Once upon a time, a man and his wife had a goose named Beckham. They lived in an extensively renovated cottage with 3-phase electrical wiring, while the goose lived in the yard.
Having worked all his life as a farmer with no EPF contribution or SOCSO coverage, the man squandered whatever little money he earned and accumulated over the years on his first love, alcohol (not his wife) – which he used to consume in rather large quantities – and also on various get-rich-quick schemes on the internet.
Now the man and, by extension, his wife were poor, and they grumbled all day wishing to be rich and dreaming of French Riviera holidays and locally assembled European marque.
“I wish I had a bigger house, just like my mates,” sighed the man, although his cottage was pretty solid and hardly resembled a chicken coop.
“I wish I had some sparkling jewels. And a Christian Louboutin handbag would be brilliant as well,” said the wife.
One Saturday morning after the man and his wife had a hefty breakfast of gluten-free almond butter pancakes and an invigorating plate of caramelised warm grapefruit and orange with toasted coconut, they discovered that the goose laid a golden egg. It lay on the ground sparkling and glittering and no one could explain how it happened.
“Look at that shiny thing,” called the wife.
Upon closer inspection, the man realised that the egg was indeed gold or aurum, a bright yellow dense, soft, malleable and ductile metal traditionally thought to have been produced in supernova nucleosynthesis thought to have been delivered to Earth by asteroid impacts about 4 billion years ago.
“It’s solid gold!” the man shouted, and he could scarcely believe his luck.
“It’s worth a fortune!” cried his wife.
They both danced the Gangnam dance in excitement, not even thinking about their fragile and precarious pelvic bone.
“We shall be rich!” the man shouted.
“We shall have a hip replacement!” the wife deliriously roared.
And they danced around again thinking of bags of gold and piles of jewels, until they were quite exhausted and needed a cold drink.
Once they had caught their breath, the man said, “We could be richer than The Oracle of Omaha. Fancy that!”
“And think of all the shoes and wigs that we could buy. We can finally afford a proper Brazillian waxing and that holiday in Bournemouth that you’ve always wanted!” he continued.
The man and his wife could hardly wait to sell the egg. They were fairly bullish about their prospects, despite gold prices remaining rather flat in the last 30 days and had declined roughly 37% from its per-ounce peak in 2011.
“It’s a good hedge and a good long-term investment, and it usually performs well in financial uncertainty and political risk,” said the man.
They thought of all the things they could buy on eBay and finally went to bed after imbibing an obscene quantity of homemade beer. That night, the man had a nightmare in which he bought a moustache on amazon.co.uk and then being chased around Folkestone by a delivery drone.
Sunday morning arrived and the man and his wife woke up with a mild hangover. They had some toast, watched the shopping channel, and for the first time in ages, actually took a bath.
And then they realised that the most amazing thing had happened! Behold! The goose laid another golden egg!
“Just think,” said the wife. “There are 365 days in a year. Most workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year under labour law, and there’s time off for festive period, school holidays etc. My prudent estimation is that the goose still has approximately 300 days to work. That’s 300 eggs and that’s a lot of money, as our capital is practically zero, and OPEX is virtually non-existent.”
“If our goose goes on laying eggs day after day, we shall soon be the richest people in the village. We can buy half of Belgium by Boxing Day next year!” added the wife who obviously had the entire thing worked out, thanks to her years as an undergraduate at the University of Bangor, majoring in Mathematics.
The man did not reply because he was thinking very hard (for he’s a hard thinking man and who could blame him).
“It will take a long time for us to become very rich with only one egg a day,” he thought. He understood too well that the goose’s arse will be very, very sore by then, laying eggs that are solid as rock. As a card carrying associate lifetime member of PETA, the whole thing didn’t sit well with him.
“I want to be rich now,” he said. “It’s better to have 300 eggs now that 300 eggs in a year’s time. You know, time value of money and all that.”
“What shall we do?” asked the wife.
“The goose must be full of gold,” said the man. “If we cut it open now, we shall have all the gold at once!”
“You are right!” replied the equally clueless wife rather tragically. “The goose must be made of gold! Let’s cut her open and see.”
The man fetched a carving knife and cut the goose open. The man looked inside one half and his wife looked inside the other, and they both instantly felt as if the had been hit by a bus.
They had expected the goose to be full of gold, but there was no gold! All they found was plenty of blood, assorted innards and all sorts of gooey stuff. They had killed the goose for nothing and it was clearly a miscalculation on their part. The man and his wife realised that they had shot themselves in the foot with their rather short-term thinking. They had killed the goose that laid the golden eggs!
Obviously disappointed but also clearly inspired by Monty Python, the old man started whistling the tune of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. The wife nodded knowingly and promptly went to the kitchen and cooked goose stew and some delicious goose pie for tea.
Life is good, they thought, as they sat and contemplated what just happened.
“There’s no polite way to say this, but what we did was rather daft,” said the man.
“Good thing we still have two golden eggs from Saturday and Sunday,” reminded the wife.
So they went to the market anyway and sold the eggs. They promptly invested the proceeds in an undisclosed apartment near Tate Modern on the cultural South Bank of the River Thames, and just a short walk to the City of London via the Millennium Bridge, for which they paid an undisclosed sum, and they lived happily ever after for an undisclosed number of years.
The story of the Golden Goose entered the business folklore and became the byword for the potent combination of greed and stupidity, a life strategy adopted by many until today.