Once there was a goose that laid gold eggs, and the people in the land of Consumption grew rich from them. The goose was happy because he was well fed and the people were happy because the golden eggs kept coming.
But one day, an angry mob demanded to know why the goose had to eat so much to lay those golden eggs.
"The goose is ripping us off!" they shouted. "In fact, it is the biggest rip-off in history."
These people called themselves "populists" because they claimed to speak for the people.
Soon, others wanted to know why the goose had to eat so much and they started shouting:
"Less food for the goose! More eggs for the people!"
The goose waddled over to the bowl in which its food was usually found, and discovered some scraps. It ate, looked sad, and sat down in a dark corner of the yard.
"The goose’s feathers are falling out," a liberal shouted. "This should not be allowed. A law must be passed forbidding this."
And so it was, but the feathers fell out anyway.
"The goose is polluting the water with its feces," an environmentalist shouted. "A law must be passed forbidding this."
And so it was, but the goose continued to relieve itself, because it had no choice. Less food was given to the goose to reduce the waste, and the goose grew weaker. There were fewer and fewer golden eggs, and people grew angrier.
"I’m tired of cleaning up the yard," a union leader shouted. "I will not do it unless I get more eggs."
But there were not enough eggs, and the yard was left to grow filthy. The goose became morose and stopped laying eggs altogether.
"It costs too much to feed the goose at all, now that there are no eggs," the mob shouted. "What shall we do without golden eggs to sell that we might buy food?"
The communist wolf, which everyone had believed to be extinct but which had been reintroduced by the environmentalists, stirred and licked its chops. He grinned and said:
"There is no problem. There is plenty for all of us to eat. We will seize the goose and kill it. Then, we can share the parts. No one will go hungry, although a few will have less than before."
This they did, the communist wolf leading the way, followed by the liberal (who denied knowing the wolf), the populists, the environmentalists, and the union leader. When the goose was slaughtered, plucked clean and roasted, not a tear was shed, for he had been regarded as a selfish bird. There was great celebration as every inch of his flesh was devoured, with the wolf leading the singing and cheering.
The next day, the people noticed that they had nothing more to eat, that there was no goose to lay golden eggs for them, and that there was no way to buy food.
"What shall we do now?" they cried out. The populists had no answer. Neither did the liberal, nor the environmentalists, nor the union leader.
Then, they all looked at the wolf, who grinned again.
"You told us to kill the goose and eat him," they shouted with rage. "Now, we have no goose, no golden eggs, no nothing. You are to blame!"
And they picked up stones and marched toward the wolf, who bared his huge, sharp teeth.
"You may have no golden eggs, no goose and no food. But I have all that I will ever need," he sneered.
And he devoured each and every one of them. When there wasn’t a soul left in the land of Consumption besides the wolf, he rubbed his belly, found the last comfortable spot in the yard, and went to sleep. Forever.
Moral: The goose has great nobility when soaring in flight but can get cantankerous when his detractors clip his wings and force him to stay on the ground. But those detractors eventually are forced to acknowledge that life without him is a pain in the neck. In fact, it is impossible.
February 17, 2003
Richard Cummings [send him mail] taught international law at the Haile Selassie I University and before that, was Attorney-Advisor with the Office of General Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D, where he was responsible for the legal work pertaining to the aid program in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author of a new novel, The Immortalists, as well as The Pied Piper — Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream, and the comedy, Soccer Moms From Hell. He holds a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.