A painting of the fisherman sleeping in a boat from John Lane's parable.

The Fisherman & the Industrialist (a Parable by John Lane)

The Fisherman and the Industrialist is a short story by John Lane, found in his book Timeless Simplicity, originally published in 2000. It’s a parable about greed, contentedness, and modern capitalism.

It’s a simplified version of Anecdote for Lowering Work Morale (Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral), a parable by the Nobel Prize-winning German writer Heinrich Böll in 1963.

The industrialist was horrified to find the fisherman lying beside his boat, smoking a pipe.

“Why aren’t you fishing?” asked the industrialist.

“Because I’ve caught enough fish for the day.”

“Why don’t you catch some more?”

“What would I do with them?”

“Earn more money. Then you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish. That would bring you money to buy nylon nets, so more fish, more money. Soon you would have enough to buy two boats, even a fleet of boats, then you could be rich like me.”

“What would I do then?”

“Then you could sit back and enjoy life.”

“What do you think I’m doing now?”

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.

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