The Ant and the Grasshopper : An Inequality Fable
Once upon a time, my children, in a small thicket there lived a young grasshopper that liked to sing and dance all the live long day. He was a smart grasshopper, as grasshoppers go, and he came from a good and loving family. Unlike some of the other forest insects the grasshopper never wanted for much, because his parents were both good and successful.
One day a small boy trying to complete a science fair project came and put both of his parents in a glass jar, stealing them away forever. This made the grasshopper quite sad, as you might imagine. He mourned for what seemed like a proper amount of time, and then he returned to his life of singing and dancing all the live long day.
Now in this same thicket lived a very large colony of ants. They were an industrious lot, and spent all day every day toiling, working hard each day to make sure that there would be enough food for the winter – which as everyone knows arrives each year come what may. That summer after his parents had been taken away, the grasshopper would call out to the ants: “Come, ants, play with me!” The ants just scolded him and said, “If you want to succeed, you must work hard! For if you do not, what will you eat come winter?” But the grasshopper had never labored before, and as he did not think that it looked like much fun he politely declined.
Well, my children, as you know winter indeed comes to all places, and so it was for the grasshopper’s thicket. He was alright at first, but as the snows continued to fall and the months began to pile up he found himself without food, just as the ants had warned. Having no other choice, he went to the ants with hat in hand, and begged their queen for food.
Now, the queen was was wise and kind, and so agreed to feed the grasshopper. However, the queen knew an opportunity when she saw one, and she knew that the grasshopper came from old money. “I’m feeding you now,” she said as he gorged himself on the ants’ winter larder, “but I do worry that next year another a younger ant might try to be elected queen in my place. Perhaps you could spare just a bit of money for my reelection campaign?” And so began a beautiful partnership.
Now the grasshopper was no fool, and once winter subsided and the first blades of grass began to poke through the thawing ground, he decided that if he did not wish to labour he would need to find a way to keep himself in the pink. He used the money his parents had left buying the ants’ businesses, and investing the profits of those businesses with banks both far and near. Also, once the businesses were secure, the grasshopper found that he could make more money by closing them down, and reopening them in a thicket across the pond, where food was quite scarce and those other ants would do the work for far less pay. He was a very clever grasshopper indeed! As the year wore on, the grasshopper found that his chest of money grew until it dwarfed what his parents had earned.
Late that summer, the queen came to the grasshopper and asked for a favor. “I am glad that you are so successful in your enterprises, grasshopper!” said the queen. “But I fear that because you are sending our supplies across the pond we are in danger of having too little food for the winter. Might I ask you to bring some of those jobs and supplies back to this thicket, that all insects will be able to eat this winter?”
“It’s not my affair if people can’t do an honest day’s work,” scolded the grasshopper.
“But they do,” countered the queen, “they are very industrious. They wish to work, but many of the jobs are gone, as is much of the food. Even those that work two jobs may not be able to afford to feed their families this winter.”
“I do not deal with Socialists,” said the grasshopper coldly, and threw the queen out.
That fall a new queen was elected with the financial backing of the grasshopper, on a platform of jobs and freedom. The old queen had been very nice, but the new queen was even nicer! She not only let him buy the thicket’s banks, she graciously lifted troublesome banking regulations that allowed the grasshopper to make even more money on investments by using the ants’ pension funds on risky gambles the ants were not aware were happening. She also kindly eliminated the mean-spirited rules that made him disclose accurate financial statements to other investors. Soon the grasshopper had more treasure than any insect in the history of the thicket.
Now I am most sorry to have to tell you this, but that winter was a tough one and many of the banks the grasshopper had taken over collapsed because the books were not as they were reported, and the risky investments did not all pan out. But fear not, my children, because the grasshopper was clever enough to have cleared most of the profits through commissions prior to filing bankruptcy, and so was even richer than before!
When they discovered what had happened to their life savings, many of those lazy, lazy ants began to complain loudly about the lack of winter food, and their inability to get money from the banks that had collapsed.
“Don’t look at me,” said the grasshopper in an interview on FOXNews. “I can’t help it if ants are lazy. If they loved food so much, why didn’t they divest their banking investments and put ten million dollars or so in the bio-tech markets last summer like I did? Duh.”
Now my children, despite the grasshoppers wise words most of the ants were as lazy and shiftless as they had always been, and they made petty excuses that they were actually working more hours now than they had when the grasshopper’s parents were still alive, and yet they could barely put food on the table. Ants, you see, are whiners and not job creators. The colony survived that winter, but it was tough going for most of the ants.
Things in the thicket continued to be hard for the ants that spring and summer. Because of this, the new queen was most unpopular, and was overthrown that fall by the new, new queen, whose campaign was financed by the grasshopper and who ran on a platform of jobs and freedom. But as wonderful as the new, new queen was, my children, as the winter came there simply wasn’t enough food for the colony. They went to the grasshopper, since it was common knowledge that he now now had a winter larder the size of an oak tree. He told them all to leave him alone. “If you people really wanted food,” he said to the ants, “you would have heavily invested in Apple thirty years ago.”
With that, the ants had had enough. They dragged the grasshopper from his home and tore the legs right off of him, and then cut his head off and put it on a pike right next to the head of the new, new queen, and they cursed the grasshopper’s name forever more. The new government that the ants formed was based more on anger and spite than rational thought, and so things actually got much worse that winter and it was a very, very long time before things got better in the thicket.
Moral: We tend to forget this, but it isn’t only in the poor’s interest to keep inequality from getting out of hand.