A Tale of Two Nations

How two nations trade to the benefit of all — allegedly

The nation of Importia, so named because it believes itself to be important, had a long and illustrious history. Blessed with natural resources it had developed advanced techniques in production, PR and marketing and, largely due to the latter two rather than the former, had become the centre of turnip production worldwide.

The owners in Importia grew wealthy and, with bribes of extra turnips, were able to transform some of their more mathematical PR specialists into a priesthood they named “Economists”. These Economists praised the efforts of the owners, in particular their daily practice of trickling down on those that did the actual work.

Eventually the natural resources of Importia started to weaken, and the workers became restless — demanding more Alpha (the currency of Importia) so they could buy an extra half-turnip between them. The owners were very displeased and turned to the Economists, demanding they come up with another wheeze to pull the wool over the eyes of the proles.

So the Economists quietly withdrew and drew strange symbols on blackboards in the belief that was slightly more effective than looking for clouds that look like ducks. The operating principle was the same though.

Eventually, after remembering they were marketeers not scientists, they came up with the answer — export-led growth. They would sell more turnips to elsewhere in the world. Just one problem. Nobody else had any Alpha to buy the turnips.

How would they solve this problem?

At this time another nation of the world had arisen in a stunningly convenient manner. The leaders of this nation were keen to join modernity and had heard of the new fashion for export-led growth. They invited the Economists of Importia to speak to them and, like a fox entering a hen coop, they accepted with gusto.

So impressed were the leaders of the new nation with the proposals, that they named their country Exportia in honour, and thereby neatly avoided an even more contrived plot device.

The production of turnips would move to Exportia, exploiting the fresh natural resources and willing Prana fueled workforce. Exportia would then sell the turnips to Importia for Alpha. To avoid the dreaded “Dutch Disease” that the Economists warned about in the most serious of tones, Exportia would maintain a sovereign wealth fund by investing in the assets of Importia with their Alpha.

It was very fortunate that the workers of Exportia could exist on praise, pats on the head and Prana, otherwise this mildly amusing parable would rapidly become a rather dull treatise on Calculus.

Which, funnily enough, is precisely the tool the Economists used to give their wheezes an unwarranted air of gravitas.

And so the workers of Importia were dismissed, the turnip fields ploughed up and replaced with shanty towns. The once proud workforce existed on a handout of far less than one turnip, supplied as charity from the owners, when once they had aspired to one and a half.

The owners of Importia continued to have as many turnips as before, and kept the turnip ration of the Economists high so they would continue to espouse the virtues of export led growth.

And growth there was indeed. The owners of Importia, on the advice of the Economists, had securitised their holdings and split them into a 100 million shares. During the first period the price was 100 Alpha per share and the Exportia wealth fund, mindful of the warnings of the Economists to invest, spent their 10,000 Alpha earnings from turnip sales on 100 shares in Importia. Their net worth zoomed from nothing to 10,000 Alpha overnight.

The leaders of Exportia were ecstatic and they nearly gave themselves an injury patting themselves on their back.

The next year Exportia earned another 10,000 Alpha selling their turnips to the owners in Importia — from whom they had bought the shares. This year though there were fewer shares to buy and the owners in Importia were slightly more reluctant to sell. The price crept up to 100.01 per share and the Wealth fund of Exportia dutifully bought 99 more shares in Importia.

The leaders of Exportia were ecstatic again. They now had 199 shares in Importia and due to share price growth they were 4 Alpha better off already than they were when they started the new regime. Export led growth clearly led to very great riches.

And so it went on. After 20 years Exportia had managed to amass 1783 shares in Importia and the wealth fund was up to 178,618 Alpha. The leaders were very pleased with themselves. How much wealth they had created from nothing just by following the Wise Economists sage advice.

A little boy had pointed out that the owners in Importia appeared to be just as wealthy in Alpha as they ever had been, even though they now owned fewer shares, and received all the turnips, even though they did nothing for them other than bestow the odd turnip on the ex-workers of Importia.

But nobody listened to the boy. After all, the previous week he’d said that the leaders had been walking around naked when it was patently obvious they were dressed in the finest clothes.

That story, though, is for another day.

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