One day, the Hero came upon a burning house. A crowd of townsfolk watched from the yard.
“Help me!” cried the Homeowner from an upstairs window.
“Call 9-1-1!” said the Hero.
“We did,” said the crowd, but the fire trucks were not yet there.
“Save me!” yelled the Homeowner as smoke poured from the window.
The Hero moved toward the house, but the Blacksmith stood in the way.
“Let me by,” said the Hero. “I need to save the Homeowner.”
The broad-shouldered Blacksmith stood fast. “Think it through. If we do the firefighters’ job, they will get lazy. Saving the Homeowner now will make more of us die later. We don’t want to die.”
“But the house is on fire!” said the Hero.
The Fishmonger stood beside the Blacksmith. “Think it through. The less the Homeowner gets hurt, the less careful people will be about fire. Saving the Homeowner now will make more of us get hurt later. We don’t want to get hurt.”
“Save my cat!” begged the Homeowner, cradling a frightened tabby.
“At least let me catch her cat,” said the Hero.
The Schoolteacher stood beside the Fishmonger. “Think it through. For every cat that dies, two wives are beaten and three children go hungry. Saving the cat means letting other problems harm us. We don’t want to be harmed.”
“You’re crazy!” said the Hero. “Why won’t you let me help?”
“We’re rational,” said the Blacksmith.
“We’re responsible,” said the Fishmonger.
“We won’t let you hurt us,” said the Schoolteacher.
And so the Homeowner died a hero.