Day 176 – Aesop’s Fables

June 25, 2009

I came across a PDF version of Aesop’s Fables today, and I spent a while reading them. While reading them, I was struck by the economic principles his fables contained! Though the principles were not named until long after his time, some of his fables definitely contained some ideas that modern economics uses. I suspect that this is because Aesop, much like economists, tried to understand human action. Obviously the two differ immensely, I think the same foundation is there for both. By the way, don’t fall into the trap of thinking economics is all about numbers and money; it is, at its core, trying to understand human action.

The first two show the Subjective Theory of Value:

The Cock and the Jewel

A COCK, scratching for food for himself and his hens, found a precious stone and exclaimed: “If your owner had found thee, and not I, he would have taken thee up, and have set thee in thy first estate; but I have found thee for no purpose. I would rather have one barleycorn than all the jewels in the world.”

The Lioness

A CONTROVERSY prevailed among the beasts of the field as to which of the animals deserved the most credit for producing the greatest number of whelps at a birth. They rushed clamorously into the presence of the Lioness and demanded of her the settlement of the dispute. “And you,” they said, “how many sons have you at a birth?’ The Lioness laughed at them, and said: “Why! I have only one; but that one is altogether a thoroughbred Lion.”

The value is in the worth, not in the number.

This one shows the Prisoner’s Dilemma:

The Ass, the Fox, and the Lion

THE ASS and the Fox, having entered into partnership together for their mutual protection, went out into the forest to hunt. They had not proceeded far when they met a Lion. The Fox, seeing imminent danger, approached the Lion and promised to contrive for him the capture of the Ass if the Lion would pledge his word not to harm the Fox. Then, upon assuring the Ass that he would not be injured, the Fox led him to a deep pit and arranged that he should fall into it. The Lion, seeing that the Ass was secured, immediately clutched the Fox, and attacked the Ass at his leisure.

Here are some more of the fables that I like:

The Goat and the Goatherd

A GOATHERD had sought to bring back a stray goat to his flock. He whistled and sounded his horn in vain; the straggler paid no attention to the summons. At last the Goatherd threw a stone, and breaking its horn, begged the Goat not to tell his master. The Goat replied, “Why, you silly fellow, the horn will speak though I be silent.”

Do not attempt to hide things which cannot be hid.

Hercules and the Wagoner

A CARTER was driving a wagon along a country lane, when the wheels sank down deep into a rut. The rustic driver, stupefied and aghast, stood looking at the wagon, and did nothing but utter loud cries to Hercules to come and help him. Hercules, it is said, appeared and thus addressed him: “Put your shoulders to the wheels, my man. Goad on your bullocks, and never more pray to me for help, until you have done your best to help yourself, or depend upon it you will henceforth pray in vain.”

Self-help is the best help.

The Raven and the Swan

A RAVEN saw a Swan and desired to secure for himself the same beautiful plumage. Supposing that the Swan’s splendid white color arose from his washing in the water in which he swam, the Raven left the altars in the neighborhood where he picked up his living, and took up residence in the lakes and pools. But cleansing his feathers as often as he would, he could not change their color, while through want of food he perished.

Change of habit cannot alter Nature.

The Wolf and the Lamb

WOLF, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to the Lamb the Wolf’s right to eat him. He thus addressed him: “Sirrah, last year you grossly insulted me.” “Indeed,” bleated the

Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, “I was not then born.” Then said the Wolf, “You feed in my pasture.” “No, good sir,” replied the Lamb, “I have not yet tasted grass.” Again said the Wolf, “You drink of my well.” “No,” exclaimed the Lamb, “I never yet drank

water, for as yet my mother’s milk is both food and drink to me.” Upon which the Wolf seized him and ate him up, saying, “Well! I won’t remain supperless, even though you refute every one of my imputations.”

The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.

Aside from reading fables, I had a nice day today. I got up and ran on the track at the high school (and ran a few sets of bleachers) this morning. Amanda brightened up my day by surprising me with bringing me lunch at work! 🙂 Later, I helped my Dad and uncle pick up something in North Olmsted. Then, I spent the rest of the evening getting some web work finished that I have been putting off.