The magic pig analogy
By Chris Clancy
Imagine, at some time in the future, that a new world fiat currency was about to be born. Let's call it the Omega!
Imagine too an old professor arguing against it to his students.
"It will go the way of all fiat money," he says directly, "reckless debasement and inevitable collapse. A day will come when the whole world wakes up and all they'll be holding will be worthless pieces of paper. It doesn't bear thinking about."
"But professor," one of the students said, "this time it will be different."
"Not a hope, I'm afraid to say."
Many members of the class were enthusiastic about the new currency. They had confidence in the people who would administer it. Government propoganda had been very effective.
They started to call things out.
"What about the euro? If all of the countries in the EU can successfully use one fiat currency why not every country in the world?"
"Yes, and there'll be no need to hold reserves in other currencies."
"And no uncertainty due to currency fluctuations."
"No conversion expenses."
"And no more currency crises."
Things started to get a bit rowdy.
The professor raised a hand to quieten them down.
It was clear to him that they struggled with the notion that fiat money would always eventually corrupt those who were in charge of it – regardless of who they were.
He waited for silence and then he began:
"Let me tell you a story," he said, "which will end with just one question – just the one - after which I will simply leave it at that."
A man was driving after midnight on a warm summer evening. He was out in the country and had lost his bearings. He strayed onto a dusty old dirt road. He was very low on fuel. He kept going until he was hopelessly lost. Eventually the engine of his convertible started to splutter and then conked out.
So there he was, stuck in the middle of no-where – with no cash either. He thought about calling someone but there wasn't much point – he didn't even know where he was. He decided to sit tight for the night. In the morning he'd set off on foot for the nearest town, maybe hitch a ride if he was lucky, get some cash and then some gasoline.
He listened to the radio for a while, then shoved in a CD and then put on a DVD. He wasn't in the mood for any of this and then remembered he had a vacuum flask filled with whisky in the boot. He didn't like to be seen buying alcohol when he was on the road – it didn't give a good impression.
He left his lights on in case someone happened to pass by and then sat back in his car and looked up at the sky. So many stars. Such a beautiful night. He took a few belts from the flask – he felt relaxed – he took a few more belts – and a few more.
As he drank he thought about where he'd got to in life. He couldn't complain he thought to himself. He had a great job and plenty of money in the bank; he had a beautiful home and lived in a community where he was highly respected. Widely known as a loving husband and devoted father - a man of integrity, honesty and an animal lover to boot.
No, he didn't have much to complain about and a lot to be thankful for.
Eventually he drifted off to sleep.
When he woke up it was still dark. For a moment he didn't know where he was. His head felt terrible. He reached for the flask and shook it – it was nearly all gone. No wonder he felt so rough. He stumbled out of the car for a leak. When he finished his foot hit against something. He gazed down. As his vision cleared he saw it was an old bottle.
He made a grab for it and fell over. He hauled himself to his feet using the car door for support. He shaped up to hurl the bottle as far as he could. However, as he did so he could feel that it wasn't empty. He peered at the label. It was covered in dust. Clumsily, he gave it a rub.
All of a sudden a genie streamed out.
"What in the hell!" he cried.
He rubbed his eyes and shook his head. God-damned booze, he thought fuzzily, I'm beginning to see things. He looked back up.
It was still there
"I am the genie of the bottle," it said solemnly.
The man steadied himself.
"Of course you are," he slurred, "whatever happened to the lamp?"
"Things are not what they used to be sir."
"Look, whoever you are, just tell me where the cameras are?"
"But there aren't any sir."
"Listen, if the proceeds go to charity Ill go along with it, believe me."
"But I assure you … ."
"OK, OK," the man said, "I'll play along. Let's just get on with it."
There was a slight pause.
"Right then, you have one wish."
"Wait a minute, I'm supposed to get three ain't I?"
"Put it down to inflation."
"OK, whatever you say … let me think for a minute."
The genie hovered patiently as the man deliberated
"Any wish?" he asked.
"Except for the old trick of wishing for a million wishes!"
"Again, put it down to inflation."
"All right, all right, just hang on a second. OK … let's see … well … hmmm … right now I could certainly do with a few dollars."
The genie made to clap his hands together and in a booming voice he began …
"Your wish is my … ."
"Wait, wait, wait!" the man cried, "that wasn't my wish. I was just thinking out loud."
"But you said you wanted dollars?"
"But I didn't say I 'wished' for them?"
"Technically this is true but I'm afraid I'm going to be strict with you."
"What do you mean?"
"You're wish must be about getting dollars – there's no negotiation here."
"And this time you're on the clock sir."
"How long have I got?"
" … 1 …2 "
"Let me think! Let me think! …"
" … 3 … 4 "
"Oh my God! Dollars, dollars …"
" …5 … 6 "
"Umm … ehhh … "
" … 7 … 8 "
"Uggghhhhh … "
" … 9 "
" … 10."
"Thank you sir," said the genie.
The man leaned heavily against the car.
"What denomination of bills will sir require?"
"Pardon?" he gasped.
"Ones, fives, tens … "
"Your wish is my command."
The genie clapped his hands together like thunder and a great plume of white smoke appeared. As it cleared the man saw that a large pig had materialized. It immediately started snorting and mooching around the place for something to eat.
The man looked at the pig and then at the genie.
"Would you care to illuminate?"
"Why yes of course - it's a magic pig."
"Yes – you can use it to create real one hundred dollar bills."
"Can you please explain how?"
"Certainly - what you need to do is give it a slug of whisky and then a good kick."
"And then what?"
"And then wait a few moments and a real one hundred dollar bill will pop out of its backend."
"What the f… !"
"Trust me – it will work every time."
With that there was another clap of thunder, a plume of smoke and both the genie and the bottle had disappeared.
The man's head began to swim – he felt drowsy and nauseous – he collapsed back into the car and fell unconscious.
When he awoke it was daylight. He had a terrible hangover. The alcohol had left him parched. He had one bottle of water – he downed it all in one go. When his head cleared somewhat he remembered the strange dream he had had – the bottle, the genie, the pig. As he wondered what it all meant he heard something like a snorting sound. Under normal circumstances he was not a man to be easily spooked. But something inside him moved uneasily. He leveraged his body out of the car. He was relieved to see nothing there. Then he heard the snorting sound again. He knew he wasn't imagining this. Cautiously, he made his way around to the other side of the car.
Indeed, there stood a pig.
It ignored him.
He was a rational man. He knew that everything had a rational explanation. The pig must have come to the car when he was asleep. Subconsciously the sound of it snorting mixed with the alcohol in his system produced that crazy dream. Yes, of course, that was it.
He sat and waited for someone to come by.
Minutes turned into hours.
The pig remained near the car– still idly mooching and snorting around the place.
His head throbbed. He was hot, thirsty and hungry.
His mind began to wander - what if – just what if – he found himself thinking.
At last he thought what the hell. He still had some whisky left in his flask. In spite of the voice in his head saying that this was madness he found himself looking up and down to road to make sure no-one was around. He fetched the flask from the car. Before he administered the whisky he had another look up and down the road. He caught sight of some dust being kicked up in the distance. It was a vehicle of some kind.
Thank God, he thought, I must be losing my friggin' mind. He swore he'd never touch another drop.
He tried to hail the vehicle down. It drove straight past. A few hours passed before the same thing happened again.
That's it he thought, time to start walking.
But how far and how long would it take?
Eventually he thought once again, what the hell, let's give it a try!
He fetched the flask, poured the last of the whisky into the pig and then gave it a kick. The pig squealed. A few moments later, to his amazement, a 100 dollar bill appeared! The ringing sound of one of those old cash registers came to mind.
The man stared at the bill for some time, almost mesmerized, trying to make sense of it all.
He didn't hear a car pulling up.
The driver took him to the nearest gas station. It was a long drive. At the station he purchased gasoline, food, water – and a bottle of whisky. He had paid with his new $100 bill. The attendant had had a good look at it – he didn't trust strangers – it was the real thing.
The driver returned him to his car and then went on his way. The pig was still there. This did not surprise him for some reason.
He went to work on it.
After some time the bottle was empty.
While the pig was sleeping it off he counted his dollars. He had a good think about what an incredible position he was in – being able to make money out of nothing. He knew it wasn't right but he didn't feel bad about it either. No-one in his position would do anything else – would they?
Even the most shining pillars of society would yield to this kind of tempation – wouldn't they?
Totally out of character he began thinking in a selfish and furtive manner.
He knew it couldn't go on forever – there was only so much the pig could take – but if he didn't do it someone else would - maybe someone would take it off him – people would kill for something like this – better go for it now – make hay while the sun shines – and to hell with what happens to the pig!
He headed for the gas station again - this time he returned with a crate!
Many hours passed before he headed for home – alone.
A few days later a minor news item on a local radio station reported, "Drunken pig found kicked to death."
"Well," asked the professor, "if you were him, what would you have done?"
His answer was a stony silence.
Chris Clancy, has been living and working in China for the last 7 years. He is currently employed as associate professor of financial accounting at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan City, Hubei Province, PRC. © 2011