Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Something new to my ears: bell the cat!

Bell the cat, a very interesting term that I came across today.
"Belling the cat" or "to bell the cat" is an English colloquialism that means to suggest or attempt to perform a difficult or impossible task.[1] The phrase comes from the Aesop's Fable The Mice in Council, in which a group of mice declare that the only way to avoid the dangerous cat is to tie a bell around its neck in order to give warning whenever it is near. One mouse then asks who will perform the dangerous task. The moral of the story, as commonly given, is that it is easy to suggest difficult (or impossible) solutions if the individual giving the solution is not the one who has to implement it.
My curiosity was piqued by this comment over at Marginal Revolution discussing the glut in automobiles in the market. One of the big three apparently is not too big to fail. If it were allowed to fail, the market would arrive closer to equilibrium. Governments can't allow one of their own auto manufacturers to fail; but they're quick to point out that there are simply too many auto firms in other places. Hence bell the cat. Aesop was one smart writer!

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