around its shores. The citys were far apart and each was quite different in its culture and language.

Inland, the island was hard to traverse and as they hadn't invented the aeroplane the people of each city didn't have much contact with each other - there were few overland visitors between the cities, just the occasional intrepid explorer, trader and merchant., But the people got on quite well together when they did meet, and were always very interested in the different ways of the foreigners - despite the language barriers.

The people of the island had, however, invented the boat. It so happened that each city had been built on its own bit of coast so the people could benefit from the plentiful supply of fish and so each city also had a harbour where boats could safely dock to load and unload goods and people.

So it was the means of the sea that contact, communication and trading between the people of the different citys happened. However despite the safe harbours, each city had dangerous rocks near the entrance to their harbour, and if it was dark or foggy (and it often was foggy just off shore) ships were liable to be sunk - losing the lives of their crew, and the goods in their holds.

Losing ships in this way made imported goods very expensive, as many would end up at the bottom of the sea, and the merchants would have to make good those losses by charging even more for the goods that were successfully landed. The people of each city accepted this, as they understood the risks and the expense. If a merchant was unlucky they might lose all their goods, crew and so their fortune - and maybe even their own lives, but if a merchant got lucky and avoided the losses they could be come very, very wealthy indeed, so there was no shortage of people willing to take the risk.

This is how things had been for a very long time, as long as anyone could remember. But one day things changed. A man had an idea; he called it 'the light-tower'. All it needed was a tall building to be put on top of the dangerous rocks, with a light at the top so ships could be warned of the rocks and so avoid them. When people asked how the light would be kept alight he realised that he would need people to live in the tower to look after the light, and so he changed the name of his creation to 'the lighthouse'.

People knew that these lighthouses would be difficult to build and so would be expensive - and that the people who lived in them would have to be paid too. But they also realised that if the lighthouses meant that ships didn't sink, then imported goods could be far, far cheaper so they would save money there. With this in mind the people decided to build the lighthouses with their own savings, expecting to make good their costs from lower priced imports in future.

However, at first, it didn't work as the people expected, the merchants said that people had been happier with the higher prices in the past, so should continue to pay them - because that's what the goods were worth to the people - and now sailors weren't drowning the people should be happy with that as a return for their 'investment'. So without the risk of losses, and by keeping the high prices, all the merchants expected to become very, very wealthy indeed.

However it didn't work as the merchants expected either, the people were outraged and turned off the lights until the merchants agreed to lower their prices - which they did.

So the people had paid for the lighthouses to be built, and continued to pay for staff to live there and run them, in return they got cheaper imported goods; and the merchants had a more reliable income with far lower risk.

For many years this worked and every one was happy.

Then the Great Inventor (as he was now known) had another idea - he invented dynamite. Dynamite was a powerful explosive that could blow things up – even hard rock. The Great Inventor realised that with the dynamite the dangerous rocks could be blown clean out of the sea, this would make it safe for ships and a lighthouse would not be needed any more. In his own city this is just what they did.

The rock was gone, the lighthouse was gone and the people who used to live there went back to other jobs. The people still had their lower prices, but no longer even had to pay staff to look after the lighthouse so everyone was better off.

When the other cities heard about this, not everyone was so happy - especially the lighthouse staff. They had got used to being important and being well paid and didn't see why that should change.

In fact the lighthouses that had once been simple (but strong) buildings now looked more like palaces on the inside - no expense has been spared for these important people and their vital service - and the weren't about to let that go with out a fight.

So in the second city a campaign was put in place to remind the people how much of their money had already been spent on the lighthouse - it was explained that having spent so much of their money making the building so wonderful it would be 'madness' to blow it up. Madness to replace a beautiful, luxurious monument with an empty space. The discussion raged, but while many people wanted an end to the continued spending now that it wasn’t essential, there were also many people convinced by the staffs’ campaign who now agreed that it would be 'madness' to lose such a wonderful monument that already worked so well.

Without overwhelming support for blowing up the rocks and losing the light house nothing changed and the arguments just rumbled on and on and on, the staff kept their jobs and privilege and the people kept paying their wages – just as they had been doing for years. The staff were no longer as well liked by everyone, but their comfort made that an acceptable price to pay, meanwhile the people protested every time they got their salary-bill and they discussed new plans on how the lighthouse could be removed and the rocks blown up - plans that never quite came to pass.

In the third kingdom, the staff saw what had happened in the other two and didn't much like either result – to lose their jobs or to be despised! So they came up with a different, new plan. They told the people that they didn't like them having to pay taxes to finance the staff, and that the lighthouse could be made 'self financing' or 'financed from own resources' a complicated way of saying "we won't be on your tax bill" all the people had to do was give up ownership of the lighthouse itself, giving it to the staff and they would look after everything.

The people agreed to this immediately - a tax cut, free money – how wonderful... Of course it wasn't quite so simple as that, after all the staff had to get money from somewhere... and this they did, quite simply - they stopped each passing ship and made a charge to the merchants for the service the ship and merchant had received - of course the light house staff could charge what they wanted as the lighthouse was theirs, and without it the merchants could lose all their goods.

Of course, once the merchants had paid the lighthouse staff what they demanded, they needed to recover the expense - so they put their prices up. The people were not totally happy with this, as they weren't making a saving after all, just instead of it being a tax that they had a say over and annual reminders of, the lighthouse staff and merchants were now completely in charge of the cost that got passed on to the people!

But after a while this was mostly forgotten or ignored - taxes were lower, no one ever saw a bill for the light house staff, prices seemed 'reasonable' based on the costs/expenses paid by the merchants so every thing settled down.

When the people eventually leaned what the other cities had done, someone did suggest blowing up the rocks so the lighthouse would no longer be needed - but everyone agreed that the rocks and lighthouse now belonged to the staff... so it was only they who could choose to blow it up, and would obviously need compensation for all the money they would no longer earn – and that would be an amount that no one could possibly afford, so the idea was soon forgotten and every one got on with their daily lives. The lighthouse staff got wealthy, and the people almost unknowingly picked up the bill.

City one, where everything work in everyones best interest was called Liberty; City two where logic was put aside for 'social benefit' so no one could quite agree was called social democracy, and City three where people were ripped off, but didn’t even realise it – and had no control even I they had realised it - that was called the EU.

No comments:

Post a Comment