The Good, the Bad, and the Stranger

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived two brothers. The first brother was like an ox: strong, dutiful, and hard-working. The second brother was like a rotten apple – useless, menacing, and foul. The first brother set up a small enterprise, which quickly took root and sprawled. Soon, he needed to hire a helping hand. He could either employ his brother, who was wicked and lazy but still a relation, or a Stranger, who was diligent and qualified, but came from some distant God-forsaken place.

At this point the story forks and you, the reader, have to choose which path to take:

– You hire the stranger. The enterprise grows and prospers. Your brother vanishes in misery. Every Christmas you send him a present to an address he has long abandoned. This is the way of the capitalist.

– You hire the brother. He might be trouble, but he is of your own blood. And, on his advice, you close your community to strangers. Soon, your brother stops showing up for work, and when he does, he shows up drunk. You quarrel and curse, but you stay loyal, and the enterprise rapidly goes into wreck. But you go down together. This is the way of the nationalist.

– You hire the stranger. Every month you take a generous slice from your profit and a big cut from the stranger’s salary, and you give them to your brother. Your brother acquires a big TV, junk food addiction, and a feeling of entitlement that leads him to riot every time your contributions are late. But the enterprise survives, and your conscience is clear. This is the way of the socialist.

But, whichever path you chose, the good times come to an end, the fat years are over, and a long and painful crisis settles in the land.

In the capitalist path of the story, the stranger, who has been saving during all the good years, buys the enterprise from you. You ask him to employ you, but he hires his brother instead, and kicks you out of the door.

In the nationalist path of the story, the good times were over long time ago anyways. You had long since reached the bottom, and what only keeps you alive is the deep hatred of your neighbors, which is the one remaining thing that you share with your brother.

In the socialist path of the story, your brother suddenly feels the pain when your monthly contributions dry up. He accuses the stranger of stealing his job and having no right to be here anyways and causing too much trouble altogether. He starts to pester you, to beg, and to threaten. Finally, you succumb, kick out the stranger, and hire your brother instead. But he has never done an honest day of work, so he quickly develops back problems and sues you for damage, which drives the enterprise to its end.

So what is the moral of this story?

I don’t know, you tell me, I’m just the stranger.