Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Trojan Piggy Bank - A Greek Comedy

The Trojan War dragged on; neither side could deliver the knock-out blow. The Greeks came up with a cunning plan. They made the Trojans a "peace offering" - a giant, hollowed out wooden horse. Little did the Trojans know, inside this equine gift lay scores of Greek soldiers. Despite some initial doubts, the Trojans eventually took delivery of the horse and in the dead of night the soldiers jumped out and opened the gates, allowing the Greek army to flood in and sack the city.

Some time later - a lot later in fact - the Trojans came up with a cunning plan of their own: They called it the Trojan piggy bank. This was an ingenious hi-tech counting machine that could make people believe that they had more money than they really had. The royal adviser explained it to the King:-

"You see, boss, these Greeks, they love their money. And not only that, they love anybody that deals in money - the guys they call the bankers."

"No kidding?"

"Yeah, these guys, the bankers, can't get enough of them, the Greeks. Treat 'em like Gods."

"Like Gods, eh?"

"You better believe it, boss. See, these guys, these bankers make a packet. They're the richest guys around, most powerful guys around. And that's because people depend on them, depend on them for everything."


"Like everything. They borrow from them, they lend to them. They entrust their life savings to them, they borrow fortunes from them. If they want to go shopping, it's the banks that let them do it. If they want to buy property, it's the banks they need to get the funds. Every single aspect of their daily lives depends on bankers and banking. Without them their whole world would fall apart."

"Interesting... Okay, so what's the deal?"

"Okay, so here's the deal: Way I see it is, if we could somehow convince these Greeks that this money they love could go for ever, convince them there was an inexhaustible supply of it, then they'd keep on burning this money up like there was no tomorrow. They'd keep on shopping. They'd keep on building and buying houses. They'd keep on spending, spending, spending. They'd become addicted to money like it was some kind of a drug or something. With me so far?"

"Think so. But how exactly do we convince them of that?"

"Okay, so here's the clever bit. We offer them this Trojan piggy bank I was talking about earlier. Don't ask how it works exactly. It's technical, full of algorithms and stuff."


"Greek word, boss."

"Greek word, eh? What does it mean?"

"Basically it's a clever piece of mathematical chicanery - gadgetry if you like - contained in this Trojan piggy bank. It allows these bankers to believe they can go on borrowing money, go on lending money. It allows ordinary folk to believe they can go on spending money. It allows politicians to tell people that these happy days, they'll never end."

"Right. Think I'm with you so far. And, then what?"

"Okay. The point is, it's chicanery, and that's all it is. It allows people to think happy days are here, but - and this is a big but - only if they keep on believing happy days are here. However if they start doubting happy days are here, then the whole Trojan piggy bank starts to crumble."

"I see. And then what?"

"Well, by then, everybody's so addicted to this so-called inexhaustible supply of money, and everybody has borrowed and lent so much of it, that if it runs dry, the whole of this Greek society of theirs, it implodes. They cannot function anymore. It's night night, sweet dreams."

"Or not such sweet dreams as the case may be."


"Okay, okay... I think I like it, this idea of yours."

"Thanks, boss. But, just one sec, here's the other clever bit."

"There's more?"

"Oh, yeah, there's more. See, in the meantime, while this Trojan piggy bank is working its magic, what we in Troy are doing is, we're building up our reserves of money. We're saving, saving, saving, not like these Greek guys who are spending, spending, spending. We'll be working hard to earn it I grant you - it'll be no picnic. But, at least at the end of it, we'll have something to show for it. And so, by the time these guys have wrecked their society with their addiction to money, we'll have a stack of new money ready to offer them."

"Okey dokey. And then what?"

"Well, then we march in there, not with soldiers but with our money, with our largesse, and we clean up."

"What if they don't want to sell?"

"They'll have no choice, boss. They'll need our money."

"Yeah, I like it. I really like it. But this all depends on their bankers and their politicians buying this Trojan piggy bank idea, right?


"And, do you think they will?"

"I'm sure of it."

"How so?"

"You see, it's all about greed, boss. In the early days, these bankers will make a packet out of all this chicanery. The politicians will be more popular than they've ever been - at least for a while. And by the time everyone realises what a pile of horsecrap this piggy bank is, it''ll be too late."

"Too late."

"Too late."

"You know what? I love it. Really love it."

"Thought you would, boss. It's a beaut, ain't it?"

"Sure is. And I think we should run with it."

"Great, boss."

"Although, there's one thing I still don't understand."

"What's that, boss?"

"The Greeks called their horse the Trojan horse, because they were offering it to Troy. By that account, shouldn't we call our piggy bank the Greek piggy bank?"

"Nah, boss. The word "Trojan" is common currency these days. It's a way of describing any piece of chicanery of the kind we're discussing."

"Okay, I'm with."

"Thought you would be."

"So, Trojan piggy bank it is."

"Yeah, boss. Trojan piggy bank it is."

(to be continued...)