Category: Economics

“He had squandered a little money, which action, in a poor family, is one of the greatest crimes. With rich people a man who amuses himself only sows his wild oats. He is what is generally called a sport. But among needy families a boy who forces his parents to break into the capital becomes a good-for-nothing, a rascal, a scamp. And this distinction is just, although the action be the same, for consequences alone determine the seriousness of the act.” – Guy de Maupassant, “My Uncle Jules” (trans. McMaster, et al.)

“At my first Admission into this Printing House, I took to working at the Press, imagining I felt a Want of the Bodily Exercise, I had been us’d to in America, where Presswork is mix’d with Composing. I drank only Water; the other Workmen, near 50 in Number, were great Guzzlers of Beer. On occasion I carried up & down Stairs a large Form of Types in each hand, when others carried but one in both Hands. They wonder’d to see from this & several Instances that the Water-American as they call’d me was stronger than themselves who drank strong Beer. We had an Alehouse Boy who attended always on the House to supply the Workmen. My Companion at the Press, drank every day a Pint before Breakfast, a Pint at Breakfast with his Bread and Cheese; a Pint between Breakfast and Dinner; a Pint at Dinner; a Pint in the Afternoon about Six o’clock, and another when he had done his Day’s-Work. I thought it a detestable Custom.—But it was necessary, he suppos’d, to drink strong Beer that he might be strong to labour. I endeavour’d to convince him that the Bodily Strength afforded by Beer could only be in proportion to the Grain or Flour of the Barley dissolved in the Water of which it was made; that there was more Flour in a Penny-worth of Bread, and therefore if he would eat that with a Pint of Water, it would give him more Strength than a Quart of Beer.—He drank on however, & had 4 or 5 Shillings to pay out of his Wages every Saturday Night for that muddling Liquor; an Expence I was free from.—And thus these poor Devils keep themselves always under.” – Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography (emphases in original)

“I have lately made a Tour thro’ Ireland and Scotland. In these Countries a small Part of the Society are Landlords, great Noblemen and Gentlemen, extreamly opulent, living in the highest Affluence and Magnificence: The Bulk of the People Tenants, extreamly poor, living in the most sordid Wretchedness in dirty Hovels of Mud and Straw, and cloathed only in Rags. I thought often of the Happiness of New England, where every Man is a Freeholder, has a Vote in publick Affairs, lives in a tidy warm House, has plenty of good Food and Fewel, with whole Cloaths from Head to Foot, the Manufactury perhaps of his own Family. Long may they continue in this Situation! But if they should ever envy the Trade of these Countries, I can put them in a Way to obtain a Share of it. Let them with three fourths of the People of Ireland, live the Year round on Potatoes and Butter milk, without Shirts, then may their Merchants export Beef, Butter and Linnen. Let them with the Generality of the Common People of Scotland go Barefoot, then may they make large Exports in Shoes and Stockings: And if they will be content to wear Rags like the Spinners and Weavers of England, they may make Cloths and Stuffs for all Parts of the World. Father, if my Countrymen should ever wish for the Honour of having among them a Gentry enormously wealthy, let them sell their Farms and pay rack’d Rents; the Scale of the Landlords will rise as that of the Tenants is depress’d who will soon become poor, tattered, dirty, and abject in Spirit.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to Joshua Babcock” (January 13, 1772) (emphasis in original)

“Treat your Wife always with Respect. It will procure Respect to you, not from her only, but from all that observe it. Never use a slighting Expression to her even in jest; for Slights in Jest after frequent bandyings, are apt to end in angry earnest. Be studious in your Profession, and you will be learned. Be industrious and frugal, and you will be rich. Be sober and temperate and you will be healthy. Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy. At least you will by such Conduct stand the best Chance for such Consequences.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to John Alleyne” (August 9, 1768)

“In time perhaps Mankind may be wise enough to let Trade take its own Course, find its own Channels, and regulate its own Proportions, &c. At present, most of the Edicts of Princes, Placaerts, Laws and Ordinances of Kingdoms and States, for that purpose, prove political Blunders. The Advantages they produce not being general for the Commonwealth, but particular, to private Persons or Bodies in the State who procur’d them, and at the expense of the rest of the People.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to Peter Collinson” (April 30, 1764) (emphases in original)

“The daily routine had ceased to be a novelty. All the details of the journey and the camp had become familiar to us. We had seen life under a new aspect; the human biped had been reduced to his primitive condition. We had lived without law to protect, a roof to shelter, or garment of cloth to cover us. One of us at least had been without bread, and without salt to season his food. Our idea of what is indispensable to human existence and enjoyment had been wonderfully curtailed, and a horse, a rifle and a knife seemed to make up the whole of life’s necessaries. For these once obtained, together with the skill to use them, all else that is essential would follow in their train, and a host of luxuries besides. One other lesson our short prairies experience had taught us; that of profound contentment in the present, and utter contempt for what the future might bring forth.” – Francis Parkman, The Oregon Trail

“The western Dahcotah have no fixed habitations. Hunting and fighting, they wander incessantly, through summer and winter. Some are following the herds of buffalo over the wastes of prairie; others are traversing the Black Hills, thronging, on horseback and on foot, through the dark gulfs and sombre gorges, beneath the vast splintering precipices, and emerging at last upon the ‘Parks,’ those beautiful but most perilous hunting-grounds. The buffalo supplies them with almost all the necessities of life; with habitations, food, clothing, and fuel; with strings for their bows, with thread, cordage, and trailropes for their horses, with coverings for their saddles, with vessels to hold water, with boats to cross streams, with glue, and with the means of purchasing all that they desire from the traders. When the buffalo are extinct, they too must dwindle away.” – Francis Parkman, The Oregon Trail

“The didactic mission of preserving the past as an object for the future, narrated by the stark finality of ‘never again,’ renders the structural violence of the present illegible while monetizing the promises of witnessing, thus profiting from the illusion that it is possible to coexist with the past.” – Julia Michiko Hori, “Berthing Violent Nostalgia: Restored Slave Ports and the Royal Caribbean Historic Falmouth Cruise Terminal”

“The past is neither inert nor given. The stories we tell about what happened then, the correspondences we discern between today and times past, and the ethical and political stakes of those stories redound in the present. If slavery feels proximate rather than remote and freedom seems increasingly elusive, this has everything to do with our own dark times. If the ghost of slavery still haunts our present, it is because we are still looking for an exit from the prison.” – Saidiyah V. Hartman, Love Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route

“If the monuments of civilization are almost always monuments to barbarism, what would it mean to let them fall into disrepair?” – Julia Michiko Hori, “Berthing Violent Nostalgia: Restored Slave Ports and the Royal Caribbean Historic Falmouth Cruise Terminal”

“Mass production changed human life forever. For the centuries preceding we were primarily an agrarian people living in a natural world, according to our needs and the seasons. Then, literally overnight, most of us were part of some immense process, making a part of a part of something. Universal time didn’t exist until relatively recently, with the establishment of transcontinental railroads. Until then, it had been two o’clock in my village, three in yours. But we needed to agree on the time so we wouldn’t miss our trains. It also took a full generation for the factory owners to get their workers to understand that they had to show up at the same time every day, even if they had enough money for the moment and just didn’t feel like working that day. Last detail—there was, in the nineteenth century, an active campaign, I mean with posters and such, to link poverty with shame. Until then our notion of poverty was more like our notion of cancer—it simply struck some people and not others. But if we’re not ashamed of being poor, we won’t show up for work consistently. In short, it was a profound change, and it was the beginning of the world in which we live now.” – Michael Cunningham (interviewed by Sarah Anne Johnson, “Close Up: Place and Setting”)

“Tourists are people with the means and desire to seek out experiences different or absent from their daily lives. Leisure tourism is shaped around providing things that corporate work culture withholds, including such basics as sleep, sunlight, art and music, physical exercise, relief from stress, a break from surveillance and policed time, from the women’s double day and the culture of busyness, from the myriad mechanisms of social discipline that dehumanize and despiritualize metropolitan life. How to quarrel with such a list?” – Mary Louise Pratt, “Is this Gitmo, or Club Med?”

“I know man’s labor must be one of those deals figured out by Providence that saves him by preserving him, or he would be hungry, he would freeze, or his brittle neck would be broke. But what curious and strange forms he ends up surviving in, becoming them in the process.” – Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March