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Wealth Virtues Journal: August 25, 2010

Who is Your Master?

Filed under: Lacking Virtues — Tags: , , — James Ward @ 9:16 pm
© 2009 Poor Richard Web Press, LLC

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Yes, there is an unemployment problem in America, as well as in many parts of the world.  What I despise is the whining and self-pity of some in that situation.

Please do not for one minute believe that I feel no compassion for those that lost their employment due to economic issues beyond their control, or who are now struggling to feed their families, and require a bit of help to do so.  As a conservatively minded person, I believe that any great society provides a financial safety net to those who have felt the loss of a job and it’s affects it has on their esteem, their family, and on the economy of the community and nation. What I do not agree with is the choice of that person, especially an American, to remain dependant on aid, specifically government aid for a period just long enough to allow that American to settle for self-imposed financial slavery rather than to muster the will to be greater than they ever imagined.

Most Americans do not know what the word “poor” really means.  Volunteers from my parish, led by a wonderful shepherd named Father Peter Daly, make their way to the poorest of Nicaraguan villages to provide people who lived for years under sticks and maybe a tarp a decent and better-built home.  Imagine a place in this world where your tool shed would be equivalent to a palace to a family of five in that region of South America.  People from Father Daly’s parish of St. John Vianney in Southern Maryland are not mandated to do this – they simply do so because they understand that their lives, regardless of their particular economic situation is thousands of times better than those of our earthbound brothers and sisters who happened to have been born in the most austere poverty.

So, if you have become unemployed in America, you have my sympathy, but not my pity.  When our ancestors came to America, they came under many different conditions.  Some came because they were forced to, others because they sought something better in their lives. So many of those people overcame their situation of having nothing in a new world, and turned it into a life where they defined their own wealth, whether monetarily or in quality of the purpose of their being.

We in America are far from having nothing. Many that I know that are receiving benefits due to the hardship of losing a job are not happy about it, and in many cases are seeking to do work wherever they can.  Then there are those who create something from nothing.  They are the true definition of America. We are not talking about illegal immigrants (who really are seeking a better life, but going about it the wrong way), but those who come to America because it is still the land of both opportunity and freedom.  You may believe that China is also a land of opportunity, and in a limited sense it is, but try to organize a demonstration in Tiananmen Square to protest government policy, and see how far your freedom goes after that!

My point is that if so many people seek to come here and seek opportunity, and fortunately, citizenship, then for those who are multi-generation Americans finding themselves in dire financial straits can certainly do the same.

In my book, WEALTH VIRTUES, I state that there are those who believe that they can only achieve wealth through such low-probability methods like a lottery, and there are those who simply “hope” for wealth. Hope is a wonderful emotion, but it puts the control of your future in other people’s hands. Some people “hope” to win the lottery. Some “hope” that their employer will give them a raise; others even more tragically will hope that the government will solve their individual problems. I was recently amused by the attempts of a congressional committee to take oil company executives to task for making a profit (something most businesses like to do). The irony is that only a few members of congress have ever owned, started, or ran a business. The U.S. Congress controls the purse strings of America, and they are over $12 Trillion in debt as of this writing. Do you really want to put your hope for financial wealth in a body of politicians? Now, don’t get me wrong; America is a beacon of hope and prosperity for the world, and the U.S. system of governance is the best that has ever been produced, yet its deliberative nature with necessary checks and balances has its own inefficiencies. Hoping for any large government institution or a body of politicians to improve your personal wealth may lead to hopelessness.  If you are one of those who are happy living on the government dole, then you have lost your way as an American.  In essence, you have become a slave to those who forgot (or ignore the fact) that they work for you!

Instead, turn your “hope” inward.  Everybody, and I do mean EVERYBODY, has talents, ideas, passions.  Many people fail to seek out a life based on their talents, ideas, and passions because of fear.  Usually it is the fear of giving up a job to risk your fortune on a chance to excel beyond the expectations of those around you, or even yourself.  For the unemployed, consider the fear to be removed.  You have nothing to lose.  Charge up that imagination, that creativity, that passion, and go where you have not gone before.  Instead of being a slave to others, seek meaning first in helping others.  Find solace and satisfaction in starting again.  Use Benjamin Franklin’s virtue of humility to imitate Jesus and Socrates, but continue the practice of Frugality to survive, but the virtue of Resolution to live.

[Click here to see all of Ben Franklin’s Virtues]

You have heard the same stories as I; the Vietnamese boat refugee who came to America in the 70’s and started a business cleaning toilets only to end up owning a large janitorial services business. I still have yet to meet the same standards of my ancestors who left the old world to do things they had never done before “back there”. This includes a school teacher who started a shipyard, a convicted felon who founded the city of Philadelphia, or an Irish boy who risked all to help create a country and sign his name to the U.S. Constitution.  They all, however, started with nothing if we measure their situation against our 21st century standards. 

If you still believe that the more you receive from the government, the better off you are, then you have nothing to offer this country. You have decided to become a slave of the people you elected to serve you.  Instead, seek out what you want. Use virtue as a path.  Success can also be found in the helping of others.  Wealth is not simply the amassing of money – wealth is also a self-defined goal of a life’s purpose; it is simply a measurement of your self-worth. If you still need perspective, volunteer that free time to serve those who are truly poor. That perspective alone will make you wealthy beyond what you have imagined.

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