the sinking boat: a parable

A donkey and an elephant were on a boat with a leak in it. Slowly, the water was coming in and the boat was sinking. This is the conversation they had:

Elephant: “We need to fix the leak, or the boat will sink.”

Donkey: “The water is already too high, we need to bail out the water.”

Elephant: “Bailing the water is a temporary solution. Fixing the leak is permanent.”

Donkey: “It will take a long time to fix the leak. Who knows? In the time it takes to fix the leak, the boat could already have sunk!”

Elephant: “I don’t think so. I think we can fix the leak quickly as long as it’s the only thing we do. We have to turn all of our efforts to fixing the leak.

Donkey: “But the water is already uncomfortably high! And if we don’t start bailing, it will just get even higher and be even more uncomfortable.


(Suddenly Loquisha, the Moderate Blue-Jay, flies by.)


Blue-Jay: “Why don’t you spend some time bailing water, and at the same time work on fixing the leak?”

Elephant: “I don’t trust the Donkey. I think once he bails the water enough to get it low enough, he won’t be uncomfortable any more and he won’t bother with the leak.”

Donkey: “Ridiculous! Once the water is low enough, we are all comfortable, and we can take our time and fix the leak the right way, instead of rushing it!”

Elephant: “But I don’t want to be spending all of this time bailing water! It’s my time! I have plans for this time. Once we fix the leak, we can use that time for all kinds of things, like enjoying the scenery or rowing this boat to new and better places! But we can’t do those things if all of our time is taken up bailing water!”

Donkey: “But I don’t trust you! You’re going to fix the leak poorly, so that the bottom 80% of the boat is constantly filled with water. You’ll claim the problem is solved because your big fat elephant head is to high up. The rest of us shorter animals are practically swimming!”

Elephant: “Well, logically, it’s obvious to me that the source of the problem is the leak. We have to fix that and ignore everything else, and if that means that the bottom of the boat is wet, then so be it!”

Donkey: “The whole point of this boat ride is to be comfortable! You just want a quick fix that leaves me wading in a half-sunk boat, so that you can sit back and sun the top of your giant elephant head!”

Blue-Jay: “It seems to me…”

Donkey: “Shut up!”

Elephant: “Yeah, shut up.” (shoots the blue-jay)


(Roy-Paul, the Libertarian Spider, crawls up out of the corpse of the blue-jay.)


“You know, the real problem you have is the boat. If there were no boat, you’d have no leak.”