Friday Fable. Aesop’s “The Woman and Her Hen”*

Posted by jlubans on June 04, 2015

Caption: Photograph by Robert Doisneau, “Hen on leash”, Paris, France. ca. 1944 (wartime).

“A WOMAN possessed a Hen that gave her an egg every day. She often pondered how she might obtain two eggs daily instead of one, and at last, to gain her purpose, determined to give the Hen a double allowance of barley. From that day the Hen became fat and sleek, and never once laid another egg.”

Aesop’s Woman was not a disciple of less being more. Her hen’s liking of luxury may give credence to the notion of “too much of a good thing”.
But, being a contrarian, here’s another view:
Daryle Singletary writes,
“Too much fun, what's that mean?
It's like too much money, there's no such thing
It's like a girl too pretty with too much class
Being too lucky, a car too fast
No matter what they say, I've done
But I ain't never had too much fun.”

Yet, on the job, I know managers are expected to appear fastidiously frugal and resolutely resourceful. I recall how my going on a paid trip to a conference in Honolulu garnered tsk, tsk’ing and plenty of askance looks.
Budget managers are all about making sure we never have too much fun. That may be a “bean counter’s” chief chore. The bean counter (BC) thinks it is her responsibility to make sure there’s barely enough, and most definitely, not too much. For the BC, less is indeed more, all the while pinching our pennies.
When I teach budgeting I refer to Aaron Wildavsky’s work on budgetary behavior and BC thinking. Some of the latter is illogical and inimical to the best use of budgetary resources:

• “Substantial carryover (a surplus) indicates that the agency does not need as much as it received and cuts will be made in the future.” So, if you have streamlined, reduced expenses and saved your organization’s money, that excess money is hoovered up into the general fund and does not return to your unit (unless you have gotten special permission from the BC or, much better, his superior).

• “Suspicion is raised if the agency comes out even, the budget ends on zero. It is, strangely enough, seen as spending to the limit without considering the need for economy.” So, library friends and colleagues, when you rush to zero out the fiscal year by buying ultra expensive sets of materials that will likely never be used, keep in mind that the BC already knows about this scam, everyone does it. No wonder there’s never any money for the really important stuff!

• “If the agency runs out of funds it may be accused of coercive deficiency trying to compel more funds on the grounds that a vital activity will suffer.” A very risky process, unless you are protected from the top. In any case, those who have to pay for your debauchery will detest you, but then you may not care!

*Source: FABLES By Aesop Translated by George Fyler Townsend (probably from this edition): “Three hundred and fifty Aesop’s fables”. Chicago, Belford, Clarke & Co., 1886.
Available at the Gutenberg Project.

Leading from the Middle Library of the Week: Luther College Preus Library. Decorah, Iowa, USA

© John Lubans 2015

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