'The Boy Who Cried Wolf', is a well-known fable, in which a young shepherd grows so bored with the tedium of his work, that he repeatedly pranks the residents of his village with false alarms. In the end, there are dire consequences, as the populace refuses to respond to the boy's final - and this time legitimate - distress call.
I was taught this story as a child, and that the moral was, that untrustworthy behavior leads to unforeseen repercussions. I never questioned this outright, but it always struck me as odd that the villagers would be included in this comeuppance, via the loss of their sheep. The boy usually fared much worse of course, but what had the villagers done to incur a karmic debt?
Today, the answer finally came to me, and it's simple: the villagers had failed to act upon a known risk. They had clear evidence that the shepherd could not handle the trust placed upon him, but they chose to accept the easier path - of believing his promises never to repeat the trick - rather than go to the trouble of finding a more reliable replacement.
It would have been a major loss to the village; sheep can be replaced, but we assume that the boy must have been loved and missed by someone, troublesome though he might have been. A high price to pay for adherence to the status quo.