Road Pricing: A Modern Parable

A man walks into a bank and asks to see a Business Advisor. After a short wait, he’s shown to a private office.

‘Good morning’, says the man.

‘Good morning, Sir.’ replies the Business Advisor, ‘Would you care to take a seat?’

The man sits down.

‘Now, I understand that you’d like to discuss a loan to start a new business. Is that right?’

‘Yes. Yes it is. You see I’ve come up with this brilliant idea for a new type of widget. It’ll sell millions. Make an absolute fortune.’

‘Mmm… I see.’ says the Business Advisor, ‘Tell me more… Tell you what. Before we go into this in detail, perhaps you could give me an idea of around how much you might be looking to borrow?’

‘Dunno.’

‘Pardon?’

The Business Advisor looks a little taken aback.

‘I don’t know at the moment. I haven’t quite got that far in my thinking… but it’s a brilliant idea, I can assure you. It’ll make millions.’

‘Yessssss… So you don’t know how much you want to borrow yet? Tell me just what kind of planning for your business have you done so far?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Planning. Preparation… That kind of thing?’

‘Not sure quite what you mean.’

‘Well, have you, say for example, started to work on a business plan?’

‘No.’

‘How about some cost projections?’

‘No.’

‘Cashflow forecasts?’

‘No.’

‘Market Testing?’

‘No. None of that.’

‘You’ve built a prototype of you new widget, then?’

‘No… Not exactly…’

‘Well then, what exactly have you got?’

‘Mmm… Well, if I show you, you’ll have to promise not to tell anyone else about this… I can trust you, can’t I?’

‘Of course, Sir. This is a bank, after all.’

‘Right… Well, here it is…’

The man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a tatty-looking envelope and puts it on the table in front of the Business Advisor. On the back of the envelope, there’s a rough sketch of the widget drawn in red ink.

‘That’s it. The Widget… Just look at it. It’s Brilliant, isn’t it… it’ll sell millions.’

The Business Advisor thinks about calling security and then decide to humour the man instead.

‘Ah, yes. I see. That’s the plan for you widget?’

‘Well, more or less. It needs a bit of work. A bit of tidying up, so to speak, but that’s the basic idea. It came to me this morning, on the bus on my way into town to sign-on. One minute I was staring out of the window, watching the trees go by, and the next… Well it just came to me out of the blue and I just knew it was brilliant. Will sell millions. So I jotted it down and came right here to see you straight away.’

‘Yesssss. I see. So this widget of yours… if we did lend you the money – and I’m not promising anything at this stage, you understand…’

‘Well yes, naturally…’

‘But if we did lend you the money, how long do you think it would take you get this widget into production?’

‘Well, you see, that’s the tricky bit.’

‘I see. In what way, exactly, is it tricky?’

‘Well, you see it’s like this. This widget… well it’s brilliant. Way ahead of its time.’

‘Go on.’

‘And, well, err… that’s the tricky bit. You see, the technology needed to build the widget isn’t quite there yet…’

‘Not quite there yet?’

‘No… But it will be soon, the way things are going. I reckon that give it, say, another five, may be ten years and the technology will have caught up with my idea’.

‘So let me get this straight. You’ve got a rough sketch on the back of envelope, no idea how much you want to borrow, no business plan, cost projection or cash flow analysis, not even a prototype, and the technology you need to make you widget work might be available in five to ten years time… what makes you think that this bank will loan you any money?’

‘ Well, it’s brilliant isn’t it… the widget, I mean. It’ll make millions…’

‘Good day, Sir’.

Is it any wonder that 1.8 million people have signed a petition against road pricing?

2 thoughts on “Road Pricing: A Modern Parable

  1. There’s some truth in that – so far the man doesn’t seem to have a business plan at all, but it wouldn’t have to be about a widget anyway: (a) there’s the principle of (erm) road pricing, which the roads lobby dodge at every turn, and (b) pricing can be introduced without requiring surveillance. If the Business Advisor declared that the man couldn’t get a loan however good his plan, we should doubt his independence.

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