The water hoarder — a capitalist fable


Once upon a time there was a man. The man liked water — you may even say he loved it.

The man grew up in a family of water lovers. The family didn’t have a lot of water, but they had enough to not be thirsty.

He finished school and went to university. At university, he learnt how to acquire water.

The man graduated and set up a Water Acquisition business. The business started slowly but, over the years, the man got better and better acquiring water. He built more and more reservoirs to store his water, until he had many hundreds of them. 

The man became so successful at acquiring water that he started an international Water Acquisition company. Soon he owned thousands of reservoirs around the world. He won awards and accolades for his water acquisition abilities.

He wasn’t the only great acquirer of water. He began to meet other water acquirers and, together, they set up the International Water Acquisition Federation. The Federation owned and controlled all the water in the world.

The Federation set up water agencies, which lent water to people who knew a little bit about acquiring water. As long as the could prove they had some knowledge, the agencies would lend them enough water so they would not be thirsty. In return for the water they drank, they had to give some back to the agency. Some people drank too much and the amount of water they owed the agencies grew and grew.

But there were people who had not learnt enough about how to acquire water to convince the agencies to lend them water. These were the the thirsty people — they became known as “the thirsty.” Some of the thirsty would steal water. Others would set up deals with people who did have water, at even higher return rates than the water agencies required.

Others of the thirsty would take drugs in order to try and forget their thirst, but it often made them more thirsty. Being thirsty made some angry and violent. Slowly prison populations of the thirsty grew and grew, as more and more were charged with thirst crimes.

The man began to notice the growing number of thirsty and, as he was a somewhat generous man, he established the Thirst Trust. The Thirst Trust gave water to those thirsty the trustees thought worthy of water. The man donated 10% of the water he owned — and it made him feel good.

The man died aged 91. He left his water empire to his wife and three children but, as he took his last breath, he realised, with an instant of regret, that his passion for acquiring water had meant he hadn’t really known his family very well.

The man’s family continued to grow his water empire for generations and generations. At some point in time one of his ascendants realised that the way water was managed in the world wasn’t really working and, maybe, wasn’t fair. On his deathbed, as he farewelled his family, he too felt a tinge of regret and for a second, he knew there could be another way to manage water.

He whispered his idea in his dying breath with his family around him. Nobody heard.

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About Philip Patston

I develop capacity in individuals, teams, organisations and communities in the areas of leadership, diversity, complexity and change. I'm available to work with you now.

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