The Way to Wealth

As a preface to the 1758 edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” Benjamin Franklin wrote “The Way to Wealth.”  Intended as advice on being successful in business, it is a compendium of previously published ideas espoused by the fictional character Father Abraham.  Divided into four sections, Father Abraham extols the virtues of industry, care, frugality, and knowledge by liberally quoting from “Poor Richard’s Almanack.”  What is interesting about much of the advice is that it may be applied to our nation as a whole as well as a business or even individuals.  Prior to the main writing, Father Abraham says that:

“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.”

Father Abraham continues on from here, offering advice to those in his audience.  Below are a few select quotes from “The Way to Wealth:”

Industry:

“If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.”

“Lost time is never found again; and what we call time enough always proves little enough.”

“Industry need not wish, and he who lives upon hope will die fasting.”

“Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all things to industry.”

“Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered tomorrow.”

“A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.  Many, without labour, would live by their wits only, but they break for want of stock.”

Care:

“If you would have a faithful servant and one that you like – serve yourself.”

Frugality:

“If you would be wealthy, think of saving, as well as of getting.”

“If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some; for he that goes a borrowing, goes a sorrowing.”

“Think what you do when you run into debt; you give to another power over your liberty.”

“But poverty often deprives a man of all spirit and virtue.”

“Gain may be temporary and uncertain, but ever, while you live, expense is constant and certain.”

Knowledge:

“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

Much of what Father Abraham advises is as useful today as it was when it was first published, and at the same time having become common knowledge.  The essence of the missive can be summed up in modern phrasing thusly: work hard, strive for self-sufficiency, spend less than your income, and educate yourself to the greatest extent possible.

While it seems that these concepts are common sense, I wonder…have they become lost on modern America?  And more importantly, if they have been lost, can we get them back?

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Published in: on March 7, 2012 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment