Thrift

Temple Square at General Conference

Temple Square at General Conference

Last month from January 17-23, Philadelphia became the first city in nearly 50 years to reestablish National Thrift Week. National Thrift Week was an American social movement that was begun in 1916 and continued until 1966, when it was abandoned.

Apparently for many, thrift has been a forgotten virtue for the last few decades but it is now making a comeback. Let’s look at what the original National Thrift Week was trying to accomplish and then follow up with quotes from Mormon Church presidents because for Mormons at least, thrift never went out of style.

National Thrift Week

In 1922, according to the New York Times, the committee in charge of National Thrift Week emphasized:

  • Enrolling 500,000 individuals to operate their finances on the budget plan. State Thrift Week committees had quotas.
  • Observance of Benjamin Franklin’s birthday in cooperation with schools, patriotic societies and businesses. Franklin was a keen practitioner of thrift.
  • Thrift is “common sense applied to spending.”
  • Visits by school children to banks and trust companies after school and banking hours.

The National Thrift Week program had a ten-point program such as “work and earn” to increase production; “make a budget” to plan expenditures in advance; “pay your bills promptly” to avoid the curse of debt; “invest in reliable securities” such as Liberty bonds; and “share with others” by giving to the church and other worthy causes.

Mormon Church Presidents Speak on Thrift

While Mormons do not need a National Thrift Week to encourage thrift, nevertheless additional focus on this excellent virtue is welcome. As a Mormon, I have heard thrift and preparedness preached over the pulpit for decades. I suppose that it has been continuously spoken of because not all Mormons have been listening. However, many members have heeded the exhortations of their leaders and have prospered accordingly.

The following are quotes on thrift, self-reliance, and giving by the last eleven presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1901 to the present. These pronouncements carry considerable weight with most members of the Church, even after a president has died.

Joseph F. Smith

6th President, served: 1901–1918

Joseph F. Smith“…I met a brother—I need not call his name, for he is but one among thousands who can bear the same testimony, not only by the word of mouth but by the evidences of thrift, of prosperity, of progress and of improvement which surround him in the midst of the deserts.

This season he has gathered in rich harvests, his farms having produced in abundance, while the farms of many of his neighbors are clogged with weeds, and their harvests have been only one-half or one-third what his has been.

How do you account for it? I account for it in the fact that God has blessed him; and so does he, for he is an intelligent man, a man that not only labors wisely and prudently, but in the fear of God, and in the desire of his heart to obey his laws.”

“Chapter 31: Obedience to the Law of Tithing,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith


Heber J. Grant

7th President, served: 1918–1945

Heber J. Grant“Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift, and self-respect be once more established amongst our people.

The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.”

Conference Report, October 1936, 3


George Albert Smith

8th President, served: 1945–1951

George Albert Smith“The Saints need to give not only of their substance but of themselves. This is the Lord’s work. This is not the work of man. If we desire to be identified with the kingdom of our Lord, the celestial kingdom, this is our opportunity to prepare—with love unfeigned, with industry, with thrift, with perseverance, with a desire to do all that is within our power to bless others, to give—not to be always feeling we must receive, but desire to give, for I say to you: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of giving, not only of our substance but of ourselves, and I thank my Heavenly Father that I belong to such an organization that has been so instructed.”

Conference Report, October 1934, 52


David O. McKay

9th President, served: 1951–1970

David O. McKay“Giving something for nothing as a grant is contrary to the fundamental teachings of the Church. The real purpose of the Church Security Plan is to produce independence on the part of each individual, to make him self-supporting, to replace idleness with thrift and productivity.”

Pathways to Happiness, David O. McKay, 374





Joseph Fielding Smith

10th President, served: 1970–1972

Joseph Fielding SmithAt a press conference the day following his appointment as president of the Church he had expressed amazement at all the “fuss” being made over him. As the months wore on he had cause to feel even more amazed.

One minor recognition that caught his fancy, however, was that he was the holder of the oldest savings deposit account in the Zion’s Savings Bank (now Zion’s First National Bank). His father had opened an account there in his name when he was born in 1876, just three years after the bank was begun. And the account remained intact until his death in 1972.

President Smith was always a strong believer in thrift and the savings account was symbolic of that thrift.

Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, John J. Stewart


Harold B. Lee

11th President, served: 1972–1973

Harold B. Lee“In what we might liken unto a great ‘pincer movement’ of enemy forces to encircle us, we are being surfeited with the doctrine that we can get ‘something for nothing.’

When the smoke of the present frenzied social conflict has cleared away and the carnage resulting therefrom carefully counted, we shall have had proved again that we cannot get something for nothing and continue to prosper, and that the habit of giving instead of getting is the way to happiness. Then our faith in those tried and trusted virtues of thrift, self-sacrifice, and frugality will have triumphed over the vices of reckless spending, selfishness, and a disregard for decent standards of common civic virtue and morality.”

Stand Ye In Holy Places, Harold B. Lee, 337


Spencer W. Kimball

12th President, served: 1973–1985

Spencer W. Kimball“Now, when I was a little boy in Southern Arizona our Latter-day Saints were the pioneers. They were struggling to get their feet planted in the soil-to establish themselves. They were largely employed by others, often at pitifully low levels of income. They were the post-hole diggers, the hewers of wood and the drawers of water. They were the farm hands, the mill workers, domestic servants in the homes, the railroad section hands.

Now, I would not have you think that such work was dishonorable, nor unholy, nor improper, but it is limiting. But in my short life I have seen this people through education and thrift rise to new planes and become the leaders in the communities and hold high places in government, business, professional, social, and political affairs. I have seen them become the landowners and many of them become independent and financially secure, as well as faithful spiritually.”

Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball, 381


Ezra Taft Benson

13th President, served: 1985–1994

Ezra Taft Benson“A sterling virtue which builds manliness and independence is frugality of thrift. ‘Waste not, want not’ has long been the clarion call.

In more recent years, however, this maxim has given way to so-called ‘deficit spending.’ Many have been teaching that we must spend our way into prosperity. How do you regard this philosophy? Have you stopped to analyze its effect upon the independence, self-reliance, and character of the individual? And what of its possible effect upon the very existence of this nation as a haven for freedom-loving men and women?

No man in debt is truly free. He who has not learned thrift and economy is constantly beset with problems and misgivings about the future. His own freedom and peace of mind are endangered. Those dependent upon him are likewise jeopardized in their self-respect and freedom.

So Shall Ye Reap, Ezra Taft Benson, 165

Howard W. Hunter

14th President, served: 1994–1995

Howard W. Hunter“The basic virtues of thrift, self-reliance, independence, enterprise, diligence, integrity, morality, faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, were the principles upon which this, the greatest nation in the world, has been built.

We must not sell this priceless, divine heritage which was largely paid for by the blood of patriots and prophets for a mess of pottage, for a counterfeit, a false doctrine parading under the cloak of love and compassion, of humanitarianism, even of Christianity.”

“The Law of the Harvest: As a Man Sows, So Shall He Reap”, Howard W. Hunter, BYU Devotional, March 8, 1966


Gordon B. Hinckley

15th President, served: 1995–2008

Gordon B. Hinckley“I commend to you the virtues of thrift and industry. In doing so, I do not wish you to be a ‘tightwad,’ if you will pardon that expression, or to be a freeloader, or anything of the kind.

But it is the labor and the thrift of people that make a nation strong. It is work and thrift that make the family independent.

Debt can be a terrible thing. It is so easy to incur and so difficult to repay. Borrowed money is had only at a price, and that price can be burdensome. Bankruptcy generally is the bitter fruit of debt. It is a tragic fulfillment of a simple process.”

Thou Shalt Not Covet,” Ensign, March 1990, 4


Thomas S. Monson

16th President, served: 2008-

Thomas S. Monson“Industry, thrift, self-reliance continue as guiding principles of this effort. As a people, we should avoid unreasonable debt.”

Thomas S. Monson, “Goal beyond Victory“, Ensign, Nov. 1988, 44

“Many more people could ride out the storm-tossed waves in their economic lives if they had their year’s supply of food and clothing and were debt-free. Today we find that many have followed this counsel in reverse: they have at least a year’s supply of debt and are food-free.”

President Thomas S. Monson, “That Noble Gift—Love at Home,” Church News, May 12, 2001, 7

Sources

Rickety signature.

Paul on Politics: Market versus Government Economy

Capitol Hill


Department of the Treasury seal

Government distorts the market

My guest writer today on the Rickety blog is my uncle Paul. Your comments are welcome.

A Productive Economy

Money for services and service jobs arises out of a productive economy — not vice versa. Moreover, service jobs are useful to the economy only if the service furnishes increased value to the products we make to sell in our markets and foreign markets. That truism leads to the distinction between government and private services.

More Government Than We Need

We need to purchase some government service. The difficulty is we purchase more government services than we need because of political power rather than market demand. Our private economy is self-regulating when the producers and their labor must compete in a free market. Government service jobs do not. If a company cannot manufacture a competitive product it will not survive economically. Government service jobs are creatures of political power, therefore are regulated by political force. The role of government in this instance is to keep the market honest.

Contrary to popular assertions by politicians, free market forces did not cause the monetary breakdown we are experiencing. Introducing government into the market always distorts market value by addling costs. It was distortion of the market through congressional action that set the scene for failure. If left to its own devices, the market would drive out inefficient money houses. Moreover, government bailouts created larger monopolies on the premise that money entities are “…really are too big to (let) fail.” Government further degrades the market by choosing who receives the bailout monies. Monopolies are anti market and detrimental to free trade. For example:

Out of necessity to build lending capital, a normal market will pay higher interest to attract capital and replenish their funds. Because banking is a percentage game, banks live on revenue from a percentage of the money it lends. The bailout does just the opposite by propping up inefficient markets in an attempt to shore up prices and continue bloated valuation. Self-serving politicians rationalize their poor decisions by declaring the entities are “too big to fail.”

Keep Government Out of the Market

Keeping government out of the market allows housing and other goods to seek their value furnishing prices that are cheaper for average citizens. Investors collect more interest from the increased sales that fills government tax coffers and furnishes investment capital facilitating new business. Furthermore, by its action, government loses money from the treasury exacerbating the predicament because taxes collected from artificially imposed low interest rates to savers maintains unsustainable prices and moves the day of reckoning farther into the future. It is worth repeating that purchases of expanded services arise out of healthy income from production and not vice versa. We cannot exist as a great nation on a service economy. The production of goods makes the national worth greater by adding value through work thereby creating greater money reserves that fund new economic activity.

Work

Note that the operative word is work. The notion that a nation or anyone else can create wealth by spending money we don’t have is baseless and will result in a catastrophic occurrence of the economy. If deficit spending were the antidote we all ought to go out and get many more credit cards. There is no easy way or quick fixes. We must allow a resettling of the economy to sustainable levels that reflect worth before we can recover. And we must go back to work. Bear in mind the words of politicians who admit they don’t have a clue about what they are doing or what the results may be. They, out of ignorance, say all they know to do is borrow big and spend! Spend!

Make Work Jobs

Credit: Steve Wampler

Because government by definition does not produce new products for sale in foreign markets and our own, government diminishes wealth through taxation that could have been used by entrepreneurs for new investment in production. Moreover, government collecting taxes to employ people in “make work jobs” simply takes money from the investment pool and transfers funds to the non-productive parts of our service economy.

An argument may legitimately be made that a service such as building a new highway to facilitate movement of commerce is a vehicle-service that adds value to the local product. In general, commerce that idly sits in traffic costs us money and wastes our resources. However, if concocting an artificially imposed “good” — as perceived by a few with political power — wastes capacity, then we are purchasing too much service not regulated by market forces. In this case we are purchasing services by political fiat and are inefficient and wasteful. Jon Entine has said:

Political pressure to be “socially responsible” distorts the market decisions of government-related enterprises, leading to risky investments. (Reason Online Feb. 2009 The Next Catastrophe)

Deflation and Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom declares deflation to be wrong for the country. In my view, that depends upon which social class it involves; money classes such as investors, bankers, “rich people” — you get the idea; or poor and middle class people. Deflation is deleterious for the money people who imprudently made bad investments but it is good for the poor and middle class. Here is why:

Deflation forces lower costs to manufacture goods in the U.S. allowing more jobs to be created. Housing costs are less, allowing more people to become homeowners. Deflation makes our products cheaper to make and more home produced products can be sold in our markets and world markets. Deflation makes foreign products more expensive to import into our markets. Market forces will cause manufacturers to come home provided we remove tax incentives that encourage manufacturing off shore.


No Bailout.

Never too big to let fail

Destruction of Our Collective Mettle

Failure makes one stronger. Trying over and over until one succeeds both educates and hardens the striver. Forcing us to work out our own enigma causes us to devise fresh ideas and new inventions for survival that makes real jobs that last into the future. Waiting for someone else or the government to do it for you keeps you weak and dependent — and disappointed. Most of the stimulus package works against the poor and middle class. Here is why: stimulus promoters pronounce, “Financial institutions are too big to let fail,” and created larger monopolies, the package props up the real estate market warping the true worth of property, the package prevents deflation (normal market correction), supports public employee unions that inflate prices for public service through political pressure, and promotes further public employee union organizing, faux stimulus diminishes capital formation through artificially low interest rates.

Waiting for Government

Currently, commerce is stagnant while everyone puts off the inevitable. They wait to see if the government will continue false valuation of an unsustainable economic plight. Meanwhile producers are taking advantage by culling excess labor and non-performing assets conjunctive to restructuring their tax position. Here is an example from the Tacoma News Tribune:

Much of the quarterly loss comes as Weyerhaeuser wrote down the value of its mills, land and products to reflect their current value.

Full Employment Economy Creates Wealth

Many argue about which set of events propelled us out of the 30’s depression. Most agree World War II ended the great depression. Others religiously propound the gospel of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. I am old enough to remember WW ll and posit the reason for recovery came from work. During WW II everyone worked that were physically able and those who weren’t worked at something to contribute to the war effort. We saved and bought war bonds. Even children bought Victory stamps to be pasted one by one into books of stamps. Thousands were employed in the armed forces. Women came into the factories to work. In pursuit of the war effort we built manufacturing capacity by making products for war. That heightened capacity served us well in our economy after the war. It was an all hands work economy that created wealth for the future that was the envy of the world. All the while we intended to pay off the debt and we did.

Wealth Is Not Finite

There is no circa sixties easy way out. Wealth is not finite. Economies grow by adding work to the product. No government can grow an economy by taking the work of others and through political extortion give it to those that don’t earn it. Can you say we plan to pay off the enormous debt being incurred by the so-called stimulus plan?

Photo Credits

Capitol Hill: Wally Gobetz
Money Grab: Steve Wampler

Why a Congestion Tax should be Blocked

I-405 Freeway Traffic
July 10th saw Road Congestion Pricing Possible printed in the Davis County Clipper. The Utah Taxpayers Association is calling for congestion pricing on Utah’s freeways. It is supposed to work by electronically monitoring freeway traffic and charging more when freeways are congested. There are a number of problems with such a system:

  1. Drivers already pay greater amounts of gasoline tax the more miles they drive. The price of gas is a very good automated system for curtailing driving.
  2. The claim that 50% of driving at rush hour is discretionary seems inflated. Most drivers are well aware of when rush hour is. We don’t arise in the morning and say, “Hmm, peak congestion is at 5 pm, I do believe I will wait till then to drive to Salt Lake to buy some stamps.”
  3. If freeways have a rush hour charge, some traffic will divert on to secondary roads, adding to congestion there.
  4. Congestion pricing favors those more able to pay. Congestion is everyone’s problem and needs an intelligent solution that I will of course detail shortly.
  5. Workers who commute would have to pay the most. They have no choice but to travel in rickety cars at the worst of times. The congestion tax does not know who is taking a non-discretionary trip.

Intelligent solutions that encourage participation is the order of the day. Not a new tax thinly disguised as pricing. Here are just a few, nothing new, they have been around for a number of years:

  • Employers can establish satellite offices to shorten the commute and to tout as an added benefit to prospective employees.
  • Telecommuting is an obvious solution that is more viable today with the spread of broadband.
  • The state of Utah recently implemented a 4-day work week. That will shift employee commute times to earlier and later in the day and eliminate it on Fridays.
  • If you must have a congestion tax then levy it on employers who are mandating that workers commute. Employers have been slow to change because the employee bears the full cost of the commute in time and money.

Perhaps the Utah Taxpayers Association should lobby Congress to change the name freeway to taxway to better represent the way the UTA (the Association, not the Authority) sees these vital traffic arteries.

Memorial Day 2008

Ready to topple the tree

We trimmed the tree and dug around the roots before pulling on the chain.

Memorial Day found our family in Brigham City ready to work in my father-in-law’s yard. It was rainy heavily when we arrived so we sat in the living room thinking we wouldn’t be able to tackle the yard. There was a tree to uproot so Paul and Steven went out to examine it in the rain. Soon we were all out there pulling it over with a chain. The Ward’s were helping as well as the spouses of the children of both families. I didn’t think we would be able to pull the tree out but we did. After that we trimmed hedges, emptied a large fish pond, planted flowers, and generally cleaned up.

Steven tackles the tree and that is Derek on the left. Paul is working behind Steven.

Here are Steven (left) and Paul digging at the roots.

Jill takes the video of the fallen tree. Paul gets at the roots again so we can pull it all the way out.

Later we celebrated Jill’s birthday and some of us went to the cemetery.