The following is the text from a radio message that Ronald Reagan gave in 1976. Reagan reworked the story of “The Little Red Hen” by putting it into a modern economic context. You can listen to it here.
It’s s relevant today as it was in 1976. In fact, it’s always relevant:
A modern day little red hen may not sound like or appear to be a quotable authority on economics but then some authorities aren’t worth quoting. I’ll be right back.
About a year ago I imposed a little poetry on you. It was called “The Incredible Bread Machine” and made a lot of sense with reference to matters economic. You didn’t object too much so having gotten away with it once I’m going to try again. This is a little treatise on basic economics called “The Modern little Red Hen.”
Once upon a time there was a little red hen who scratched about the barnyard until she uncovered some grains of wheat. She called her neighbors and said ‘If we plant this wheat, we shall have bread to eat. Who will help me plant it?’
“Not I, “said the cow.
“Not I,” said the duck.
“Not I,” said the pig.
“Not I,” said the goose.
“Then I will,” said the little red hen. And she did. The wheat grew tall and ripened into golden grain. “Who will help me reap my wheat?” asked the little red hen.
“Not I,” said the duck.
“Out of my classification,” said the pig.
“I’d lose my seniority,” said the cow.
“I’d lose my unemployment compensation,” said the goose.
“Then I will,” said the little red hen, and she did.
At last the time came to bake the bread. “Who will help me bake bread?” asked the little red hen.
“That would be overtime for me,” said the cow.
“I’d lose my welfare benefits,” said the duck.
“I’m a dropout and never learned how,” said the pig.
“If I’m to be the only helper, that’s discrimination,” said the goose.
“Then I will,” said the little red hen.
She baked five loaves and held them up for the neighbors to see.
They all wanted some and, in fact, demanded a share. But the little red hen said, “No, I can eat the five loaves myself.”
“Excess profits,” cried the cow.
“Capitalist leech,” screamed the duck.
“I demand equal rights,” yelled the goose.
And the pig just grunted.
And they painted “unfair” picket signs and marched round and around the little red hen shouting obscenities.
When the government agent came, he said to the little red hen, “You must not be greedy.”
“But I earned the bread,” said the little red hen.
“Exactly,” said the agent. “That’s the wonderful free enterprise system. Anyone in the barnyard can earn as much as he wants. But under our modern government regulations productive workers must divide their products with the idle.”
And they lived happily ever after, including the little red hen, who smiled and clucked, “I am grateful, I am grateful.” But her neighbors wondered why she never again baked any more bread.