any years ago, there lived an old king who ruled over the kingdom of Plethora, a green and largely unprepossessing land which is no longer fashionable to visit. The old king was a wise and learned monarch, with lofty principles, noble ideals and a pronounced lean to the left.

The old king of Plethora governed his subjects based on his lofty principles and noble ideals, and he was reviled by every one of them.

One day, after sitting upon the throne of Plethora for many years, the old king lurched suddenly to the floor and had to be carried to his bed chamber. The royal physician was summoned, who pronounced that the old king was dying.

The old king’s son was sent for.

The castle was shrouded in mourning attire, most of it hand-made in Italy and imported at great expense.

The people were told of the impending demise of their king.

As the old king of Plethora drew his final breath, he spoke these words. "Why does it sound like there’s a party going on outside Our window?" The ministers of the old king were still trying to figure out a way to explain that one to his royal highness when the old king gasped and said no more.

Would you trust this guy to be king?

After the legally allowed-for three days to complete the grieving process, the son of the old king of Plethora was brought forward to accept his rightful place upon the Plethoran throne. The throne room of the royal castle was tastefully decorated and all the old king’s ministers, dukes, earls, counts, viscounts, knights, equerries, chamberlains, admirals, generals, lords, scribes, ghillies, concubines, mistresses, sycophants, toadies and the bad-tempered lady who emptied the royal spittoons presented themselves before the new king in the fervent hope of keeping their jobs.

The king was also greeted by a deputation of his subjects from beyond the royal court, headed by the Master of the Guild of Bakers. The new king greeted the Master of the Guild of Bakers and shook him firmly by the hand. "What brings you to Our court on this glad day, Sir Baker?" The king inquired.

"I bring you a gift from your subjects to show you the magnitude of their esteem," the Master of the Guild of Bakers replied.

The king’s eyes grew wide with delight. "What manner of gift be this?" he demanded eagerly.

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The Master of the Guild of Bakers gestured to one of his lesser bakers, who approached the king carrying a great pie.

The king smiled with delight.

The king’s tactfully hidden security guards relaxed their grips on their automatic crossbows and whispered instructions into their respective sleeves.

The Master of the Guild of Bakers gestured magnanimously at the pie, and seeing that the king was appropriately distracted, lifted the magnificent dessert from the outstretched arms of the lesser baker and flung it into the king’s unsuspecting face.

The court of the king roared with laughter, and then – realizing that it was involved in the worst career move since the old king had proclaimed "yellow dye number five doesn’t cause cancer – give me a pound of gummy bears" – grew awesomely silent.

The king wiped lemon meringue from his face in huge, wallowing gobbets. "If We were a less progressive king," he said, "your head would be lying upon yonder floor, Sir Baker."

"If I were a less progressive peasant," the Master of the Guild of Bakers said, "there would have been a loaded bear-trap in that pie, Sir King." He paused, and then added, "the politically-incorrect, non-humane kind that can cut through a man’s neck in less time than it takes to say ‘fiscal responsibility.’ "

"For what reason do you deface Us with sugary lemon goo having no natural ingredients whatsoever, Sir Baker?" demanded the king.

"We have had enough of kings," replied the Master of the Guild of Bakers. "All they do is raise taxes, make speeches and behave badly when they think no one is looking."

A tear welled up in the eye of the king, although whether out of sadness or through some sort of reaction with the pie filling, none could tell. "We are not such a king," he proclaimed. "We shall rule justly and well, with lofty principles and noble ideals."

"That’s what we’re afraid of," said the Master of the Guild of Bakers.

The new king raised his arms into the air. "All We ask is the love of our subjects," he shouted into the courtroom.

The ministers, dukes, earls, counts, viscounts, knights, equerries, chamberlains, admirals, generals, lords, scribes, ghillies, concubines, mistresses, sycophants, toadies and the bad-tempered lady who emptied the royal spittoons all sighed with relief, having feared for a moment that the king had been about to announce a program of austerity and responsible government.

"Blow it out your ear," said the Master of the Guild of Bakers, and he turned to leave.

"Wait," cried the new king. "We shall prove to you Our intentions. We shall... We shall scrap the most hated Greedy Sin Tax, established in the face of the most venomous outrage by Our father, the old king. If Our subjects agree to give Us their love, the tax is gone."

The master of the guild of bakers paused and scratched his head. The Greedy Sin Tax, established by the old king to pay the wages of a particularly large retinue of castle prostitutes and boozing companions and to settle the old king’s many gaming debts, was indeed much loathed by the peasants who were compelled to pay to the royal treasury a tenth part of everything they spent. In addition to the tax itself, the royal tax accountants required the most excruciating paperwork and record-keeping amongst businessmen such as himself, who were compelled to collect the hated tax for the king.

"Let me see what I can do," said the Master of the Guild of Bakers.

And so it was that the Master of the Guild of Bakers addressed the subjects of the kingdom of Plethora, and told them of the intentions of the new king to be wise and just and to reduce taxes and create jobs and to push all the other hot buttons they had, and after a time, the king’s subjects agreed that they would give him their love, albeit a bit grudgingly. They each swore allegiance to the new king, but for the next three weeks all the chiropractors and physiotherapists in the land were knee-deep in patients who had dislocated their fingers by crossing them too hard.

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It came to pass that the new king of Plethora governed his kingdom, as he had promised to do, with lofty principles and noble ideals.

He built many fine roads, bridges and parks. As it happened, however, most of them were in the immediate vicinity of his castle or of the castles of his cronies, and many peasants were flogged for merely thinking about using them. The king announced with pride that he would only have to raise the horse tax by a trivial fifteen percent to pay for them.

He gave generous sums of money to less fortunate kingdoms near his own, and was profusely thanked and referred to in throne rooms near and far as "visionary", "global leader", "humanitarian," "great thinker," "sucker" and "imperialist running-dog lackey." The king boasted that he had only been compelled to seize an extra ten percent of his subjects’ annual income to finance his largess.

He built fine, clean shelters for those of his subjects who didn’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning to plow their fields, tend to their goats or weave their cloth. When those shelters became full, he built more shelters, and more after that. When he could climb to the height of the battlements of his castle and still no longer see past the countless roofs of the low-cost housing subdivision of his kingdom without the use of powerful binoculars, he proclaimed his deep sense of satisfaction at having created a kinder, gentler kingdom with no more than a twenty-five percent increase in the tax on contraceptive-devices paid by his subjects.

The only disappointment expressed by the king was his inability to scrap the Greedy Sin Tax after all. In fact, in time he began to deny ever having promised to do so in the first place.

The years went by and the king grew old. He forgot about his promise to the Master of the Guild of Bakers to govern well if only the people would give him their love. He forgot about the pie thrown in his face. He even forgot that he’d once referred to himself as being "progressive."

He began to pass laws which his subjects disliked.

He made it illegal to carry a sword, knife or pair of scissors without first having taken a three-day safety course, with payment of a substantial processing fee.

He made it illegal to ride a horse faster than the speed at which a crippled old lady could hobble along the side of the road, and bade his sheriffs conceal themselves in the bushes to levy fines upon those who actually had to get somewhere in a hurry.

He commanded his minions to seek out those who spoke against his rule and spray them with noxious substances.

One day the king grew ill and was taken to his bed. The royal physician was summoned, who pronounced that the king was dying.

The king summoned his ministers. In a thin, rattling voice, he bade them draw close to his bed.

"We cannot change what has been," he whispered. "We have been a wise and learned king, with lofty principles and noble ideals, even if We have had a pronounced lean to the left. We wish not to be recalled with contempt and loathing by Our people, as Our father before Us was. To this end, it is Our wish to pass one more law before We are gone."

The king’s minister of laws leant forward, the better to hear the words of his liege. "Yes, your highness," he said uncertainly.

"When We die, stand by Our window," the king said. "If you see anyone partying, shoot them."

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