Saturday, April 28, 2007

Big Enders and Little Enders - Idelogical Difference

Commentary by Oleksandr Shepotylo
Ukrainian Observer

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift is one of my favorite books. It has many allusions to the political situation in 18th century Europe described in a genre of political satire. One of the major themes in the book is the so-called egg dispute between the Lilliputians who preferred cracking open their soft-boiled eggs from the little end, and Blefuscans who preferred cracking the big end.

Deep ideological differences between Big-Enders and Little-Enders even led the countries into war against each other. Lilliputians and Blefuscans could have benefited greatly by ending the war and engaging in free trade to their mutual benefit.

However, the issue that was irrelevant for economic development plagued their relationships and considerably reduced potential for economic growth and prosperity. The seemingly ridiculous and artificial example of the egg dispute illustrates a very deep problem faced by many nations over and over again: ideological differences often prevent political parties from reaching a consensus over mutually beneficial economic policies.

By using this example, Jonathan Swift satirized the animosity between Catholics and Protestants to illustrate how 'trivial' matters often spoiled the relationships between two nations - England and France - and slowed down their economic development.

My task here is to explain how economists view this problem and how, in my opinion, the current political and economic situation in Ukraine is related to the egg dispute.

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1 Comment:

greentea said...

Shepotylo’s essay draws interesting parallels bewteen the fairytale lands of Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” and Ukraine today. It is particularly apropos in relation to the linguistic debate. In the so-called “Egg Dispute”, the Lilliputians (little-endians) prefer cracking open their soft-boiled eggs from the little ends, while the Blefuscans (Big-endians) prefer cracking the big end. These cultural differences, of course, inevitably lead to significant socio-political unrest and conflict, and ultimately to war.

In present-day Little-endia, legislation has been enacted to preserve and safeguard the little-end, which is the only allowed National End for cracking purposes. The little-endians stand around waving Little-endian flags, guarding the eggs to make sure that the Big-endians do not get away with any big-ended wisecracks, which are of course banned and actively discouraged in Little-endia. As the eggs in Little-endia are jostled around, the big end is covered and fiercely protected, so that only the National End can be cracked. Meanwhile, the neighbours all around Little-endia busily spend all their time building bigger and better henhouses, so there will be more hens, and more, bigger, tastier eggs. And the people themselves decide how to crack and eat their eggs.