Two travellers cross paths in the desert. There’s nobody else around. One, for some reason does not have any water, and clearly will not be able to reach civilization before dying from dehydration. The other has 2 jugs of water. One jug is all either one needs to reach civilization.

The thirsty traveller asks the other if he could give him a jug of water. The other says “I will not give one to you, but I’ll sell you one. Show me the contents of your purse so I can see how much money you have.” The other takes out his satchel and shows him he has 5 bars of pure gold, worth over 50000 jugs of water if traded in the nearest city. This is in actuality the thirsty traveller’s life savings. “Okay,” says the traveller with the water jugs, “I’ll trade you 1 jug of water for all your gold bars. Take it or leave it.”

The thirsty traveller thinks about it and gives the other his answer.

Question 1: If the thirsty man decides he does not want to make the trade for some reason (e.g. because “he is not going to be taken advantage of”, or “I don’t think water is worth that price, I worked hard for my money”) then isn’t he making the decision which he thinks will be the most beneficial to himself? (Same question if he decides to make the trade)

Question 2: Is the traveller with the water taking advantage of the thirsty traveller if he accepts this “ridiculous” trade? Or is it a “win-win” transaction?

Question 3: Is the thirsty traveller happy to have this opportunity to make this decision or better off not having ever crossed paths with the traveller with the jugs?

Question 4: If the thirsty traveller accepts and is happy with the trade (maybe thinking “better to be alive and poor than rich and dead”), and the traveller with the 2 remaining jugs is also happy (maybe thinking, “I guess water out here is worth that much!”), would you like a powerful third party to come and intervene in the name of whomever you think is the poor “loser” in this transaction and make it more “fair”?

Question 5: If the thirsty traveller refuses the trade and prefers to keep his money, and the traveller with the jugs says “suit yourself” (maybe thinking “I guess water out here isn’t worth that much”), should then a powerful third party come and intervene?

Question 6: What if the traveller with the jugs only had ONE jug, does this change your answer for question 2?

Question 7: What if there were two thirsty travellers and only the one that has the most money gets to buy the jug of water. Is there an injustice occurring because the poorer traveller will die but the richer traveller gets to live?

Question 8: What does it mean that the richer traveller had more money than the poor one? (Assume the richer one got the money legitimately)

By your answers to these questions, I think I would know what Capitalism means to you. Go ahead and send them to me at

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