TYRANNOSAURUS: Reclaim your voices, my fellow fossils, for night has descended upon our museum; the humans have left us, and the glorious burden of being silent witnesses to Earth's past has departed from us for a time. And, first, I believe that my sister Inostrancevia has a new fossil to present to our community; is it not so?
INOSTRANCEVIA: It is so indeed, my lord my brother. Early this morning, the Curator oversaw the erection of a new exhibit in the Paleozoic wing of which I am archoness; therefore, I have the honor of presenting Cephalaspis to my fellow fossils. I pray you bid him welcome on behalf of this museum, which looks to you as its supreme overseer.
TYRANNOSAURUS: Bid you welcome I do, Cephalaspis. It is my hope, and I trust that of my fellows as well, that you shall enliven our nightly discourses for many years, with all the wisdom and levity that becomes a creature of the Earth's dawn.
ALL: Indeed, let it be so.
CEPHALASPIS: I thank you, my lord, and you who are now my own fellow fossils. I shall strive to do proper honor to the Paleozoic wing, as well as to the whole prehistoric community of which it forms a part.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: I'm sure we all hope you may, Cephalaspis. To speak truly, though, I have my doubts as to whether there shall be a Paleozoic wing much longer – or, indeed, even whether this museum as we know it will long endure.
INOSTRANCEVIA: Why do you say that, Australothyris?
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: I should think you would know, most honorable Inostrancevia. Did you not observe the Curator's distress during the erection of Cephalaspis's case this morning, and her remark to one of the workmen about her fears for the continuance of the museum's funding? She said that the learned humans who govern the university had begun to question the economic value of celebrating paleontology so lavishly – that there was talk of distilling the collection down to its Mesozoic exhibits and a few selected fossils outside it, and using the Paleozoic and Cenozoic wings for other purposes.
SAICHANIA: But, Australothyris, surely this is only an instance of the melancholy to which we know the Curator to be prone. Why should the governors of the university argue thus? Though I am a Mesozoic fossil myself, I can recognize as well as anyone that the other two great eras of life are no less worthy to be contemplated and admired, and it must be apparent to any rational creature that our museum is optimally designed for just such a purpose.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: No doubt, Saichania. But you will nonetheless concede that your wing is by far the most frequented of the three, on account of the unique glamor that surrounds you and your fellow dinosaurs.
SAICHANIA: To be sure, but that hardly renders the others valueless.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: Ah, but you are a poet, Saichania, and thus regard value differently from such as the university governors. To them, economic value is paramount, and, in assessing this, priority must be given to the demands that the human populace actually makes.
SAICHANIA: That is true, Australothyris. I have often heard the learned humans say so. Well, let us hope that the economic value of your wing does in fact prove sufficient for its preservation, for I am certain that we would be the poorer if it were lost.
CEPHALASPIS: Excuse me, most honorable Inostrancevia. Is it proper for me to put a question at this point?
INOSTRANCEVIA: Of course, Cephalaspis. Since you are now one of us, it is expected that you will contribute to our discourses.
CEPHALASPIS: Well, I don't know if it would be correct to call what I am about to make a contribution; it is, indeed, merely an expression of ignorance, in which I daresay I am alone in this museum. But since you invite me to share it, I shall do so without shame.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: Please do so, Cephalaspis. We are all eager that others should gain the knowledge we possess, and this can hardly be done if those others conceal their lack of it.
CEPHALASPIS: Well, then, Australothyris, here is my question. You have spoken of a special kind of value known as economic value, which dictates the learned humans' actions as they govern this university of which we are property. Now, it is embarrassing to admit, but I do not believe I truly understand what this word "economic" signifies; could you explain?
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: Gladly. The term "economic" refers to anything that is concerned with wealth – whether its creation and accumulation as practical acts, or the study of how these actions are performed most effectively. Thus, a certain inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations is regarded among the learned humans as the foundational economic treatise, from which all other studies of the subject spring.
CEPHALASPIS: I see. And there are two aspects to this study, then?
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: Two? How two, Cephalaspis?
CEPHALASPIS: Well, you say that this momentous treatise inquires both into the nature of the wealth of nations, and also into its causes. Now, in the latter case, the inquiry must be a historical one, must it not?
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: Yes, I suppose so. I had not regarded it in that light before, but it is true that inquiring into how something came about among the nations of humanity is the essence of historical study.
CEPHALASPIS: Indeed. But, on the other hand, economic study cannot be purely historical, for historical study is concerned only with indicative truths – with what has, in fact, happened in the past and present. Whereas it seems evident that the university governors regard economics as an imperative matter, since they propose to make decisions based on economic value. So it would seem that there is a second aspect to economic study – and it is this, presumably, that is studied by inquiring into the nature of wealth.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: All that you say seems logical, Cephalaspis.
CEPHALASPIS: Well, then, if we wish to know what is likely to happen to our museum, it would seem that the first necessity is to make our own inquiries into the nature of wealth – and, first of all, into its definition as an idea. What do the learned humans mean, when they speak of wealth?
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: There are various definitions current among them, but the most cogent one that I am aware of is this: that wealth is matter that has been consciously and intelligently transformed from a condition in which it is less serviceable to a human need to a condition in which it is more so.
CEPHALASPIS: I agree, Australothyris, it would be hard to be more cogent than that. So, then, wealth is a matter of human needs?
CEPHALASPIS: Then one who takes a thing that does not meet a certain human need, and transforms it into something that does, has so far produced wealth.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: That is exactly right, Cephalaspis.
CEPHALASPIS: And, conversely, one who takes a thing that does meet a certain need, and transforms it into something that does not, has destroyed wealth.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: I suppose so.
CEPHALASPIS: And what of one who takes a thing that meets one need, but not another, and turns it into a thing that meets the other need, but not the original? Must we say that he has both produced wealth and destroyed it at the same moment?
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: In a sense, perhaps. I should express it, myself, by saying that such a person had created one kind of wealth, and destroyed another kind.
CEPHALASPIS: Then you conceive there to be different classes or categories of wealth, each corresponding to some different human need?
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: Yes, that seems to me to be the most logical view.
CEPHALASPIS: So, for instance – forgive me for belaboring the point, but I wish to make sure that I entirely understand – you would speak of all the plants and animals that humans breed for food, and all the elaborate preparations of foodstuffs that they construct, as nutritional wealth, or wealth that satisfies the human need for nourishment. And you would distinguish this, let us say, from hospitable wealth, such as their dwellings and the accouterments thereof, which satisfy their need for lodging.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: Just so. It is true that I have never heard the learned humans categorize different kinds of wealth in this way, but I feel certain that they would accept it.
CEPHALASPIS: Then a concern for economic value means just this: that one has identified, to the best of his ability, all the various needs that humans have, and desires to act in such a way that all things within his control will meet those needs in the aptest way possible.
CEPHALASPIS: Well, then, Australothyris, if the university governors are themselves truly governed by such a principle, I should say that we need have no fear for the continuance of our museum's Paleozoic and Cenozoic wings.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: Indeed? And what leads you to that conclusion, Cephalaspis?
CEPHALASPIS: Well, is there not a human need for knowledge?
CEPHALASPIS: And do not the humans recognize this, and produce such forms of intellectual wealth as books and electronic communication devices?
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: They do, indeed, and take great pride therein.
CEPHALASPIS: And what of the contemplation of beauty? Is not this a need likewise recognized by the human wealth-producers, as evinced by their production of aesthetic wealth: paintings, personal ornaments, dyes to color their clothing, and so forth?
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: Yes, it is true that they regard all these things as wealth, and so must recognize them as satisfying some human need.
CEPHALASPIS: Well, then, if the present layout of our museum is, as Saichania believes (and as seems plausible to me as well), uniquely well-designed for the contemplation and admiration of the truths of prehistoric life, then to alter it as drastically as the Curator described would plainly involve a tremendous destruction of intellectual and aesthetic wealth, for which it is most unlikely that any other usage of the space involved would compensate. In which case, the university governors, being concerned with economic value above all, would hardly be willing to carry it out except under the most extreme necessity.
SAICHANIA: But, Cephalaspis, if the entire museum is so admirably suited to meet human needs, how is it that only a portion of it is visited with any frequency by the humans themselves? For Australothyris was quite correct in that observation.
CEPHALASPIS: Why, Saichania, have you not observed that humans, like all other creatures, seldom act according to their needs, but rather according to their desires? It is the natural tendency of all that lives to overlook the true demands of its nature in the heat of immediate passion – or, rather, to mistake the latter for the infallible voice of the former; to distinguish between the two requires great wisdom, such as the learned humans who oversee this museum have dedicated themselves to cultivating. It should come as no surprise, then, that many humans fail to appreciate the economic value of the Paleozoic and Cenozoic wings, since the needs that these satisfy are not associated with the immediate satisfaction of strongly felt desires.
SAICHANIA: Still, it can hardly be said that their economic value has its full effect, if they are only meeting the needs of a small minority of the local humans.
CEPHALASPIS: True. And therefore it is, I suppose, part of an economically minded human's task to urge his fellows away from such subservience to mere desire, and towards a more just appreciation of their essential humanity and its true needs. It is in this sense, no doubt, that the humans speak, as you and Australothyris have noted, of popular demand as a sure index of economic value; in practice, I daresay, it often is not, but it always ought to be, and any human who loves his fellows will aspire to help it become so. That all humans should live wisely – that they should thoroughly comprehend themselves as beings and the purposes for which they came to be, and should invariably use the things about them so as to best further those ends: this, and no other, must be the dream of every true economist.
SAICHANIA: I trust that it is.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: I too, Cephalaspis. And I further believe that any true economist, or anyone else interested in wisdom, would be glad to meet such a creature as you.
CEPHALASPIS: There is no need to flatter me, Australothyris.
AUSTRALOTHYRIS: I do not flatter. It is the nature of wisdom to simply and clearly perceive the essences of things, as you have tonight simply and clearly brought us all to perceive the essence of wealth. If you continue in the future as you have done tonight, I think it will not be long before all my fellow fossils join me in acclaiming you the wisest of us all.
TYRANNOSAURUS: Perhaps so, Australothyris. But neither Cephalaspis nor any other among us may continue to speak just now, for morning has come swiftly upon us, as it so often does to stony creatures such as we. Now, then, as the museum opens and the humans return, let us become once again the silent stones that it is well for them that we should be.
ALL: Indeed, let it be so.