Negative sum cider

July 16, 2009 in General

Nemo and I have been engaged in a very enjoyable debate about zero sum games, and with all this talk of transactions I'm reminded of the following Chelm story (for those unfamiliar, this staple of Yiddish storytelling is a fictional town entirely populated by fools):

Two men are transporting a horse cart of apple cider back to Chelm on a hot August day. One of them is very thirsty and says he wants a drink. The other driver says there are no unpaid drinks allowed. The first man has a single kopek and offers it in payment; it is accepted and the first man drinks. Ten minutes later, the second driver gets thirsty and hands the same kopek to the first man in full payment for the drink he now serves himself. Shortly thereafter, the first driver returns the kopek in exchange for another drink...

The drivers finally arrive in Chelm and find the barrel dry. Thinking over how much cider they sold, the first driver excitedly reaches into his purse to count the profits. After a second, he looks up at the second driver and exclaims, "We've been robbed!"

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