The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back, a Parable about An Economy in Distress

There is an old Middle Eastern tale about a poor farmer.

He lived in a  mud and straw hut , with his wife and three teenage daughters.

He owned 3 old camels .

Twice a year, at the Spring and Fall solstice,  he would pack the camels with large bags of straw and wheat.

He would kiss his wife , hug his three daughters, and then he would set off  for the 10 hour trek to the market at Dandalia.

This was a very important trip for the poor farmer, who  hoped to sell his produce and earn enough money to keep his family alive for the next 6 months.

Upon arriving in Dandalia , he would join with farmers from all over the Province . He would then set up his assigned booth, and displayting his wares.

The market would last for two full days,.The crowds were boisterous and the din was deafening. By the end of the second day, the farmer would count up his meager earnings, repack the now  empty hemp  sacks, and  tie his three camels into a caravan.

The return trip home was always much quicker, because he and Gabor, his young helper could ride the tired old camels.

One morning the farmer awoke and  found his two neighbors waiting for him in the front yard.

They offerd the farmer  bags of straw as additional produce  to bring to market.He could keep 50% of the profits for his trouble. 

The farmer was excited. With the extra money he could keep his family secure and comfortable.

The day before Spring Solstice was  cool, with a brisk gusty wind.

The farmer brought out the three old camels, and proceeded to load his bags of straw, 

He looked at the camels. They were  pretty well loaded, but he was determined to pick up the additional freight from his neighbors.

He arrived at Abmar’s yard and found 8 additional bags waiting for him. 

The camels were  loaded with much argument and posturing.

The farmer and the heavily burdened camels walked to  Fardeneen’s yard

There he found Fardeen and five additional bags of straw.

Loading the camels required a ladder, a makeshift pulley assembly and also a great deal of  discussion.

Each camel in turn staggered as the additional burdem was placed on its back. Their knees trembled, and they shifted unsteadily.

“Well,” said the farmer,” I guess I’ll be on my way.” He shook his head,” I don’t think these camels could carry another ounce of freight.”

Just then, Fardeen’s 12 year old daughter, came running out of the house. She was holding a large straw doll wrapped in a scrap of pale grey cloth. It was 2 feet tall, and had been made by weaving stalks of straw together, then dyed and clothed.

“Daddy, Daddy” she gasped, her arms wrapped around the doll’s body to hold it steady. ” You promised I could sell Esmerelda at the Solstice Market. I need the money to buy cloth for my new clothes.Mother says I am turning into a little woman, and need larger more appropriate dresses.”

He turned to the farmer,” Well ? Will you take  the doll and sell it for my Mindlee?”

The farmer looked at the three ,seemingly unsteady , overburdned camels.” I’m afraid to add any further burder to these camels. They are important to feed my family. I don’t think they can carry another thing.”

Fardeen looked at the farmer. “Come on Hamoken, share the wealth. Give my little girl a chance to get some pretty cloth for dresses. We can’t afford the cloth unless she sells the doll.”

He shook his head. ” I don’t want to disappoint  you but these camels are carrying the burden for our entire community. Let someone else share his wealth. They can’t carry any additional burden.They’ll break down.”

The farmer looked up, and spied the local tax collector approaching from the East.

Tax collector Sninndl looked at farmer Hamoken and smiled. ” I am here on the Governors business. As I’m sure you know, the irrigation project failed due to sabotage from our enemies. We are now  faced with many new poor and starving residents.

It is the Governor’s decree, that a 25% tax will be placed on all new business above last years totals. 

 New business is to buy you a  luxury .That new wealth should be shared with those citizens who have the need.”

The farmer looked distressed.” After the extra cost for a slower trip and paying for the extra market space necessary, it will not be worth anything to carry all this extra weight.”

The tax collector sneered.” The Governor has already been told of this extra tax on your load in our report to his scribes. You will have to carry the load to earn the money to pay the tax, even if it does not pay you very much.”

The farmer’s shoulders sagged. He knew he was stuck. He was being forced to do all this extra work .

He turned to Mindlee and gave her a half smile.” Come on, give me your straw man, if we can carry all these taxes for government giveaways, we can carry a little more straw. After all, straw is so lite.”

He took the straw doll, and placed it carefully on  top of the lead camel’s pile of straw filled bags.

The camel turned its head toward the farmer, and gave him a long sad look.

They heard a crack, the camels back broke, and it keeled over…dead.

The moral of the story.Too much taxation is a backbreaker


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