by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
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Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
Chapter Twelve: The Estoffe Flow
"I knew you would come," Aristotle said to Tyler as he peered through the opening. "I knew you would help solve our problem."
"Looks like a day for problems," Cali whispered.
Tyler gave her an annoyed sideways glance and said, "Come in Aristotle."
Aristotle moved cautiously into the structure. He noticed the other two Leornians, Issac and Leonardo, only after entering.
"I'm sorry," he apologized, "I... I... thought you would be alone."
"Come in, Aristotle," Leonardo beckoned, glad to have attention shifted from his own humility.
"Are they going to help solve our problem?" Aristotle asked. "I KNOW Tyler is the one who can help."
Leonardo felt remorse over the time taken with his own dilemma when the locator's problems were so much bigger.
"I knew you would come to help solve our problem!" Aristotle exclaimed.
"Well..." Tyler looked at Cali for help. "I... uh... we..."
"You're the one who can help," Aristotle continued. "I know it. I saw it when you first came to Leornia. I know you are the one."
Tyler was clearly unaccustomed to this adulation and responsibility.
"I... uh... I... don't see what I can... how I can help...." Tyler apologized.
It was clear to Cali that they would never reach the end of the path, a trip out of Leornian, and safety, unless she took control of Tyler's bumbling conversation.
"Exactly what is this problem that needs to be solved?" she queried Aristotle.
"The problem?" Aristotle repeated, thinking very hard on a question that he had never considered. He only knew that Tyler was the key to a solution.
Leonardo offered, "Perhaps I might help. As a former instructor and new arrival in this village, I understand the problem perhaps better than most." He swallowed hard and stroked his ear, summoning his fading instructional talents. "Instructors have not been making much use of my new colleagues' talents. There has been no learners to locate in the real world. There have been no orders to make signs or clothes. And that means no estoffe. The locators need estoffe."
"Estoffe, estoffe," Cali was puzzled briefly. "I keep hearing about this estoffe stuff." Then puzzlement changed to enlightenment. "Oh... I see... You mean instructors give you estoffe for your goods and services?"
The three Leornians nodded.
Then Cali said, "And Issac gave me estoffe for a drink of water. You use estoffe as money."
"Better hang onto your estoffe," Tyler quipped.
"But locators also use estoffe to fabricate clothes, signs, and their homes," Cali thought aloud to herself. "How could they use it as money, too." After a pause, she laughed and slapped her leg. "Of course! It's obvious. Do you see what's happening, Tyler?"
"See what?" Tyler didn't see.
"Estoffe...," she reached for her own pouch and held it up. "This estoffe is commodity money."
"Commodity money?" Tyler responded, still not seeing.
"Yes, commodity money?" Cali said emphatically. "Didn't Professor Francis talk about commodity money in your class? It's something that's valuable as money, but also valuable in use. The locators use estoffe to make goods, but it's also use it to pay for things."
"Huh?" Tyler remained confused.
Cali sighed, "The most important characteristic of money is that everyone is willing to accept it. Estoffe clearly meets this criterion."
"If not for estoffe," Issac interjected, "We would not learn how to make things."
"Why is that?" Cali asked.
"The instructors tell us how to make things," Aristotle agreed, "and we give them estoffe."
"You mean," Cali said, somewhat perplexed, "You pay instructors estoffe for talking to you."
"Why yes," Leonardo said, indignant and somewhat surprised that she should ask. "Instructors do not give away information. Information is very valuable."
"Buy and sell, just like a market," Cali said to Tyler, remembering their introductory encounter on the path.
Tyler nodded, not recalling the significance of anything called a market.
Cali then asked, "What type of information do they give you?"
"Uh," Aristotle thought very hard, "Well... Uh... I think they tell us how to make clothes and signs and stuff." He looked to Leonardo for support.
"Yes, that's true," Leonardo explained, "instructors give locators information about manufacturing clothes; the structures here in the valley; the signs, pouches, and bags used on the paths; and everything else in Leornia."
"Signs and things?" Cali thought for a moment. There was something very important about this process. Then she asked, "Let me see if I have this straight. Locators give instructors estoffe in return for information. The locators then use the information to make goods for the instructors." Leonardo nodded. "That doesn't seem very fair. What do the locators get out of this?" she asked.
"We get estoffe," Aristotle said. "We get it for finding learners and making things."
"That seems kind of silly," Tyler offered, only partly aware of the conversation. "You guys keep giving each other the same estoffe. Why don't you just keep what you have?"
"It's not silly at all," Cali scolded, seeing something that Tyler had missed. "That's the circular flow."
"The what flow?" Tyler asked.
"The circular flow," Cali repeated. "Didn't Professor Francis explain the circular flow in your class?"
Tyler had a vague recollection of the professor saying something about a circular something. But, the details were sketchy.
"I think that's what we have here," she chuckled again, pleased that she had applied another seemingly esoteric economic concept to this strange place.
"Let me explain," she slipped into a surprisingly comfortable, but historically unfamiliar, lecturing mode. "On the one hand, locators pay estoffe for information supplied by instructors. On the other hand, the instructors pay estoffe for the goods and services provided by the locators. Estoffe flows back and forth between the instructors and the locators. That's the function of money in any economy -- going back and forth in payment for goods and services. The difference here is that estoffe is also used as a raw material for production, it's commodity money. Years ago, gold played the same role in our real world economies. It was used as money, but it also was used to make jewelry and other products."
Tyler looked at Cali with slackened jaw. When first they met, this relatively attractive co-ed did not impress Tyler as the type who would, nor could, present an extended discourse on 'commodity money,' 'circular flows,' or anything resembling an academic topic.
He physically shook his head, hoping to discard the ever-present mental clutter, "I guess I see what's happening here, but what does that have to do with anything?"
"The circular flow the professor talked about in class was basically between households and businesses, right?" Tyler nodded numbly. "Businesses hire the factors of production from the households. They pay for the factors with money. Then the businesses use the factors to make goods, which they sell back to the households. The households pay for those goods with the money they received from selling their factors to the businesses. Don't you see?"
"No," Tyler honestly answered.
Cali become frustrated, but continued, "The income households receive from businesses is used to buy goods. The estoffe locators receive from instructors is used to buy information."
"Oh, wow! This is really weird," Tyler said, mimicking a Cali from days earlier.
Cali tried to sort out the implications of this realization in her own mind. She considered the various concepts Professor Francis had discussed in connection to the circular flow.
"Of course," she said finally, "That's it."
"What now?" Tyler asked, "What's it?"
"Unemployment, that's the problem," she said. "It's so obvious."
The three locators looked at each other, then Leonardo asked, "Unemployment?"
"Yes," Cali continued to explain. "Locators aren't working. They aren't working because instructors don't need what the production."
Tyler nodded, afraid to question Cali's enthusiasm.
"But why are they unemployed, Tyler?" she asked. "Why does our real world economy have unemployment?"
Tyler shrugged. He was clearly unprepared for these questions.
"In our real world, labor is unemployed because businesses don't hire workers. And they don't hire workers because no one is buying output. But if workers are unemployed, then they don't have income to buy any output, which means more workers are unemployed. It's all a circular flow."
"What does that mean for us?" Issac asked.
"Yeah," Tyler challenged, "What does that mean for us, I mean the locators?"
"It's essentially the same," she continued. "Locators are unemployed because instructors don't need their services, or the goods that they produce. But why don't instructors need locators' services?"
Leonardo jumped in, "Because, no one is buying the output?"
"Right," she screamed, jumping to her feet without realizing the ceiling of the structure was on the low side for humans. She rubbed her head as she continued, "Absolutely right. And the instructor's output is what? It's information. Right? It's learning."
Captivated by her logic and startled by her exuberance, Tyler and the three locators nodded.
"So all we have to do is determine why the instructors aren't producing as much information," Cali said to the locators, "And that's it. That will let us solve your problem."
Cali was quite pleased with herself. Her ensuing pride nearly burst through the walls of the structure.
Aristotle smiled, knowing a solution was in hand. He didn't understand the solution, but it was obviously a solution.
Leonardo nodded, marveling at the manner Cali had presented her argument. It reminded him of life that had once been.
Tyler was dumbfounded. He turned to Cali, "You seem to know a lot about economics all of a sudden. I thought you always sat at the back of the class? I thought you were a lousy student?"
Cali shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. It just makes sense all of a sudden. I thought those lectures were just a bunch of boring junk, a waste of time. Maybe I learned more than I thought. Especially now that I've seen the circular flow and commodity money actually working in the real world."
Tyler laughed, "This isn't the real world, this is Leornia."
The merriment, however, was short lived. Aristotle jumped to his feet, cocking his head as if he had heard a noise undetectable to either Tyler or Cali.
, "I've got to go. THAT professor is coming."
Cali shuddered at the way Aristotle said 'that professor'. She knew he was not referring to Professor Francis.
"What professor is coming?" Cali questioned anxiously.
Aristotle relaxed and sat down. "No that wasn't him."
"Wasn't who?" Cali tried again. "Who is that professor?"
Aristotle glanced nervously at the openings around the structure, then said, "I... I... don't really know. I've never seen him. He sends me dreams at night. He says if I don't do what he wants he'll feed me to the nightmares. I don't want to be eaten by nightmares." Aristotle stopped, visibly shaken by these thoughts.
"Nightmares?" Cali thought aloud.
It was Tyler's turn to tremble. He turned to Cali, "Speaking of nightmares," he paused, "uhm... you know that monster we met on the path...? It was... uhm... just like a nightmare I used to have when I was a kid."
Cali looked at Tyler, "Come again?"
"Yeah," Tyler continued, "That monster was in one of my worst nightmares, it was my worst nightmare. The horn, the orange eyes, the drooling mouth, everything, was straight from my old nightmares. I didn't realized that until just now."
"Wait a second," Cali said trying to make sense of this new piece of information. "The professor said something about monsters from the psychology path. Now if this other professor is a psychology professor, then that might explain the monster. Naw... that's too preposterous. But... maybe he knew that you were afraid of that monster, so he brought it there to scare us, or to stop us from continuing."
"Uhm... I have this... uh... thing about griffins, too," Tyler sheepishly admitted.
"You what!?!" Cali laughed in amazement.
"Ever since we studied those things in high school, I've had this dream that one of them would come into my bedroom and carry me away."
Cali laughed harder. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard...." Then her laughter died when she realized how close this fear had come to being realized. "But how would that professor know?" Cali demanded.
Aristotle hung his head, and spoke softly, "I told him."
All eyes turned to Aristotle.
"You told him?" Cali asked. "How could you know?"
"Yeah," Tyler demanded, "How did you know about the monster or the griffin. I never told anyone, not even Lisa Catchings."
"When I bumped into you the second time in the trees, I saw in your mind what you were afraid of. But... that professor made me do it," Aristotle said apologetically, "I didn't want to, but he said he would feed me to the nightmares. I told him everything. I had to."
"What do you mean, everything?" Cali demanded.
"I told him that Tyler is the key to helping us, to solving our problems," Aristotle hung his tiny head even lower. "That's why I came here now, to warn you. I don't know why he's doing this to you. But I can tell he's not good for Leornia. I didn't want to help him hurt you, but I have no choice. And if he finds out I was here, I..." he closed his eyes and shuddered, "I'm sorry. You've got to help us. Before it's too late."
"But I still don't know how I'm suppose help," Tyler shook his head.
Cali started to speak, but stopped when their long-silent companion, the cat-faced frog, fluttered its wings as it jumped into flight. In a moment it was gone.
"I wonder where it's going?" Cali asked thoughtfully.
"Oh, no!" Aristotle screamed. "It heard everything."
"So?" Tyler asked.
"The professors use messengers," Leonardo explained.
Aristotle jumped to his feet, "I should have known. He's probably going to tell that professor everything. Ooooh, the nightmares..."
Tyler ran to the opening the frog-cat had used for a perch. The frog was nowhere to be seen. "I never really trusted that ugly creature," he said, convincing no one.
"I must go," Aristotle said. "I'll hide where that professor can't find be." In an instant, he too had departed.
The other two locators stared at the large opening without speaking. They had never seen a locator that frightened.
"What are we going to do, Cali?" Tyler asked.
"Get to the end of the path?" Cali responded without conviction, realizing they were more involved in Leornian problems than anyone suspected.
"But..." Tyler began to protest, but stopped when the room slowly grew dark.
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Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not
to be quoted without permission of the author.