Unemployment: A Fable

Once upon a time there was a man named Bob. Bob lived on a secluded island with a friend, Tom, and their wives. These four toiled from early morning until sunset, working the fertile land, planting and gathering food, just to survive.

One day, however, Bob discovered a marvelous _______ that made his labor four times more productive, so that his labor alone could easily produce enough resources to sustain all four of them.

Immediately, the unemployment rate on the island shot from 0% to 75%.  Tom and his wife became extremely unhappy; they lounged about the hut all day, now aimless with their material needs met.

Their boredom became so unbearable that, one night, Tom snuck into Bob’s hut and destroyed the marvelous _______.  In the morning, Bob was horrified, but Tom was satisfied that his job had been saved.

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, transplanted to Pennsylvania...lived and taught in Eastern Europe for six years…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth.
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4 Responses to Unemployment: A Fable

  1. thinkhardthinkwell says:

    My riddle leaves the reader with two questions:

    1. What is the marvelous “blank”?

    2. What is the moral of the story?

  2. Thomas says:

    The blank is obviously an iPad. There’s an app for that…

    I think the moral of the story is that “work” is different than “vocation.”

    • thinkhardthinkwell says:

      The blank could represent any number of things: technology, tool, or trade/specialization. It doesn’t matter.

      The moral of the story is that human beings irrationally focus on employment rather than productivity, even though productivity is what actually counts.

      In 1800, 90% of Americans worked in agriculture, and people still starved. In 1900, 40% of Americans worked in agriculture. In 2011, 2%-3% of Americans work in agriculture, and no one starves (at least, not because there is simply not enough food for them). Do we complain about those millions who are no longer employed in agriculture? No, productivity (technology, tools, trade) freed them up to work other job, which then results in productivity that makes our lives so wonderful today.

  3. Brian says:

    I heard that Tom and his wife went on to impose regulations that limited Bob’s ability for innovation along with productivity AND employment for future generations.

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