The sheep story continues…
Note that the traveller represents the recession, the rich man is the wealthy of this country and the poor men are those on benefits or otherwise below the poverty line. The poor man who may (or may not) have stolen a sheep represents those who may (or may not) be cheats, scroungers or work-shy.
Another traveller comes to the rich man for food. The rich man doesn’t particularly want to feed this man, but knows someone has to. He doesn’t feel it is necessarily his responsibility either, or at least not his alone. The traveller could have asked anyone for food, not just him, so it isn’t fair if he pays all the cost.
He also has a suspicion that a local man (also poor) may have stolen one of his sheep. He’s not totally sure, because he has so many sheep that it’s difficult to know if one’s missing. He also has no idea who (if anyone) has taken it. So he decides the best thing to do is to take one sheep away from everyone who is poor (He won’t take a sheep away from the middle-income people. He trusts them not to be scroungers or thieves; after all they’re the ‘hard-working’ ‘tax-payers.’).
That way he makes sure that the person who took his sheep doesn’t get ‘something for nothing.’ This is a very big priority for him. He feels very strongly that he deserves all his wealth, it is totally merited, and so he should be allowed to keep it all. He put something in to get that money; none of it was got through any element of chance or good-fortune, none of it is an excessive salary for the effort he puts in, and any tax avoidance schemes are legal therefore he is allowed to use them. On the other hand, some of the poor who engage in unscrupulous behaviour don’t deserve to keep all of what they gain, because they got something for nothing. Therefore the poor man who took the rich man’s sheep cannot be allowed to keep it, even if recovering the sheep causes suffering for others.
Of course this means other innocent people then suffer by losing some of what they need, but that is just unfortunate. It is very important to make sure that no-one who is poor gets slightly more than they need and/or doesn’t 100% merit what they get. This is a bigger priority, of more importance, than making sure that innocent people do not end up on a sub-subsistence income.
After all, he is the one who lost out by having his sheep stolen. And he is the one who now has to feed the traveller. Why should he be the one, or the only one, to suffer? Why shouldn’t the poor take part of the burden of theft and unexpected costs? Granted, one sheep to him won’t make a huge amount of difference to his lifestyle, and even if it did it would only mean the loss of some luxuries or higher quality versions of some necessities. But then some of the poor aren’t so poor that the loss of a sheep to them would mean they had to start choosing between necessities. Of course some of the poor are that poor, but there we go. It’s only fair that we’re all in in together, even though it causes such huge distress to some.
So this is that action he takes. One person who may have stolen a sheep then does not gain from the theft. One rich man who may have had a sheep stolen and has to feed a traveller does not have to pay all of the cost himself. Many poor people lose what they need to live on, because one rich man couldn’t accept that he was the only person who could afford to lose a sheep or two. Because one rich man though ‘we’re all in it together’ meant ‘everyone loses the same amount,’ rather than meaning, ‘everyone loses in proportion to what they can afford without being reduced to sub-subsistence income.’