The prince chooses the prime minister

Once a particular king suddenly fell sick. Every day his ailment was getting worse and the doctors were quite alarmed. The prime minister advised the king, “Since you cannot attend to the matters of state, in your absence, let your eldest son rule the country.”

The king agreed to the prime minister’s proposal. He realised that his condition was deteriorating. Then, to everybody’s wide surprise, after about four months, the king suddenly started getting better. In the meantime, the king had been asking for reports about how his son was coping with his responsibilities, and he had heard that his son was doing very, very well. Everyone said the prince was very kind to people and very just. All the citizens were highly appreciating the prince, so the king was very happy and proud of his son.

Then a calamity struck. The prime minister suddenly fell sick, and in two or three days’ time he passed away. The king was very, very sad to lose his trusted adviser. Because he had been told that his son was so good, so wise and so kind-hearted, he asked his son to choose a new prime minister. The son brought three men to the court and begged his father to choose between them.

The king said, “No, I asked you to make the selection. You examine them in your own way and tell me which one I should take as the prime minister. I will abide by your decision.”

The prince asked the first man, “What is five multiplied by two?”

The first man said, “That is easy. Five multiplied by two is ten.”

The prince asked the second one, “What is five multiplied by two?”

The second one also answered, “Ten.”

To the third one he said, “Now tell me your answer. Everybody is saying ten. Do you agree?”

The third one said, “Five multiplied by two is seven.”

Everybody started laughing, but the prince was delighted with this new answer.

He said, “We all know that five multiplied by two is ten. But here we are getting something new, a new discovery. We must go forward with new discoveries. Why should we follow the old pattern and always say that five multiplied by two is ten. This is a new discovery. Five multiplied by two has now become seven.”

“O my son,” lamented the king. “What are you doing? How will I show my face?”

The prince said, “No, father, I like this man. And I tell you something else. Our previous prime minister was very weak in mathematics.”

The king asked, “How do you know?”

The prince replied, “I examined him while I was ruling the country in your absence, and I found that he was extremely weak in mathematics, although he was good in other things, such as politics and literature.”

The king said, “You liar! I dealt with him so many times over the years, and I know that he was excellent in mathematics. You are telling lies. You are ruining his good name.”

The son said, “No, no, no! I tell you, Father, he was not at all good in mathematics.” Then the son added, “I feel that his soul will be very happy if you appoint someone like him who is inferior in mathematics.”

The king said, “I know he was good in mathematics. I dealt with him on financial matters so many times.”

The king and the prince were having a serious altercation. People were so shocked that the king could not make the decision himself. He was still depending on his son. Finally the king became angry with his son. He said, “Now I know the truth. Everybody told me that you ruled the kingdom in my absence, but now I see that it was actually the prime minister who did it. He was so wise and kind-hearted. He advised you on each and every matter, and you merely listened to him. That is why our kingdom was ruled so well. It was the prime minister who did it.”

The prince said, “No! The prime minister was an idiot!”

The king said, “I asked you to rule in my place when I fell sick. Before that, how many hundreds of times I dealt with the prime minister.”

The son said, “You do not know, Father, but I am telling the truth.”

Finally the king said, “All right, let us put an end to the matter. Although I know I am dealing with an incorrigible fool, I have to please you because you are my son. By pleasing you, at least I will get some joy, although your choice of prime minister is absurd. To make you happy, I am appointing this half-wit as prime minister.”

Everybody cried out, “O King, what kind of justice is this? You are making someone prime minister who believes that five multiplied by two is seven? What will be the fate of our kingdom if you appoint a fool like this as your prime minister?”

The king said, “No, I want to make my son happy. Afterwards I will appoint someone to teach the prime minister arithmetic.”

Then the king said to the new prime minister, “Tell me the truth. Do you truly believe that five multiplied by two is seven, or did you in fact know that five multiplied by two is ten?”

The new prime minister said, “I knew that five multiplied by two is ten, but I wanted to say something new. The other two candidates both said ten, so I said to myself, ‘Why do I need to say the same thing?’ Of course I knew my answer was wrong. But I want to be independent of others’ ways.”

The king asked, “Did you go to school or college? Can you bring me the certificates?”

The new prime minister went home and returned with certificates showing that he had a very high education. He was extremely well qualified for the post.

Then the king said, “To make my son happy, I had to become stupid and surrender to his absurd choice. Now I see that my son unconsciously chose the right person. To justify his choice, he told some lies about my previous prime minister, but I see now that he was so wise. This new prime minister will be such an asset to our kingdom. I wholeheartedly approve of my son’s choice.”