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A sentiment sometimes uttered in positive-sum games where a change in game state (the rising tide) benefits all players (all boats). Two examples:

The Stock Market
Good news about one stock can cause investors to become optimistic, buying other stocks, and thereby increasing the value of the entire market.1
The Ching! Market
If a single write-up makes it to Cream of the Cool, the other write-ups on the page will get more attention, which will result in upvotes if they're not complete crap.

Both John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton used the phrase to defend their tax plans.

It was also used by Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan. Reagan also used the term Trickle Down Economics, which George Bush referred to as voodoo economics making it awfully uncomfortable when actually starting practicing it himself.

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