The Price Maker: Foolishness

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, a king ruled over Benares in northern India. The Royal Price Maker was a very honest man who served as one of his ministers. He was tasked with determining a reasonable price for anything the king wished to buy or sell.

The king did not always approve of his price setting. He didn’t make as much money as he had hoped. He didn’t want to buy something for a high price or sell something for a low price. So he made the decision to alter the price maker.

He once thought, “This fellow will be good for my price making position,” after spotting a nice-looking young man. He then fired his previous, trustworthy price maker and replaced him with this man. The man reasoned, “I must buy at very low prices and sell at very high prices to make the king happy.” He therefore inflated the prices without giving a damn about what anything was worth. This brought the rapacious king great wealth and brought him great joy. The king’s other ministers and common citizens alike, as well as everyone else who dealt with the new price maker, all started to feel extremely unhappy.

Then, one day, a horse trader with 500 horses to sell descended upon Benares. Stallions, mares, and colts were present. The merchant was welcomed into the palace, and the king requested the assistance of his Royal Price Maker to determine a price for all 500 horses. He said, “The entire herd of horses is worth one cup of rice,” with the sole intention of pleasing the king in mind. The horses were then brought to the royal stables after the king ordered that the horse dealer receive one cup of rice.

The merchant was obviously very upset, but he was helpless at the time. Later, he learned about the previous price setter, who was known for being extremely fair and honest. He went up to him and explained what had occurred. In order to get the king to offer a fair price, he wanted to hear his opinion. The former price-maker declared, “If you follow my advice, the king will be persuaded of the horses’ true worth. Return to the price maker and reward him with a priceless present. In the presence of the king, request that he explain the cost of one cup of rice. Come tell me if he agrees. I’ll accompany you to the king.”

The merchant went to the price maker and presented him with a valuable gift after taking this advice. He was overjoyed by the gift and realised how important it was to win over the horse dealer. The merchant then informed him, “I was delighted with your earlier assessment. Please persuade the king of the worth of a single cup of rice.” Why not? the price maker asked foolishly. Even in the presence of the king, I will explain the value of one cup of rice.”

The price setter therefore assumed that the horse dealer was content with his cup of rice. As the merchant was leaving for his own country, he set up a second meeting with the king. The old price maker received a report from the merchant, and the two of them then went to see the king.

The royal meeting room was filled with the king’s entire court and all of his ministers. The horse trader informed the king, “My Lord, I realise that my entire herd of 500 horses would only be worth one cup of rice in your nation. I’m curious as to how much a cup of rice is worth in your nation before I depart for home.” What is the cost of one cup of rice, the king asked his devoted price-maker.

The herd of horses had previously been valued by the foolish price maker at one cup of rice in order to appease the king. He wanted to please the horse dealer now that he had received a bribe from him. So, in his most dignified voice, he replied to the king, “Your worship, one cup of rice is worth the city of Benares, including your own harem, as well as all the suburbs of the city. In other words, it is worth the entire Benares kingdom!

The assembly hall’s wise men and royal ministers erupted in laughter as soon as they heard this, slapping their sides with their hands. They said after a brief period of calm, “The kingdom was described as priceless earlier. We have just learned that Benares, with all of its mansions and palaces, is only worth a cup of rice! The Royal Price Maker’s choice is so peculiar! Where did your highness discover a man like that? He is only useful for making a king like you happy; he is not useful for setting fair prices for a trader who sells his horses from one nation to another.”

The king was embarrassed after hearing his entire court’s laughter and his ministers’ and advisers’ comments. He reinstated his former price maker in his official role as a result. He consented to the honest price maker’s new fair price for the horse herd. The king and his realm prospered and lived justly after learning their lesson.

The moral is: A fool in high office can bring shame even to a king.