An old parable goes as follows:
A farmer from a small village was in debt to a notoriously crooked moneylender who just so happened to have a fond eye for his daughter. Of course she had no interest in him however. The moneylender pleaded with the farmer to convince his daughter to marry him, but the farmer refused.
After a particularly bad drought the moneylender, upset with the farmer for his refusal to help him with his desire for the farmer’s daughter called in debts he specifically knew the farmer could not pay. The farmer pleaded for more time. The moneylender refused.
A few days later the moneylender arrived at the farm with the proper local officials to claim the man’s farm for himself as payment for the debts. Again the farmer begged for more time. The farmer’s daughter cried and pleaded with the moneylender as well.
At this time the moneylender offered the farmer a deal. He really did not have an interest in the man’s farm. He would have much rather continued making interest of the loan. But if the farmer’s daughter would marry him, he would give the farmer as much time as he needed to pay his debts. He would even give him a favorable rate. The farmer and his daughter were shocked. The farmer immediately refused. But the cunning moneylender did not give up. He wanted the farmer’s daughter, not the farmer’s farm after all. He said that perhaps they should fate should decide.
The money lender proposed a gamble. He pointed to the gravel road covered in black and white pebbles. He would put two pebbles from the road, one black and one white, into a bag. The farmer’s daughter would then pick one. If she picked the black pebble, she would marry him and the father’s would have all the time he needed to pay off his debts at a favorable rate. If she picked the white pebble, she would not have to marry him and her father could still have more time to repay his debts at favorable rates. If she refused to pick a pebble however he would foreclose on the farm and her father would be thrown into jail.
Again the farmer refused. But as the officials were preparing to arrest the farmer his daughter, who cared deeply for her father, stepped forward. She said she would take the gamble.
Her father told her not to. But her mind was made up.
The moneylender pulled out a small bag and reached down to the ground, picking up two pebbles. But the farmer’s daughter noticed that instead of one of each color, the moneylender picked up two black pebbles and put them in the bag. He then held out the bag and told her to make her choice.
The girl needed to decide quickly what to do. To most it would seem that she had but three choices. She could refuse to pick a pebble knowing her fate had already been decided. But in doing so she would condemn her father to prison and they would lose the farm. She could grab the bag from the moneylender and show the officials with him that he was a cheat. But if she did, she knew the moneylender would become irate and find some way to take it out on her family. She could have also simply picked one of the two black pebbles and submitted to being the moneylender’s wife to save her father’s farm.
But the girl was sharp. She knew there was another option. It was one that she had not been given. Quickly she reached into the bag with the officials looking on. As she drew the stone out she fumbled it and quickly dropped it. The stone mixed with those on the road and was lost among all the others before anyone could identify it.
“Oh dear!” she exclaimed. “How clumsy of me!” Then she explained. “But it is ok,” she said calmly. “We can simply look in the bag and see which color pebble remains inside. Then we will know the color of the pebble I had picked.”
The officials looked in the bag and saw the black pebble. Therefore, they assumed, the farmer’s daughter had picked the white pebble which meant she did not have to marry the moneylender and her father would have more time to repay his debts at favorable rates.
So how does this relate to today?
Our federal government often acts the same way as the crooked moneylender in this story. They give us limited choices with which to solve problems, problems often created by themselves, to get their way. Then they try to make us do what we want us to do under the veil of choice. They claim to give us choices but then put two black pebbles into the bag and force us to choose one of them.
But if we notice that we are being scammed, we can find a way to look at real solutions to the problem and come out ahead. Yes, even when those who think us our betters have stacked the deck, or the bag of pebbles as it may be, in their favor.