My father once said to me “One of the interesting things about getting older is realizing that the clichés, prejudices, and popular wisdoms that we rejected as young, educated, independent thinkers turn out, in the end, to be true.”
I love this idea, in part, for its double-contrarianism.
The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin reminds me of my father’s world-view, formed as a Depression-era child, delivered in Franklin’s 18th Century style.
Also, these clichés are true.
We know “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” and a few others, but I had not heard most of them.
The Way to Wealth originally formed the preface to Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack. The book’s conceit is that Franklin’s alter-ego Richard overhears an old man (Father Abraham) quoting his favorite parts from the Almanack to a group gathered together before an auction. As such, the farmer gives a kind of fast-and-furious greatest hits of aphorisms, tied together by the themes of Industry, Care, Frugality, and Knowledge.
Some of my favorites from this book, which I hadn’t already heard:
On complaints about government taxes:
Friends, the taxes are, indeed, very heavy; and, if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us, by allowing an abatement.
On the urge to buy things that seem cheap, on sale, or a bargain:
Here you are all got together at this sale of fineries and knickknacks. You call them goods; but, if you do not take care, they will prove evils to some of you. You expect they will be sold cheap, and, perhaps, they may [be bought] for less than they cost; but, if you have no occasion for them, they must be dear to you…He means, that perhaps the cheapest is apparent only, and not real; or the bargain, by straightening thee in thy business, may do thee more harm than good. For in another place he says ‘Many have been ruined by buying good penny worths.’
On the relativistic nature of time, if you owe money at the end of the month:
When you have got your bargain, you may, perhaps, think a little of payment; but, as Poor Richard says, ‘Creditors have better memories than debtors; creditors are superstitious sect, great observers of set days and times.’ The day comes round before you are aware, and the demand is made before you are able to satisfy it; or, if you bear your debt in mind, the term which at first seemed so long, will, as it lessens, appear extremely short: Time will seem to have added wings to his heels as well as his shoulders. ‘Those have a short lent, who owe money to be paid at Easter.’
The little book’s scant thirty pages could, with smaller type and larger sheets, condense to about five pages. So you’re looking at about 10 minutes of dense wisdom from a founding father of the United States.
Please also see related post All Bankers Anonymous book reviews in one place.
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