Lessons in austerity
SO the future of the world’s seven billion people hangs on the votes of less than five million Greeks. Not even in ancient times can Greece have held such sway over the world. But the 10 or 20 or whatever wise men and women leaders of the world appear to have no other answer. Maybe, they should hear a little story. Once upon a time, there were two young men, Sipho and Jack, who lived next to each other. Sipho began growing tomatoes for his little family and shortly afterwards Jack kicked in with potatoes. They agreed to swop their surplus. “We’ll barter,” they said, “one tomato for one potato.”
Jack loved tomatoes and wanted more than he had potatoes to swop. He said: “I’ll give you a written IOU for each extra tomato and I’ll call it a dollar.” Sipho agreed. Then Sipho ran short of tomatoes, but still wanted his potatoes so he said: “The hang with this bartering, I’ll give you an IOU for each potato and I’ll call mine a rand.” It was so much easier simply scribble out a dollar or a rand.
Sipho soon noticed he had a huge pile of Jack’s dollars. “Give me a potato for each dollar I’ve got.” Jack didn’t have enough potatoes to comply. “Lend me some of your rands or dollars so I can carry on buying from you,” he demanded. Sipho complied. In no time, Sipho was awash in dollars and rands and Jack had empty pockets. He said: “I must go the austerity route one tomato a week until I’m back to normal.”
Sipho began to feel the pinch now as his tomatoes banked up. He began the austerity route too. With neither buying, both were forced to cut back and starvation loomed. Finally, they both said: “The hang with this, let’s go back to bartering.”