Two villages grow beside a lake, one to the east and one to the west. The lake is almost paradise for there is no need for shelter or much other sustenance. The villagers simply must fish the lake each day for food and take leisure. At the beginning of time when the fish are few in numbers, everyone must fish many hours. But as the fish populate the lake, the townspeople on both sides of the lake find they have more time for leisure.
The fishermen in the eastern village are a driven clan, choosing not to take leisure but to catch more than enough fish for their own needs, and to offer their excess fish to the western village. To entice the west, the eastern village offers to give more fish today and to take less fish back from the west at a later date to settle the debt.
The people of the western village find the offer irresistible because they can receive many more hours of leisure now knowing that some day when they must repay the fish, they will have to fish fewer more hours than the leisure that they gain today. They even imagine that the fish in the lake might continue to grow so numerous that when the eastern villagers eventually ask them to repay the fish, the western villagers’ children will have learned to catch many more fish, and may not even have to work more hours to repay the debt. So the western village willingly accepts the offer of fish from the east.
As the eastern villagers begin to deliver fish, the western villagers learn that some of their village’s fishermen are no longer needed. When the western village’s catch is combined with the basket of fish borrowed from the east, the western village has more than enough fish. The western village elders meet by the campfire and decide that their less skilled fishermen must sit on the bank, looking pitifully toward the lake and the other fishermen, and take full leisure.
The less skilled fishermen take full leisure even as the debt of fish grows ever larger to the village on the east side of the lake. The less skilled fishermen are willing to catch as many fish as they can even knowing that with less skills, they eat more than they catch. Yet, the less skilled fishermen must take full leisure each day and share in the basket of fish that has been borrowed. Nonetheless, the elders have spoken. They must sit out the catch and watch the villagers from the east deliver fish to their shore. How did the village elders of the west come to this wise conclusion?