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Sunday, August 28, 2011

THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER

I think we're all familiar with the Aesop fable regarding "The Ant and the Grasshopper." I first heard it in kindergarten when the teacher tried to impress upon us the need for diligent work. As you will recall, the fable describes a grasshopper who spent the warm summer months singing and playing while the ant toiled in the fields in preparation for the cold winter. When it finally arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and begs the ant for food who is less than sympathetic as he remembered how the grasshopper wasted his time earlier.

Someone recently told me this was a parable describing the differences between capitalism and socialism, with the ant representing a capitalist, and the grasshopper as a socialist, but I'm not sure I buy the argument. After all, even socialists have to work now and then. Some would even suggest the ants are socialists as they are all working harmoniously together. I don't think this is the case in this story as true socialists wouldn't condemn the grasshopper but would cheerfully come to his relief. However, I don't believe this is how the story was conveyed to me.

No, I think this is a simple lesson in capitalism whereby both the ant and the grasshopper were given the opportunity to work, one elected to do so and was successful, the other wasted his time and failed. This then leads us to the lesson of charity. Under socialism, the ant would be compelled to care for the grasshopper which would, inevitably, lead to problems in morale whereby other ants will question why they should work hard if deadbeats like the grasshopper will be taken care of regardless if they work or not. Under capitalism, the ant may come to the relief of the grasshopper if he is inclined to do so, not because it is mandatory. He may find it in his heart to help the grasshopper, then again, maybe not. It depends on his sense of duty to other insects; his religious training if you will.

When you think about all of the entitlements available in this country, such as welfare, unemployment, food stamps, Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and now Obamacare, you are either a grasshopper singing and dancing or an ant wondering why you are working so hard. It sure seems the government has shifted the balance away from the ant and more in favor of the grasshopper. Just remember, if the ant ever discovers he is not allowed to keep what he has earned, he may very well give up in frustration and there won't be anybody to take care of either the grasshopper or the recently unemployed ant.

Maybe "The Ant and the Grasshopper" is a parable of capitalism versus socialism after all. Hmm...

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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