Nobody owns the rain. Think about it: it is the single most valuable resource. More precious than gold. Humans and animals need it for drinking water as well as to nourish the plants that feed them. And it is free. If you are thirsty, you simply catch it in the cup of your hands and drink it. Whatever spills goes safely into the ground or into the rivers and oceans.

Unless, of course, you live in an arid desert land or an area of extreme long-term drought. Then, without rain, you die. You, your animals, your crops.

This creates a situation, a problem. Why should some have a surplus of rain while others die of thirst? Is there a way to provide some for everyone?

On the other hand, why bother with those who are dying of thirst? Why is that the problem of those who have plenty to drink?

After all, water is a resource. It is valuable to whoever can capture it — like oil, natural gas, diamonds, silver, etc. If some entrepreneur could herd all of the world's rain clouds into a containment area, and then construct a huge funnel beneath them to collect and bottle all of the rain, he could control the world. He could sell water to the highest bidders. And those who could not bid, would not live. It is so simple that I do not understand why no one is doing it.

Our society — based upon control of resources, capitalizing upon the capture of them or upon improving them for ourselves and others — is the product of thousands of years of civilization, from the cavemen who caught drinking water in their hands, to ourselves who get it from a faucet constructed by an inventor. We have definitely learned how to develop and control the free resources of our environment.

That learning has led to the creation of all of the world's wealth. Resources under control equals wealth.

There is nothing wrong with wealth. In fact, the pursuit of it has advanced the human condition incredibly since the days when our ancestors hunted mastodons.

But is there a limit? Should any one person be allowed to own the rain? The question is not humorous: It is a matter of life or death.

We haven't yet reached the point where a rain monopoly is possible. But the problem already exists. That fact that the most clever or most energetic or most industrious can control resources that are needed by everyone means that some people will eventually be denied the basic necessities of life. They will die. They won't have the wealth to buy their needs, or a handful of rain. They become slaves for a drop of water.

The question then is this: How much rain do I need? Since it is initially free, can I take more than I need even if others do without? Do I have a right to funnel huge amounts of it into my own private reservoir, even if I don't really need it to satisfy my own thirst, while others perish for lack of it?

The answer is two-fold. Legally I have that right. Legally it does not matter who lives or dies. But on the other hand, there is a limitation that cannot impose itself upon me but which I cannot ignore either. Some would call it my conscience. Others would call it an external morality. It says: Take what you need, plus a profit for your efforts, but leave some for the hungry, the thirsty or the less creative people who don't know how to capture, control and sell the rain.

In the parlance of modern politics, that question becomes "Why do I have to pay taxes to support programs for those who cannot provide adequately for themselves?"

Do I pay too much? Or do I give too little? After contributing to the needs of society and civilization, do I still have more than enough for myself? Do I still have a handful of free rain after I give a handful to a thirsty man? Can I be wealthy as the result of my own efforts without threatening the necessities of others?

Nobody owns the rain. Does that mean I should or must share it? If my conscience or morality mean anything, can I simply say: I have the legal right to take it all and leave nothing behind? When do I

have "enough"? When have I taken "too much"?

How much of the rain "belongs" to everyone?

— Edward B. Golla is a resident of Springettsbury Township.