The Story of Ug and Thug – The Origins of the Modern Economy
A long time ago, long before the discovery of silver and gold, there lived a man named Ug. Ug lived in a community of people who were happy and prospered well for that time, herding sheep, raising cows, and growing grain.
One day while Ug was fishing in a stream near his home, he noticed a shiny rock exhibiting its countenance through the crystal clear water.
“That’s a nice looking stone,” Ug thought as he retrieved it from its resting place.
As Ug pondered on the discovery he had made, he wondered what use this pretty rock could have. He decided that although the rock was beautiful, it served him no real purpose; so he threw it back.
Now that he had discovered the existence of the rock, he began to notice that the stream bed where he was fishing was full of the peculiar looking stone.
Ug’s neighbor, Thug, was a lazy sort, and spent many a day down by the stream idly dreaming up ways he could get out of the responsibilities of work that were required of him by the community of people where he lived.
One day, Thug noticed the shiny rock that his friend, Ug, had discarded.
“Hey!” thought Thug, “I bet I could convince Ug’s wife that this pretty stone is worth a mammoth meat pie.” (Something Thug loved to eat, but was too lazy to make himself.)
Thug took the stone and fashioned it into a trinket and gave it to Ug’s wife, who upon seeing it, immediately fell in love with its shiny attributes.
She made Thug his pie, and couldn’t wait to show off her new trinket to her friends.
“Wow!” thought Thug. “If Ug’s wife liked the stone, maybe all the other women will like one too. I’ll never have to make another mammoth pie again!”
Thug went down to the stream bed and gathered up all the shiny rocks he could find.
When the other men’s wives wanted a shiny trinket like Ug’s wife, their husbands searched in vain for the rocks Thug had already taken. The other women were distraught that they could not have a trinket like Mrs. Ug. These women began to pester their husbands until the pestering became unbearable.
The men went to Thug and asked him for some of his shiny rocks for their wives.
“What will you give me for one of these rocks?” Thug asked.
“I will build you a fence,” said one man.
“And I will give you three cows to put inside the fence,” said another.
Soon Thug, the laziest man in town, had the best house, barn, fence, and animals in all the community. Thug spent most of his time looking and digging for the now “precious” stones. The more he found, the less there were for others to find.
It wasn’t long before Thug made a list of the things for which he could trade his stones. He divided his stones up into groups according to size. The littlest stones he traded for a cow, a sheep, or an ox. A bigger stone he gave in exchange for a new shed to be built on his land. And the biggest stones … well, these he kept for himself because he knew he could break them into littler stones that he could trade for practically anything he wanted.
Ug’s cow died and he didn’t have any way to procure milk for his growing children. He asked his wife if she would let him have her trinket so he could trade it to his brother (whose wife had one but wanted two) for one of his cows. Reluctantly, Ug’s wife gave up her trinket so that her children could have milk.
Ug traded the stone for one of his brother’s cows.
Ug’s brother, Shrug, took the stone, which was way too big for just one cow, and traded it to another neighbor for six sheep and five bushels of wheat. Ug’s brother never told him that his wife’s stone was worth more than just one cow.
Shrug knew that his brother needed a cow more than he needed a stone that he couldn’t eat, wear, or sleep in; so Shrug decided he had done his brother a favor. And for the favor; he would get more for the stone than what he gave for it.
This situation went on for some time.
Before long, the stones were worth much more to the people of the community than any of their other possessions.
One wise man set up a little business by the bank of the stream where the stones had first been found. His wise premise was to help people save their stones and get more stones by lending them out to others in return for a bigger stone than what they had borrowed in the first place.
When this man lent out a stone that was the size of a walnut, he told the borrowers that they would have to pay him back a stone the size of an apple. When the bigger stone was paid back as agreed, the man would then chip off a little bit of the apple-sized stone for himself and give the person who had deposited his stone in the business a stone which was bigger than what he had originally deposited.
“What an easy way to get more stones without finding any, or trading anything for them,” boasted the man.
Since his business seemed to be successful by the bank of the stream, he called his business,
Soon the people of the community were spending far more time figuring out ways to get and trade stones than they were raising things to eat, making things to wear, or building houses. It wasn’t long before there were lots of stones lying around that no one could eat, wear, or live in. The people began to die from hunger and the cold outside, or they were killed by someone wanting their stones.
Ug analyzed what had happened to his community, and called the people together and told them what Thug had done. He explained that Thug had taken advantage of all of them because he didn’t want to work like the rest of the community.
He made Thug’s name known throughout the land as a lazy con artist who took advantage of the peoples’ industry for his own good.
His name has been infamous ever since.
It wasn’t long before Thug killed his brother for speaking against him; and because of Thug’s riches and power, no one cared.