Economic growth: a fable

Economic Growth a Fable.

This is a Chinese story, maybe 1,000 years old, Wang’s jar.

Wang, a poor peasant who could hardly feed his family, found a large empty jar and took it home.  While cleaning it, he dropped the brush he was using into the jar and suddenly the jar was full of brushes: brushes and more brushes and, for each one that Wang took out, another magically appeared inside the jar.  For some months the Wang family lived from the sale of brushes and, while still not comfortably off, their situation improved considerably.

But one day, while taking brushes out of the jar, Wang dropped a coin in the jar and then the jar filled with coins: coins and more coins.  The Wang family soon became the richest in the village and, so many coins being produced by the jar and so busy were the family, that Wang gave the grandfather, until then useless to him, the responsibility of harvesting the coins with a shovel and piling them up ceaselessly in a corner, piles and piles of gold that continued to increase at a rate that exceeded any extravagance of expenditure.

For some months more the Wang family was happy.  But the grandfather was old and weak and one day, leaning over the jar, he fainted, fell into the jar and died there.  And then the jar filled with dead grandfathers: corpses and corpses that had to be taken out and buried without any hope of an end to this labour: an infinity of little old men that continued appearing from the inexhaustible depths of the jar.  And so the Wang family used all their money and all the rest of their lives burying the dead grandfather a million times over.

As told by Santiago Alba Rico,
Alba Rico, S. (2007). Para una psicología del consumidor: la miseria de la abundancia. (Towards a psychology of the consumer: the poverty of abundance). In I. Dobles, S. Baltodano, V. Leandro, S. Baltodano, & V. Leandro (Eds.), Psicología de la Liberación en el Contexto de la Globalización Neoliberal:  Acciones, reflexiones y desafíos. (pp. 3–20). Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio, Costa Rica: Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica.
translated by Mark Burton.

This entry was posted in economics, further reading, stories. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Economic growth: a fable

  1. 100% organic intellectual says:

    Reblogged this on A Green Deal for the Manchester-Mersey Bioregion and commented:

    This post has appeared on SteadyStateManchester. While not unlike some traditional stories about the perils of unlimited abundance (the goose that laid the golden eggs, Midas, the men who sought gold and found death…) it adds some other dimensions – division of labour, exploitation, generational issues, exponential growth – despite being some 1000 years old.
    It is a small contribution to renewing our understandings of real prosperity.

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