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Usage Fee

In the year 1210 King John of England had an idea. For many years the Royal Forest was available to all who paid the usage fee. Paying this tribute to the crown allowed nobleman and peasant alike to hunt, fish, and frolic on the regal property.

The king, looking to reduce the strain on this resource and increase the empire’s income (to help support the war with France), decided to raise the usage fee and restrict use of the forest to the upper classes. To carry out this decree, he appointed Thomas Mulberry as Royal Forester.

However, it wasn’t long before Thomas realized he had a problem. The king expected a certain amount of revenue each month, but there simply weren’t enough customers among the upper classes to maintain the projected revenues.

In order to keep to the crown’s budget, Thomas decided to allow use of the forest by some of the local peasants at a discounted rate. This kept the king’s coffers filled and, at the same time, still restricted the use of the land to the upper class and a relatively small number of peasants.

After six months, the king summoned Thomas to report. “Well, my Royal Forester, is my plan working as expected?” asked the king.

“Yes, your highness,” replied Thomas. “Revenues are as projected.” The king was obviously pleased. Added Thomas, “There was one problem, but I managed to solve it.”

Thomas described how there were not enough noblemen to maintain the budgeted revenues and how he allowed some local peasants use of the land at a discounted rate. The king listened intently and offered an occasional “Uh-huh,” or “Yes, I see.”

The following morning Thomas was hanged for treason.

Tom O’Keefe, writing in Magazine Week

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