A long time ago, there was a town surrounding a castle that was surrounded by a moat and high walls. The lord mayor of the town lived in the castle. A few thousand people lived in the town that was ruled by that local lord mayor who was appointed by the king of the country.
The main income of the town was generated by fifty or so highly skilled craftsmen who worked in wood, silver, gold and leather. The rest of the people in the town were small farmers, herders or aids to the craftsmen. Some of the helpers were actually apprentices learning a craft, but many were not. The apprentices would spend some years with the expert craftsmen and then either set up their own shop or move to another near-by town to do so.
The craftsmen were the leaders of the town. They planned the town’s business and generated the wealth that allowed the town to flourish and the lord mayor to remain in place. As long as the craftsmen were content, creating new wares, and generating wealth, the lord mayor was secure and the king who appointed him made no changes. In those days kings mostly wanted quiet plus the tax revenue collected from the craftsmen.
The town was known far and wide for its crafts which were sold to traveling salesmen who then went to the next town to ply their wares. Many people from other towns flocked to the craftsmen whose work was of the highest quality. Thus, was commerce many years ago.
One day the lord mayor of the town had an idea. Everyone in the town would now have equal say in the administration of the town’s business. Everyone would be treated the same. The craftsmen would not be the leaders. The intention of the lord mayor was to promote tranquility and keep the king happy, but it was the excellence of the craftsmen-leaders that allowed the town to thrive and the king to stay out of the town’s business. By reducing the influence of the craftsmen, the lord mayor also reduced the economic and political power of the town in the kingdom.
The craftsmen did not take kindly to the lord’s new idea. Furthermore, the farmers and herdsmen and apprentices whose stature seemed to be elevated were incapable of generating the wealth that the craftsmen had traditionally been depended upon to do and they had neither the wisdom nor the judgment of the craftsmen. Soon, the quality of the crafts degenerated as the morale of the craftsmen sunk. Apprentices no longer flocked to the craftsmen to learn the trade and the traveling salesmen found the town no longer an essential stop on their circuit. No people from other towns came to buy the crafts.
What is the lesson of the parable?
Often, in relatively small centers of excellence, there is an even smaller cohort of people upon whom the welfare of the entire enterprise is based. Reducing the influence of the most capable is not a formula for success, nor a pathway to greatness.
In human endeavors, there are the leaders and then there are the others. Often, it is the leaders upon whom the entirety of the welfare of the whole is based. Reducing the influence of the most capable does not create equality. It creates mediocrity.