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    Money Troubles

    October 13, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
    Ecclesiastes 1:9

    I risk incriminating myself by using the quote I’m about to use. We have a family rule that the family read-aloud should only be read by the family together. But I couldn’t resist browsing the afterward. Is the afterward officially part of the book, even though some editions don’t contain it?

    If so, I’m in trouble because Si reads my blog.

    As I was saying, we are currently reading the posthumously published book The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The notes at the end are written by Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Lane begins her ending notes with this:

    For seven years there had been too little rain. The prairies were dust. Day after day, summer after summer, the scorching winds blew the dust and the sun was brassy in a yellow sky. Crop after crop failed. Again and again the barren land must be mortgaged, for taxes and food and next year’s seed. The agony of hope ended when there was no harvest and no more credit, no money to pay interest and taxes; the banker took the land. Then the bank failed.

    In the seventh year a mysterious catastrophe was worldwide. All banks failed. From coast to coast the factories shut down, and business ceased. This was a Panic.

    It was not a depression. The year was 1893, when no one had heard of depressions. Everyone knew about Panics; there had been Panics in 1797, 1820, 1835, 1857, and 1873. A Panic was nothing new to Grandpa, he had seen them before; this one was no worse than usual, he said, and nothing like as bad as the wartime.

    The cacophony of cries over the state of the economy reminds me of the global warming/climate change crowd whose members are always distressed about a hurricane here and a flood there. Now, I’m not saying that natural disasters aren’t distressing as much as I’m saying that such folks don’t seem to be very aware of history. If you read enough, you know that there have always been floods and storms and blizzards.

    Truly there is nothing new under the sun.

    I think what might have happened in our own culture is that we actually believed we could avoid any future troubles, economically speaking. We lived like the future would be ever bright and welcoming.

    I suppose if we had read our history, we might have thought ourselves overdue for money trouble. Such happenings were apparently quite common in the 1800s.

    Of course, we’ve been so free from such worries that we have jeopardized our ability to survive by forgetting how to do so. That definitely makes things scarier.

    Anyhow, today I was reading some thoughts on the economy written by someone who is not an economist. His points made me think, and anything that makes a person think afterwards is worth noting here at Afterthoughts, for that is what it’s all about, right? Thinking someone else’s thoughts after they do and hopefully learning a little bit along the way.

    Here are a few excerpts from Andrew Kern’s posting at Quiddity:

    What I am opposed to is vast bureaucracies who replace the wisdom of elders with their expertise – whether they are corporate or government is not the primary concern.

    Economy comes from the Greek for household customs or household laws. It used to have to do with the best way to run a household. Now it means the statistical analysis of the movement of money and how I can get more for myself. Autonomous economics is a death wish. It no longer has any interest in the household, the health of which is often in conflict with the so-called health of the substitute economy created by economists so they could have something that fit into their calculators.

    Go read the rest.

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  • Reply Brandy October 15, 2008 at 6:18 pm


    Funny you should mention this. After we read one particularly debt-ridden chapter, I told Si that I thought you would have used it as an opportunity to warn your kids about debt! So last night when there was more on debt, we talked about it for the first time. It is a little difficult as our kids still can’t grasp the concept of interest, but a couple of them DO understand waiting until you actually have the money for something.

    To be honest, I have been shocked at how much debt is in these books! I always think of debt as something postmoderns do, you know? But I’m thinking that one of the dangers back then was that the average person was raised by a farmer who may or may not have had much money. If they owned the land outright, money was an anciallary issue for the most part. This probably meant they didn’t teach their kids much about money at all, leaving them vulnerable to the winds of circumstance, I think.

    Now who’s rambling? 🙂

  • Reply Jeana October 14, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Brandy, do you talk to your kids about how Almanzo and Laura went into debt, and that complicated their financial troubles? I hate to disparage the couple, but somehow I think Laura would be okay with my kids learning from their mistakes. Besides, the implication is that Laura saw it that way, and Almanzo was more prone to charge something he thought Laura would like.

    As usual, I’m rambling.

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