Economics & Essential Skills
Homework: Read the following story and answer the questions that follow on your own piece of paper.
No Room for a Sneeze
This is a story my old Lithuanian Grandma told me many years ago. Here’s the story as well as I can remember:
Once upon a time a poor farmer, his wife and three children lived in an average sized farmhouse. But as all of us feel dissatisfied with some part of our lot in life, the woman began to complain to her husband that their house was too small. “This house is so small, there is no room for a sneeze! Go to the wise man on the mountain and ask him what we must do for more room.” She nagged and complained so much, that the poor farmer couldn’t take any more and told the wife he would go see the wise man at the top of the mountain for help. After a day’s journey, the farmer reached the quaint house of the wise man and told him of the predicament at home. The wise man, thought for a few minutes. “You are to go home and bring the chickens into the house to live.”
The poor farmer bowed and thanked the wise man and returned home to relay what the wise man had told him. Being that the order came from the wise man, the wife said nothing and complied. Within a week, there were chickens racing around the house, getting into the food and laying eggs in very inappropriate places. Within a week, the wife ran screaming from the house and told her husband, “You simply have to go back to the wise man. The house is certainly no bigger. The chickens are everywhere!”
Again the poor farmer trudged up the mountain and asked the wise man for something new to try. The wise man, thought a few minutes and said, “Leave the chickens in the house, but bring in the pigs from the sty.” Thinking this strange, he returned and relayed the new strategy to his wife. Shaking her head, she complied, hoping that soon her house would be bigger.
Less than a week later, the poor wife ran screaming from the house. The chickens were still doing what they had done before. Now there were pigs chasing around in the house, lying about on the floor, sleeping, and sticking their noses into every piece of food around. “You must go back to the wise man,” she ordered, “Things are even worse! I can’t take these pigs and chickens all over my house!”
The farmer meandered up the mountain, wondering what the wise man might suggest this time. The new order was one he certainly had not expected. The wise man told the farmer, “Move your cow from the field into the house.” With great dread, the farmer hesitated to go back home, but it was, after all, what the wise man had suggested. So the cow was brought into the house.
Less than three days, the wife ran screaming from the house. “The cow switches her tail and gets it in the food, she takes up so much space in the house, she’s noisy with her mooing. The pigs are worse than they were before, noisily running around in circles chasing each other and the children and eating everything in sight! The chickens are roosting in the rafters, laying eggs all over the place, pecking around on the floor under our feet. Go now, and talk to the wise man and tell him that none of his ideas are working. What else can we do? “
Again, the poor farmer trudged more wearily up the mountain and with much anxiety repeated what his wife had said. The wise man thought for a moment and said, “Now go home and remove all the animals from your home. See what happens.”
The farmer relayed the message and the words were hardly out of his mouth than the animals were sent scurrying out of the house. The next two days the wife and children cleaned the house, swept the floor, washed the tables and chairs and windows and invested a lot of time to make the house their home. The wife never complained again about the size of their home and was so proud of her newly cleaned home, she never even wanted to move. This home was her home and she and her husband and the children lived there for many years and there was always enough room for a sneeze.
Questions to ponder and answer:
1. This is a story about the most fundamental of economic principles: Scarcity. What is the “econ class definition” of scarcity?
2. I don’t get it. If the problem is a scarcity of space then why was the woman content to stay in her small house?
3. This story was on old folktale. What is the moral of the story?
4. Relate this to your life. Relate a time when all you needed was an attitude adjustment to cure a “case of the scarcities.”
5. Is the “wise man” in this story a metaphor?
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