A goose that lays golden eggs and the metaphor of interdependence


“One day a countryman going to the nest of his Goose found there an egg all yellow and glittering. When he took it up it was as heavy as lead and he was going to throw it away, because he thought a trick had been played upon him. But he took it home on second thoughts, and soon found his delight that it was an egg of pure gold. Every morning the same thing occurred, and he soon became rich by selling his eggs. As he grew rich he grew greedy; and thinking to get at once all the gold the Goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find nothing.

Aesop’s moralisation is based on a simple idea: greed often overreaches itself. We know this story already, but I’m going to make another interpretation of this very story, and it’s about how to define and categorise dependence, independence and interdependence. The dynamic of Aesop’s story can be simply put:

Goose – Golden eggs – Countryman.

By doing so, we see more clearly the very source of relationship between the goose and the countryman. The goose delivers gold to the countryman, and the countryman’s richness is totally dependent on those golden eggs that the goose offers. He is enough lucky to have the goose that lays golden eggs, even though the goose wouldn’t discriminate to deliver gold only to him. It is the nature for the goose to lay daily what is coming out through deliver pain. But at the same time, the value of the goose is recognised by the countryman who offers shelter to stay, food to feed and care to bare. The goose also, although not necessarily with the very countryman, needs him to live. The golden eggs were the promise of such cohabitation until the countryman showed up with a sharp knife on his hand. Thinking of the golden eggs, independently are valued high away from both the goose and the countryman, we can set up another relation derived from the former one;

Interdependence – Independence – Dependence.

These are surely abstract terms in that it is hard to concrete a separate definition away from one another. Especially the terms themselves are different forms of relationship, as so defining those terms needs to be done in relations with other terms to meet the fair definition. Stephen Covey dictated in his book ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’ about the path towards interdependence as a major goal of personal and social effectiveness. His points can be summarised as: “independence is much more mature than dependence, surely. Independence is a major achievement in and of oneself, but independence is not supreme. Independence empowers us to act rather than be acted upon”. Then he further argues that the supreme stage would be interdependence and that should be the goal of personal development.

Also as the author argued, in current capitalist system which maintains its accumulation model from resource extraction either from nature or from human, modern profit business focuses on the independence as the ultimate goal, and urges the individuals to be independent golden egg, morally and economically valued as oneself. This paradigm links to the fact that independent individual exercises consumption in a greater volume than before. Education system is focused to meet this societal demand, giving students better opportunities to turn themselves into golden eggs which would be tradable with higher price tags in the labour market, only to be worn out at last. Golden eggs represent materialisation and auto-robotisation of production that matters in value trade of current economies. So the former relation can be shaped again in economic perspective as such:

capacity of production – capital of production – pattern of consumption.

But this re-categorisation still encages in supply-demand orthodoxy, where the capacity of production takes charge of supply while the pattern of consumption takes charge of demand, then at the equilibrium point the capital (materialised golden outcomes) is valued (as in price). Basically, even though we drive the conclusion that interdependence is supreme form of relation, it becomes retaking the importance of production economy where GDP means mere growth. In such sense we are still wandering between being a capital of production and being a part of consumption pattern, or to say, between the golden eggs and the countryman. Being interdependent, or to say, to have a sort of capacity of production, as a goose, seems a far agenda only for global 1%. Is this presumption fair? Yet we have seen philosophical movements to shift the economic paradigm from supply to demand based economy, or from overproduction to degrowth state.

Chances are that the former relations mentioned above count with importance in that all individuals have different characters in society where one encounters as interdependent, others as independent and the others as dependent. What if the utopian perspective prevails where most individuals reach to be interdependent? So we should imagine the world of gooses, all interdependent on one another;

Goose – Goose – Goose.

They lay golden eggs every day, so there will be exceeding gold, which eventually makes the value of gold to drop drastically. A goose that lays a golden egg is valued by its capacity that produces scarce capital. Deductively, the world of gooses would be sustainable with current existing exchange system of capital dependency, and same stories goes for the imaginary world of golden eggs (a world of independent people). It’s an irony then, in this world that urges individuals to be independent or interdependent, the world itself could sustain its claim only when dependence prevails. If we go back to the Aesop’s story, the tragedy comes when the countryman became greedy enough to open up goose’s belly to reveal the secret of gold production, which didn’t go well. Let’s pretend that the countryman was an academically educated scientist, then examined biological, physical and chemical equations to reveal the source of goose capacity. Would it have done any difference to make the countryman (dependence) to turn into a gold-laying goose (interdependence)?

At least, the day that goose’s belly was cut off widely opened, the countryman had a romantic dinner of golden flavours.

From the beginning we tried to define interdependence with relation of dependence. Countryman became dependent only because his goose started to lay a golden egg. If the countryman didn’t know of this goose or golden eggs, then kept working hard in his farm he could not have reached the tragedy of losing the source of golden eggs. This is the beginning of communist way of thinking and its work ethics, deriving from the Marxist perspective of dividing work value and capital value. As the history proved already, the world of all dependent people (the world of countrymen) isn’t sustainable either. So we reached the conclusion: the world is a repetitive story where a countryman becomes dependent on goose, admiring its interdependence, yet trying to be independent as the society tries to turn himself into a materialised capital. This is, perhaps, the modern capitalistic mechanism of how dependence-independence-interdependence-relation works.

Maybe this conclusion gives a justification to sniff at moralising claim to be independent. I would reply that if you are a countryman, you are okay to be dependent. If you a golden egg, reserve your independent value. If you are a goose, Voilà! you keep lay eggs contributing a materialisation of value, or sacrifice yourself to be a part of fine dinning. This isn’t an only story and it won’t stay such.

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