Once upon a time, there was a farmer that possessed a very special goose. The goose was special in that it laid a golden egg every day.
The farmer soon became rich beyond his wildest dreams, for gold is a stable investment with high intrinsic value that also acts as a hedge against the fundamental instabilities of the fiat currency that was used in the farmer’s kingdom at the time. So he was able to sell the eggs far and wide.
But soon the farmer became greedy and impatient. He demanded that the goose lay more than one golden egg per day. However, since the goose had a 90% market share of the golden egg production industry in the Kingdom — and she was contractually required to lay only one golden egg per day — the farmer didn’t really have any leverage.
“Goose!” he begged. “Please lay me more golden eggs. My capitalistic greed hath driven me to consume far in excess of the marginal utility of that which I consumed, and I have accrued hundreds of golden eggs’ worth of debt.”
“I have a better idea,” said the goose. “I am only able to lay one golden egg per day, both physically and contractually. But the public doesn’t know that. So this is what we’re gonna do. We’re going to set up a golden egg futures market.
“It’s a new space; totally unregulated,” the goose continued. “Here’s how it will work: People will speculate on the price of golden eggs today, tomorrow, next week, next year, etc. Some days, we will tell them I laid no eggs. On these days, we will stockpile the eggs here in the barn, creating artificial scarcity in the golden egg market and driving prices up. Other days, we will release many stockpiled eggs into the market. In this way we can manipulate the golden egg futures market to serve our own ends, causing prices to fluctuate wildly whenever we choose.
“Meanwhile, you will run our marketing campaign. You’ll convince the most famous bards in the Kingdom to promote golden eggs in the pubs and taverns, on busy street corners, and in the Halls of The King Himself. We’ll cut the town criers in on the deal, so that they’ll announce nothing but good news for our little enterprise. Within a few fortnights, even peasants and other layfolk will start investing in our futures market, driving even more money into the pot. With an ever-increasing demand and the supply of golden eggs totally under our control, we shall bend the market to our will.
“By the time the idiots know what hit them, we’ll have escaped to an island paradise to live out our days in luxury. Preferably one where geese are the dominant species.”
When the goose had finished, the farmer jumped with joy. He didn’t really understand any of what she was talking about, but he knew they were about to get rich.
So the goose and the farmer set up the golden egg futures market, and the money started rolling in. The greatest bards in the Realm sang tales of the virtues of golden egg investing. The town criers lauded their innovative and groundbreaking business acumen. Everybody in the Kingdom was in a golden egg frenzy. Although, it should be noted, very few of them had ever actually seen one.
The market fluctuated wildly, but the goose and the farmer seemed always to be one step ahead of the curve, buying and selling at just the right moment. The people loved the action, and the goose and the farmer made money at every turn. When the price of golden eggs reached its highest point yet, the farmer approached the goose.
“Goose, our plan worked great. We’re richer than ever!” he said. “Whatd’ya say we cash out and escape to that island you were talking about?”
“Not yet,” said the goose. “Things are good, sure, but there’s still a lot of money to be made, and Mama Goose wants a new yacht. We’d be fools to pull out now.”
“Okay,” said the farmer. “You know best. Let’s wait a little longer.”
And the goose was right. Over the next few months the price of golden egg futures fluctuated more wildly than ever. Finally, the price rose so high that a single golden egg was worth as much as a castle. And, indeed, the farmer and the goose bought many castles. They even tried their hand at various side ventures: they founded a company that made scythes that didn’t accidentally chop your toes off every time you used them (the farmer’s idea), and another company that made small chunks of bread (the goose’s).
They were making more money than ever, but the farmer grew concerned. Regulators had started getting involved. Golden egg black markets were set up in the darkest corners of the Realm. Their entire enterprise had become so complicated that even the goose no longer understood where the money came from, where it went, or how nobody had yet caught on to the fact that the entire thing was a fraud. So the farmer approached the goose, entreating her once more to take their profits and retire.
“Goose, I think it’s time we cash out,” he said. “I’ve got regulators breathing down my neck. Everything is out of control.”
“You’re right,” said the goose. “It’s been a good run, but time to call it quits. The price of golden eggs just hit a record high. We can buy as many islands as we want. But we have to be careful. We’ll have to move assets fast, but not so fast that we draw attention. I’ll start making the arrangements.”
So the goose started making the arrangements to transfer their assets and set up their new life on a bucolic island where geese were the apex predators.
That’s when the bombshell hit.
The goose’s and farmer’s financial records had been leaked to one of the loudest town criers in the Kingdom. By the next day, everyone within earshot knew they were a fraud. The news spread like wildfire that the entire golden egg industry was a scam. The price of eggs plummeted. The goose started pumping stockpiled eggs into the market in a vain attempt to control the downward spiral, but it couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Investors were furious. It was rumored that assassins had been hired to wring the goose’s neck. The goose and the farmer no longer feared just for their fortunes, but for their lives. In a mad rush they packed their things to escape to Honk-Honk Island, which they had purchased before the fiasco. The farmer and the goose fled their castle with nothing but a sack of golden eggs and the clothes and feathers, respectively, on their backs. When they made it to the port they boarded their ship, entreating the crew to set sail; but the crew refused. They offered to pay them in golden eggs; the crew laughed in their faces. They threw the two of them into a dinghy with the eggs and tossed it into the sea.
They floated for days without food or water, farther and farther out to sea, the worthless sack of golden eggs lying in the boat between their feet.
“Stupid, useless eggs!” the goose yelled. She threw the sack overboard. Then she laid another egg and threw that overboard, too. When she turned around, she saw the farmer looking at her, his mouth watering and eyes mad with hunger.
“Don’t even think about it,” said the goose. She waddled back to the stern of the boat, but there was nowhere to run. Since they got rich she had become too fat to fly or float, and anyway she was too tired. The farmer lunged and grabbed her by her gooseneck. They struggled for a few seconds, until, on the horizon, a miracle.
“A ship!” the goose yelled. But to the farmer, whose hands were still around her neck, it just sounded like crazy goose honking. “A ship!” she cried again, but still to no avail.
With one final effort, she pecked the farmer in the eye with her beak, and he loosened his hold.
“A ship!” she cried, and at last the farmer heard her. He turned around, and sure enough, there was a ship fast approaching their position.
“We’re saved! We’re saved!” cried the farmer. They hugged in a warm embrace, the salty tears running down their faces. For a brief moment they remembered their days back on farm, before the golden egg futures market, before the yachts, before the castles, when they would lie in the hay and sing one another tales of love and seasonal migrations.
“Hey,” said the farmer. “No hard feelings about the whole trying-to-eat-you thing, right?”
When the ship arrived they were pulled onto the deck. There before them stood the Lord High Constable and a retinue of soldiers. They were under arrest for securities fraud.
After a short stint in the dungeon, the goose was released in exchange for her testimony against the farmer. She had always worried they might be caught one day, so she was prepared. She had made sure the paper trail all pointed back to farmer. Also, she laid golden eggs. Sure, the price had crashed recently, but it would rebound. When it did, she would certainly be a nice asset for the Royal Coffers.
The farmer got his island after all. He spent the rest of his days imprisoned on a secluded dungeon rock in the middle of the sea. Guards who worked there said he would often stare out across the water with tears in his eyes, honking madly in some long-forgotten goose language.
Once the news cycle had moved on and the town criers had stopped crying about golden eggs, the goose was appointed Special Economic Advisor to The King. She went on to a long and successful career in government.