In search of an honest treasurer

There was a very kind-hearted king. His ministers and other high-ranking officers were all quite honest, but unfortunately his treasurer was a rogue of the first water. This treasurer used to steal money from the treasury regularly. When the ministers discovered that large amounts of money were missing, they made complaints to the king, and the king became very, very sad and upset. He said, “I am an honest person. I feel that everybody in my kingdom should be honest. I will not allow anybody to be dishonest. I will have to replace this treasurer with somebody who is honest to the core.”

The ministers said, “O King, God alone knows where we will find that honest person for you.”

The king said, “All right, until I find someone, I will do the job myself. Since it is my money, I will count everything. I will be the treasurer.”

So the king assumed the duties of the treasurer. After he had been doing the job for weeks, months and finally a year, he felt that it was boring. He had so many important things to do apart from counting his money. The king asked his prime minister, “What am I going to do? I am wasting so much time with this mundane job. I am the king. I have to rule the country with all my concern and wisdom. Can you do this job in my place?”

The prime minister quickly said, “Oh no, no! I do not trust myself, in case anything goes wrong.”

The king said, “Then what shall I do?”

The prime minister suggested, “Let us look for someone who is suited for this task. I have an idea, if you approve of it.”

The king said, “You are the wisest man in our kingdom. I will always value your advice.”

The prime minister continued, “Tomorrow morning I shall make an announcement. I shall say that the king needs a treasurer and those who want to apply for the post should submit their names.”

The following morning the prime minister went to a section where there were twenty very high-ranking officers and made the announcement. Afterwards he said, “I do hope that all of you apply for this coveted post.”

Nineteen out of the twenty officers submitted their names and their credentials. The next day, in front of the prime minister, the king read all the credentials of these nineteen candidates. He said, “I never knew that I had such qualified people in my kingdom! I should have offered them an even higher post.”

Then the prime minister said, “Now, please tell me, O King, what will you do with all these applications? You need someone whom you can trust. You can have only one person. You do not need nineteen.”

“Yes, it is true,” said the king. “I do not need nineteen, but I am confused. They all have such high qualifications. Whom am I to take?” The king read and reread the applications. Finally he chose one. Then he said to the prime minister, “You have more wisdom than I have. Have I chosen the right person?”

The prime minister said, “I am so sorry, O King. You have to forgive me.”

“Why?” said the king.

“You have not chosen the right person,” came the answer.

“I have not chosen the right person?” echoed the king. “But you read all their credentials yourself. Each one was worthy. How could I have made a mistake?”

The prime minister said, “O King, in confidence I wish to tell you that these people are all rogues. Only the person who has not submitted his application is the right person.”

The king was puzzled. He said, “How can he be the right person? He has not even submitted his credentials.”

The prime minister said, “When I made the announcement, I told them how much salary they would get if they became the treasurer. I kept the salary exactly the same as whatever they are now getting as officers. I know a little bit about human nature. These nineteen are such rogues that when one of them gets the post, he will steal money. Money is such a dangerous thing that he will be tempted. So, like the previous one who stole your money, whoever becomes treasurer in his place will also steal money, because the salary is the same as what they are getting now. With the same salary they will not be satisfied. They will only steal money.”

“Then what about the other fellow?” asked the king curiously.

The prime minister said, “The officer who has not come forward to submit an application is saying to himself, ‘What is the use of having this job? The salary is the same. I do not need this job because the king will not give me a higher salary. I do not have the habit of stealing and, at the same time, I will not get a higher salary, so it is not worth taking this job.’”

The king saw the wisdom of his prime minister’s assessment and he summoned the officer who had not applied for the post. He said to this man, “You are the right person to be my treasurer. My prime minister trusts you because you are indifferent to the fact that you will be handling large sums of money. Otherwise you would have applied for the post. Had I chosen someone else, that person would steal money. This is what the prime minister has said, and I trust him.”

So the king appointed this man and he did not steal any money. The prime minister said, “You see, I was right.” The king was so pleased that he raised the new treasurer’s salary tremendously for his honesty. This man remained the king’s treasurer for many, many years and he never stole anything.