Beyond Here There Be Dragons
by Terry Hogan
Once upon a time, there was a town that was in a very cold part of the earth. The occupants could not keep warm and were subject to death by freezing. But one day, a bright young lad came upon an idea to keep the town warm.
The town approached a small band of fire breathing dragons. The dragons were about the size of humans but produced much heat. A deal was struck. The dragons came to town and lived the life of leisure. The townsmen provided food and drink for the dragons, in return for the warmth the dragons provided the town. The village’s economy boomed as less time and resources were spent just trying to keep warm. And all went well. For awhile.
The dragons, being dragons, and now no longer being subject to energy expenditures and perils of hunting for food, grew bigger and fatter. The dragons also lived longer and produced more dragons, having so much more free leisure time on their hands. As the dragons increased both in size and number, the town’s citizens had to spend more and more of their time and resources to satisfy the needs and wants of the dragons. But on the bright side, with the dragon-boom, temperatures rose and the citizens were able to save time and money by making cheaper homes, with less insulation as the cold was not longer a threat. The villagers were also able to grow tropical crops that were in great demand elsewhere. Traditional cold-weather crops were abandoned, replaced by the more profitable cash crops. Heat was abundant and cheap. All was good and the economy continued to grow.
But the dragons also continued to grow and reproduce until a disproportionate amount of the village’s work and tax money were absorbed by dragon-related costs. The village’s economy ceased to grow. Taxes increased on income to pay the dragon O&M costs. Dragon servants were reaching retirement age, adding additional associated costs for past dragon services.
The mayor of the village approached the dragons and suggested that there were just too many dragons for the village to support. The mayor suggested that the dragons should take on more responsibility for feeding themselves and competing in the wild for prey as a way of controlling the dragon population.
But the dragons were not receptive to having to compete among themselves and against other predators for the food in the wild. The dragons said “We are too big to be allowed to fail. We are too important to the village’s economy; if we are allowed to fail in the wild, cold temperatures will return to the village, killing the citizens and freezing the crops that are no longer resistant to cold weather.”
The village was “in a pickle”. If it borrowed money that it had no reasonable likelihood to be able to repay, the village would soon be bankrupt. If the village raised prices for its cash crops, the crops would not be bought and they would rot in the heat. On the other hand, if the village stood firm and insisted that downsizing the dragon population and forcing the dragons to compete with other predators for available prey, the dragon population might “crash” and bring mayhem to the village economy. The return of very cold weather was not a cheery though to the villagers, who now wore shorts, played golf year around, and enjoyed early retirement after serving the dragons for 25 years. There seemed to be no way for the village to win; rather only different paths for loss.
The village held an election and voted in a new mayor. The old mayor wasn’t all that bright, but he was bright enough to know he was getting out of office leaving a real mess for the new mayor. He was as glad to go as the villagers were glad to see him go.
The new mayor was determined to re-negotiate a deal with the dragons. But the dragons felt like the current situation was to their liking and that no restructuring or downsizing of the dragon population was necessary. The dragons liked the status quo just fine.
So how did the village and the new mayor resolve their dispute with the dragons? I don’t know. The story is yet unfinished.
But I do know,
Beyond here there be dragons*.
*Early map makers sometimes added this observation at the edge of the map, indicating that the unknown lay beyond that point.