Philosophy, with the aid of experience, has at length banished the study of alchemy; and the present age, however desirous of riches, is content to seek them by the humbler means of commerce and industry.
– Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
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I don’t have much in the way of money or worldly possessions, I’m not beautiful, intelligent or clever, but I’m happy, and I intend to stay that way! I was born happy, I love people, I have a trusting nature, and I’d like everyone else to be happy too.
If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.
We are all of us richer than we think we are; but we are taught to borrow and to beg, and brought up more to make use of what is another’s than our own. Man can in nothing fix and conform himself to his mere necessity. Of pleasure, wealth and power he grasps at more than he can hold; his greediness is incapable of moderation.
Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.
The eighth commandment reads, “Thou shalt not steal.” It does not read, “Thou shalt not steal from the rich man.” It does not read, “Thou shalt not steal from the poor man.” It reads simply and plainly, “Thou shalt not steal.” No good whatever will come from that warped and mock morality which denounces the misdeeds of men of wealth and forgets the misdeeds practiced at their expense; which denounces bribery, but blinds itself to blackmail; which foams with rage if a corporation secures favors by improper methods, and merely leers with hideous mirth if the corporation is itself wronged.
If thou desire not to be poor, desire not to be too rich. He is rich, not that possesses much, but he that covets no more; and he is poor, not that enjoys little, but he that wants too much. The contented mind wants nothing which it hath not; the covetous mind wants, not only what it hath not, but likewise what it hath.
We magnify the wealthy man, though his parts be never so poor. The poor man we despise, be he never so well qualified. Gold is the coverlet of imperfections. It is the fool’s curtain, which hides all his defects from the world.