Oregon Magazine
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A Public Comedy of Errors 
State Capitalism Obeys the Laws of Supply and Demand


 

Governor Brown, etc.

                The Bureaucrat and the Merchants of Venice, CA

   (A play in one act.  Setting: a table in the Tavern  of the Stepping Goose, Hobbiton, Guernsey-on-Temmes..  Characters: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gloucester the Duke of Earl, and his Royal Majesty, King Henry, former Prince of Whales at Ducksplat-on-Avon)

Curtain:

   “Dost thou knowest of this apparition, Gloucester?  This thing called supply and demand?”
   “No, sire, I do not.  Canst thou enlighten me, so to speak?”
   “Aye, Gloucester, I canst.  Lend me thine ear and I shall explain this contract..” 

(Stage direction – the king pours a dram of bile into a bowl of bitter herbs and hands it to Gloucester, who grimaces as he sips.)

   “Here is the truth of it, Gloucester.  If a man wanteth a fish, and cannot catch one of  his own, he must perforce seeketh out a fisherman.  Yet, verily, if this man liveth far from the sea, what shall he do?  He will go to the merchant and purchase the briny cadaver, will he not?”
   “Aye, lord.  That is what he will do.”

   “Then what if more men purchase than fish do swim to the nets this annum, Gloucester?”
   “The merchant will increase his profit, sire, for as iron is aplenty and gold most rare, it is the latter that has the greatest value to men.”
   “Truly, Gloucester.  And if this demand for fish takes hold across the realm, which of the merchants shall prosper most?”
   “Surely, he that hath early filled his warehouse with the greatest supply of fish, sire.  The merchant who buys too late purchaseth from fishermen who know the risen value of their catch.”
   “Verily, you speak truth, Gloucester, for this is the heart of it.  The merchant who can predict the future owneth the world. ”

   “I begin to see thy mind, sire.  But, I have a question.  What if the merchant pays dearly for the coming catch of many fishermen, and the popularity of fish at the table declineth thereafter?”
   “Exactly, Gloucester.  The price of fish will declineth as well, and those who bought the fish of the future when the price was high, must sell their fish in the present when the price is low.”
   “But to sell for a price less than your cost is madness, sire.  It is the death of the private merchant, because unlike the king, he may not tax the citizenry to cover the disparity of his purchase.”

    “Thus is it better to be king, Gloucester, than a king of merchants, for if the people do not like your price, the king can confiscate their property and send them to the dungeon.”
    “Indeed, it seemeth so, sire.  It is a good thing that you are not elected to your office. The people, seeing this incompetence would surely remove thee from thy throne.”
    “No, Gloucester.  The merchant’s demise is certain, for his electorate is dollars, which always vote true in the end.  But the king’s electorate is the public, which is instructed by the king’s tutors and informed by the king’s criers.  The king may send the blame to the merchants or to those nobles who oppose him, as is his pleasure.  Surely thou knowest that the king is never wrong.”

                          (Exit economic prosperity, stage left)


Original text © 2011 Oregon Magazine  (an update of a 2002 OrMag piece)