In “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” the famous fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, a cobbler and his wife struggle to survive, barely making enough to eat (never mind investing in the future of their business).
One morning, however, they wake to find that their last scraps of leather have been turned into a remarkable pair of shoes. Not knowing the source of such craftsmanship — and apparently incurious — the cobbler sells them off at a higher price, gaining new capital to grow his business. Each night thereafter, the miracle continues, and the enterprise grows in turn.
Months later, they finally take an interest in the source of such help, staying awake through the night to spot two naked elves, each happily laboring to make more shoes. The wife sews clothes for the elves, who, after finishing their work, express their thanks and graciously depart, never to be seen again.
One can find several morals or lessons in the tale, but Jeffrey Tucker does a marvelous job of highlighting its themes on the meaning of work, the gift of exchange, and the glories of capitalism. (more…)