A Keynesian parable

During the Korean War, ten wounded American soldiers were taken to a special hospital ward. Each of the soldiers had lost a leg, and in this ward medical experts were testing a new treatment that they hoped could regenerate the legs. The soldiers were treated and left to recover.

A major battle happened up north and these doctors were transferred out and new doctors transferred in. The next morning, a bright young doctor with an Ivy League education took over the ward. In addition to medical training, he’d also learned the newest Keynesian economics and taken it to heart.

The experimental treatment had bizarre results. Five soldiers woke up to find their missing legs regenerated, but each of the other five awoke to find that the treatment had caused him to lose his remaining leg. Five soldiers clapped and cheered, and five moaned and cursed fate.

The new head doctor arrived on site and asked the nurses about the vital signs they’d been checking on throughout the night. All ten had normal temperatures and so on, but the nurses became alarmed by the commotion they’d just heard when the soldiers woke up. The doctor assured them he would take it from there.

As he entered, he saw five beaming faces and five grimacing faces. He checked under all the blankets, made notes on his clipboard, and left. The nurses were waiting for the news.

“I don’t see what all the fuss is about,” he told them. “Nothing’s changed. Ten men, ten legs.”


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