Not for Dave the spendthrift antics of his neighbours, Dwayne, Debbie and Dmitri, who think nothing of just eating what they roll in a day, or - worse! - borrowing dung from other beetles using their own future labour or houses as security. No, our Dave is a dung saver, and he is proud of his hard work to secure his family's future.
But, alas, dung beetle life is no fairer than that in many other spheres, and four years ago a great event occurred in which (for reasons they never entirely understood) large swathes of the dung beetle population lost their access to dung-rolling opportunities and therefore faced ruin. One might imagine that the value of Dave's dungpile would thus have increased, but in fact the opposite occurred. In order to save the population, the king dung beetle arranged for some cows to drop more pats all around the field. There was suddenly free dung for everyone, and Dave watched in horror as his little stash started to erode in worth compared to that of all the other dung beetles.
He still had as much dung as before, of course, but relative to the new supply it was less significant. He could barter for fewer dens, mates and crèmes de menthe than he could before. Whilst acknowledging the fact that the extra cow pats had probably saved the dung beetle population as a whole, he could not shift the nagging resentment in his little dung beetle brain that the whole affair was unjust. He began to look around for options. How could Dave convert his labour (and his dung stash) into a storable form that would mimic his dung stash but would not have the risk of being devalued?
Fortunately, an answer soon presented itself. A number of other dung beetles, who found themselves in the same position, began to give sermons on top of a termite mound, taking care to mask themselves behind a curtain of leaves, with the given reason for this modesty being that the king dung beetle would persecute them for their wisdom. In these mini lectures, the advantages of salt were proclaimed up and down the field.
The new salt-enthusiasts vividly recalled these days, whilst rarely mentioning the reasons for abolishing the original dung-salt conversion (as to do so would have forced them to admit the leaps in prosperity made in the field since). Dave was captivated: here, at last, was a solution to his problem. No longer would he have to sadly gaze upon his pile of dung, gradually decreasing in worth due to the cows' over-excretion. Rather, he could swap it for a pile of salt, which would in no way diminish in value: after all, one grain of salt would always be worth one grain of salt, and throughout history that had been a proven and demonstrable fact.
Being a cautious dung beetle, however, Dave chose to wait, in order that the arguments of the salt-enthusiasts might be shown to be correct, before making his trade. Last year, he noted the huge rise in the salt-dung exchange rate, and boldly made his move: he swapped 1,900 grams of dung for a grain of salt. For three days he smiled at his purchase, gently fondling it with his antennae, and encouraging his family and friends to come and look at it. Many of them were sceptical: 'you can't eat salt', sniggered Dmitri; 'I prefer my dung where I can see it', tittered Debbie; 'there's huge stocks of salt in the king's den-palace - how can you say it's rare?', queried Dwayne.
But Dave refused to be discouraged. He was at peace, safe in the knowledge that the fruits of his labour were safely secure in that little grain of salt. But, just to be sure, he kept going to the salt sermons: he always felt refreshed after hearing them, not least when the dung-salt exchange rate shifted unfavourably. They provided succour and heart during these difficult times.
A test of faith
When the dung-worth of his investment first started to slide (by some 10%!) he was encouraged to hear that this was because of a field-wide salt shortage that was being hidden by the king selling shares in non-existent grains of salt. Those poor beetles who had bought such shares would be wiped out; but Dave (with his 'real' salt) would be fine, thank goodness. Eventually it was proved that these shares were in fact backed by real grains of salt, but by then the meme was fixed and no true salt investor would dare commit the heresy of contradicting the Salt Purveyors in public.
When the rate slid by 15%, Dave was reassured to learn that there was in fact a secret premium of 20% being levied on all bulk salt purchases. Not for trades of a grain here or there, obviously, but rather for those big beetles who wanted to buy 10 grams at a time. The price of such safety for such large investments was 20%, which meant that Dave was effectively still up 5% on his investment despite the plunging salt chart. To make the point, one of the chief Salt Purveyors started his own share scheme, in which this premium was built in to more accurately reflect salt's true value. This significantly reassured Dave and his like-minded friends, as there could no longer be any doubt about the veracity of this particular meme in their minds.
When the rate slid by 20%, Dave started to feel rather foolish in front of his wives. He'd had a terrible year: partly because of the loss in his purchasing power due to his salt investment, but (more significantly) because he simply could not understand what was going on. The cows had been ordered to stop producing more dung, which meant that the value of dung was rising, and that of salt was falling. The Salt Purveyors had assured him that there would be more cow pats produced than in any time in history, but this appeared to be no longer the case. And of course, the farmer kept coming every day and eating his tomato and tipping more salt on it, which meant that every day more and more salt entered the field. So although the dung production slowed down, the salt production continued at the rate it always had.
Worse: in the next field, there were enormous social and economic problems, which Dave had been told would mean that the next field's inhabitants would in droves be swapping their dung for grains of salt. But in fact, they had simply swapped their (rather thin dung) for Dave's field's more nourishing dung, or for dung from other bits of their own field, which they then imported in. No-one was interested in salt - it was now all about which type of dung was best.
In other words, as the economic imperatives for owning salt did not play out as expected, the Salt Purveyors (many of whom were up to their eyeballs in salt themselves, and thus equally in financial dire straits) fell back on the only ideology that they had left to muster. Keep the faith. Be strong. Keep buying. Our thesis is correct. Everyone else's is wrong. 'I know I'm right and I don't care what anyone else thinks' [since removed from the Salt Purveyors' record - Ed.]. This approach reached its glorious nadir with these words from one Salt-Purveyor who called himself 'Soap':
I tell you this not because I expect this to happen. I tell you this so that you are mentally prepared. IF this happens, it will mark the end of salt manipulation, as we've known it. A brief drop...would allow The King's Palace to finally move to a net flat or even net long position. From there, salt will rapidly recover and soar to new, all-time highs. Of this, I am 100% certain. Therefore, IF salt suddenly falls another 20%, do not freak out and panic sell your grains. This would be the biggest financial mistake you'll ever make.
Dwayne, Dmitri and Debbie tried so hard to tell Dave that this was crazy. They admitted that they had no idea in which way the salt market would go, but they did know that no-one else knew either. To talk of 100% certainty about anything, let alone investments, and then pass this on to naive listeners, was borderline criminal. And although they knew what a bull market was they also knew what a bear market was, and that investments sometimes (often) don't go the way that they are expected to. Heck, they'd even bought a few grains themselves, which they'd sold for a small loss, so they were able to sympathise. The salt price might rise substantially over several months - they had no idea. But they also knew that an event the likes of which struck the field four years earlier could destroy the salt price. Even (or especially) if it hit the next-door field.
And they knew that whenever all the arguments were shown to be not working, that a recourse to 'faith' was a short trip to the poor house.
And they knew that a 20% drop on top of a 40% drop (as was the case for a particular form of salt that was traded in the field) was far from normal and that the Salt Purveyors should know better than to keep dishing out the same old crap day after day and sucking in more and more suckers and screwing up more and more naive retail investors.
And they knew that the Salt Purveyors should finally, in the name of all that is holy, actually show some RESPONSIBILITY and OBJECTIVITY for once in their fucking lives.
But Dave turned his little antennae away from his friends and his family, and he set about scrabbling together the last of his dung in order to convert it into another grain of salt at these knock-down prices.
Poor old Dave the Dung Beetle.