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Joseph Explains to Pharaoh How to Make Money

June 27, 2008
Robert Juhl
Penang, Malaysia
A satire about the decline of the US dollar, written in a mock biblical style reminiscent of *Private Eye's Old Testament-based spoofs.

In the last days of the ancient world, the people of Egypt loved their chariots above all. Each chariot was pulled by many horses, and each horse was an oats-guzzler, consuming many barrels of oats per mile traveled. And the land of Egypt was bountiful in all but oats to feed the horses to pull their chariots. So the Egyptians traded with the lands of the Arabites, which had plentiful oats. But the Arabites wanted gold and silver for their oats. Pharaoh was vexed and called Joseph the Wise to counsel.

"The Arabites want gold or silver for each barrel of oats," he complained. "Our treasury will soon be empty. What shall we do?"

"You should give them pieces of papyrus instead of pieces of gold and silver," counseled Joseph.

"What counsel is this?," exclaimed Pharaoh. "Papyrus is worthless!"

"You should sign each piece of papyrus and call it a buck," said Joseph, "Then it is fiat. That means it is magic, backed by gold or silver in the royal treasury."

"But what if the Arabites accept our bucks and find out later that they are still only papyrus?," asked Pharaoh.

"They will by and by," said Joseph. "But in the meantime the people of Egypt will have oats for the horses of their chariots. And by then another Pharaoh will be on the throne, and you will not be left holding the bag of bucks."

Pharaoh was pleased and ordered his scribes to prepare pieces of papyrus to be bucks.

The Arabites were at first doubtful when the Egyptians presented the bucks in place of gold and silver. So they called their elders to counsel. "Pharaoh is supreme leader of the greatest power on earth," the elders reasoned. "Let us therefore believe his word." And they accepted the bucks. And soon other lands, from the land of Cathay to the land of the Rising Sun, gladly took the bucks.

Then the land of Egypt overflowed with oats from the Arabites and goods from far lands and the people became fat and happy and loved their chariots more. Each family vied with the other to have many, yea, even the unshaven youths had their own chariots. 

Meanwhile, the coffers of the Arabites overflowed with the bucks of the Egyptians. Yet the Arabites grew not wealthier. And they called on Aaron the Wise to explain this.

"You must demand many, many more bucks from the Egyptians," counseled Aaron. "And more importantly, you must use the bucks, not keep them in coffers. Pass the bucks to the people of Cathay. They will give you many things you lack."

The Arabites did as Aaron counseled. And the people of Cathay accepted the bucks of the Egyptians gladly, for they too believed the bucks were magic and they wished to become rich like the people of Egypt. So they sent many goods to the Arabites and Egyptians and other peoples who paid with the magic bucks. And the Arabites too grew rich in goods beyond their dreams.

Meanwhile, Pharaoh again became vexed and called Joseph to counsel.

"The Arabites demand too much," he complained. "My scribes make the pieces of papyrus into bucks day and night, but can not keep up. And my soothsayers in the think-tank say a time of hardship is coming. What is to be done?"

"You must scale back the people's consumption and expectations," said Joseph.

"But the people are fat and happy and love their chariots above all," said Pharaoh. How can I make them cut back?"

"Here is the way," said Joseph. "You must make the people feel guilty. Tell them the earth is a goddess and they have offended her sorely by using too much of Her bounty. Tell them they much now sacrifice much to appease the goddess. This year, each family must sacrifice one chariot and an extra tithe of income to the government, and the government will ensure that the sacrifices go, ah, directly to the goddess, heh, heh. But you must act now. While the people are fat and happy they will praise you."

And Joseph winked, and Pharaoh was greatly pleased and ordered the royal announcers to inform everyone in the empire that the goddess of the earth was angry. And the people praised Pharaoh for interceding with the goddess to appease her with their sacrifices.  And by and by, with the praises of the people ringing in his ears, Pharaoh retired, making way for a new Pharaoh.

Under the new Pharaoh, the government kept demanding sacrifices to appease the goddess of the earth. But soon the people of Egypt began to murmur, saying, "The government calls for more and more sacrifices to appease the goddess. Every year the tax-man comes with his whip and demands we sacrifice a chariot or an extra tithe of income to the government. So the government is rich and gives its supporters sinecures to live in luxury, whereas we the people are grown poor and forced to labor long. It is as Joseph predicted: the papyrus of Egypt is become worthless, and we are left holding the bag of bucks."

Meanwhile, the coffers of Cathay bulged with the bucks of Egypt. And the wise men of Cathy said, "It is time. Let us find someone to pass the magic bucks to." And they searched diligently but found no taker. All people of whom they inquired said, "The bucks of Egypt are only papyrus. They lost their magic."

And the wise men of Cathay had to admit, "It is true." And they lamented long, crying, "And we too are left holding the bag."
Robert Juhl Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved, "Not to be republished without written permission from the author." Robert Juhl is a translator, researcher, and writer who lives among warm-hearted people on a island in Malaysia. After a day's work, he relaxes as the sun goes down by attempting to play jazz piano somewhat in the style of Thelonious Monk

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