Where did all the money go?
June 1999: SOMEWHERE IN THE CARIBBEAN
John Crusoe Robinson IV, DVM, struggled with the left oar. The oarlock was partially broken and his left hand was now blistered from the imbalance of effort required to keep the rowboat tracking toward the island. In the boat was a cooler containing 22 injections of killed rabies vaccine usable for most mammals — even humans in a pinch.
John glanced behind him at the palm trees lining the beach. He looked frantically across the main body of the island while attempting to land on an advantageous section of the beach.His journey was coming to an end, and he could see someone waiting in the surf.
The boat seesawed and finally washed ashore, much to his relief.
The figure on the beach rushed over.
"Hey, fella, you arrived just in time."
"Who are you?" demanded John.
"My name is I.M. Inflation. I've been waiting for you all my life. I also know why you've come here."
"I'm looking for Jughead. He wrote me about all the dogs and monkeys," John said.
"Well, he is here but I am the one who needs to talk with you first. I realize you have come to vaccinate the island dogs and monkeys for rabies, and all the islanders are waiting for you. But first you must understand that island law allows a person to own only one monkey or one dog as a pet. I am here to talk about finances."
"Great. Who is paying for the shots?"
"Well, that's just it. There is a grand total of $200 on the island. As you see, no one here has any real need for money. Every year or so, some American dollars wash up ashore and we divide them among everyone. This year $200 washed up."
"How many people live here?" asked John.
"That means we will charge $10 for each vaccination. Seeing that you and your fellow islanders have no other use for the money, I think that is a fair exchange."
The islanders proceeded to bring their one dog or their one monkey to Dr. Robinson, and he charged them $10 per animal.
I.M. Inflation finally came over to the vaccination table and whispered to Dr. Robinson.
"Jughead is the last man on the island. He is very rich, and has six pets. You have used up 19 vaccines. You allotted only one per person, and he has six animals.
"I have two extra vaccines, and thus can vaccinate only three of his animals."
"Doctor, your vaccine is now a scarce commodity, so you can raise your price," said Inflation.
"You are right; he must pay my price. I will charge him $12 per vaccine and he will have to choose which pets he wants to protect."
And so Dr. Robinson vaccinated three more animals, returning to the mainland with more than $200.