A Fable

My mate Kev told me a little story this lunchtime that I thought was worth sharing with you, Readership.

Two guys walk into a village, trailing a big cage on wheels behind them. They gather the inhabitants.

“Right,” the first guy says. “I’m in the market for monkeys. Anyone that can bring me monkeys will get ten quid a head for them.”

“Deal!” say the villagers, and off they scurry. Soon, the two strangers are inundated with monkeys.

“Right,” says the first guy when the cage is filled. “That’s a lot of monkeys. I’d like more, but I appreciate they’re in short supply at the moment. So, if you can find any more, I’ll pay you twenty quid a head.”

“Deal”, say the villagers, and off they scurry. They return, with a much reduced haul.

“Now,” says the guy when he’s jammed the monkeys into his cage. “I’m a fool to myself, but I loves me the monkeys. So, if aaaanyone can find me any more of those adorable little furry primates, I will pay them fifty quid a head.”

“Deal!” say the villagers, and off they scurry. This time, most return empty-handed. A couple have scavenged up some scrawny-looking specimens, but on the whole it looks like the village is out of monkeys.

“What a shame,” says the first guy. “Tell you what. The weekend’s coming up. I’m going to take a day or so to take care of some other bits of business. I’ll leave my assistant with you to finish off the paperwork, and make sure things are straight and even. You never know, you might find some more monkeys in the meantime.”

And off he goes.

“You seem like nice, financially astute people,” says the assistant later that day. “So I want to share an idea with you. How about you buy all your monkeys back from me for oh, I dunno, say 35 quid a head. Then when my boss comes back on Monday, you’ve got a fresh new supply of primates to sell him at fifty quid a pop. You’ll make a fortune!”

“Deal!” say the villagers, and buy back all their monkeys at thirty five quid a head.

“Excellent!” says the assistant. “Now, I just have to confer with my boss about something completely unrelated to this deal, and I’ll be back to conclude our business on Monday with him.”

And off he goes.

And the villagers never see anything of the pair of them again.

And that, my Readership, is how unscrupulous financiers go about shorting stocks.

Seems a lot like a cheap, dodgy con, don’t it?


Douglas Rushkoff gives more background to the fun and frolics of the financial marketplace. Moreover, he actually uses plain English, and makes sense. Which, these days, is a bit of a godsend.