An emperor decided his population was rising too fast and decided to decrease the numbest. Bunches of generous birth and death control methods did he come up with, but the most dastardly scheme was the Neat Edict. His subjects, however, bitterly called it The Press Test.
The emperor, you see, founded a law that anyone found wearing rumpled clothing, after being fined, would find a rock, then use his or her (or their) own forehead(s) as an iron...to press and press to reduce the crinkles in the clothes to half, then half of that, then half of that... As the victims wept, the soldiers jeered at the poor souls and mocked them: "Press! Press! They were halving a bawl.
To the despot's calculated glee, no one could pass The Press Test. As sure as waking up with a sniffle, everyone starts off with a crumple in the blouse and more get added as the day goes by. So there was no shortage of victims squirted into The Press Test arena.
First it was 12 creases legislated, then 5. It soon became Three and then One, before ending in none. By slowly reducing the number of creases permitted in clothing, the whole population was soon caught up in the Emperor's net. It was most unfair, but no matter how hard they pressed for freedom from The Press, the population steadily dwindled.
The approximately equally wicked emperor of the next fiefdom, taking sadistic note, invited his neighbour over to congratulate him. "How did you achieve that?", Vile asked Evil over a poisoned lunch.
Clutching at the tablecloth as he went down writhing, he nevertheless had a last grasp answer:
"By gradual decrees"