A Terrible Parable: The Water Cycle
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful lake nestled at the foot of a mountain. It was an idyllic setting. The sun shone warmly down on it, the wind tickled ripples across its surface, and all day long the gentle sounds of the streams flowing into the lake could be heard. The sloping forest which came down to the water’s edge was home to many animals.
The lake was very proud of all the aquatic life that it contained; fish frolicked in the waters, living out happy lives. Turtles rested on flat rocks, enjoying the warm sun. For many years, things were well, until one day, the lake heard a young fish ask its mother about a colorful flower on the riverbank, “When the streams make the water higher, can I swim up there and taste it?” The mother was amused. “No,” she laughed, “The lake stays at the same level; the water will never get that high.”
The lake pondered the child’s question. Why didn’t the streams that constantly emptied into it make him bigger? Where was all his extra water going? He’d never given it much thought before, but he began to imagine the possibilities. His territory could expand, creeping further and further up the bank, if only he could keep more of his water.
That evening, as the lake was settling down for the night, he felt a warm breeze blowing over him. It tickled, and he suddenly realized what was happening. “Hey,” the lake snapped at the wind, “you’re taking my water! Stop it!”
The wind paused, confused. “This is part of the water cycle,” he explained. “I carry water vapor up to the clouds, so that it can sprinkle back down as rain.”
“Rain?” the lake scoffed. “Splashing water around randomly seems pretty inefficient. I can put it to more productive use, thank you very much. Please leave me alone.”
The wind blustered through the trees, trying to make sense of the lake’s demands. Finally he tried again. “But everyone contributes to the water cycle,” he said. “I carry the water away, and it comes back in other ways.”
“Oh, so you think you’re entitled to take a ‘fair share’ of my water, and maybe later I’ll get some returned to me?” the lake replied. “That’s socialism!”
This didn’t sound right to the wind, but as much as he tried, he just couldn’t figure out how to respond. (Sometimes people called him an airhead.) So the next day, the wind asked for advice from the brightest person he knew — the sun.
The sun chuckled when he heard the what the lake had said. “Socialism? The water cycle benefits all of us. Let me talk with him.”
And soon the sun was beaming brightly across the lake. “It’s called an ecosystem,” he explained patiently. “Our working together is good for the whole countryside.”
“I didn’t ask to be part of an ecosystem,” the lake insisted, “and I’m only collecting the water that comes to me voluntarily. I have a right to keep it.” The sun became annoyed, and began to shine brighter. “I know what you’re doing,” the lake said, starting to feel hot. “You’re trying to create water vapor. Stop glaring at me; evaporation is theft!”
So the sun went away and hid behind the mountain, and the wind followed him, and they tried to figure out what to do. No matter what they said, the lake was not persuaded, and only repeated, “I have a right to keep my water. Evaporation is theft!”
All year long, the streams emptied into the lake, and the water level rose and rose. “This is great,” the fish in the lake said. “Look at all the extra room we have to swim around in!” But when winter came, very little snow fell on the mountain, and in the spring thaw, the melting snow exposed more of it than the sun and wind had ever seen before.
“This isn’t sustainable,” the sun tried explaining to the lake. “If you don’t contribute to the water cycle, how can you expect the mountain streams to keep flowing?”
But the lake ignored him. “You can’t force me to be part of your ecosystem; I didn’t agree to it. And I’m not responsible for the mountain; it’s the mountain’s choice if it wants to let the snow melt. Maybe it’s trying to lose weight.” Tired of being rebuffed, the sun went away.
The following year, the streams were noticeably lessened as last of the snow cap melted, but the lake wasn’t paying much attention. “Look at how much water I’ve collected,” he crowed. If he could keep this up, some day he might have a billion gallons. He could even become an ocean!
But his fish weren’t celebrating; instead, they were moving around sluggishly. “It’s getting hard to breath in this water,” they said. The dissolved oxygen level was dropping. Too late, the lake realized he needed help.
“Wind,” he called, “I’d like to trade some water vapor for a good strong breeze. Make some waves, or throw some rain down on my surface. Anything to aerate the water.” But the wind was off dancing in a distant valley.
“Sun,” he cried out, “come shine on me, and tickle my plants into photosynthesis so they’ll make oxygen. I’ll give you all the water vapor you want.” But the sun was nowhere to be seen.
“Mountain,” he bellowed, “I’ll gladly contribute to the water cycle, if you’ll splash some fresh water into the streams. Please hurry!” But the mountain was bare and gave no reply.
Alone with his hoarded wealth, the lake’s stagnant water soon developed a bad case of pond scum, and the lifeless air became thick with the smell of rotting fish. No one lived happily ever after.
The moral of the story? Thing will go belly-up in an otherwise healthy ecosystem if the water stops circulating.
Want to see the American economy roar back to life? Money has to circulate in order for that to happen, and the best way to make sure it does is to put some in everyone’s hands with UBI — universal (or unconditional) basic income — ensuring they have the resources to meet their basic needs.
(Read more: What is the cost of not ending poverty?)
As individuals spend their money, it will circulate and bring new life into impoverished neighborhoods and struggling communities, even if it eventually accumulates in the accounts of the big corporations and the wealthy. Their taxes then help fund UBI, ensuring that money circulates, creating a trickle-up economy.
To make that happen, the American Union is a block of swing voters supporting a legislative package that ends poverty with UBI of $300/week for adults, $100/week for kids. It also ends mass incarceration through police and prison reforms, and ends the endless wars by bringing our troops home.