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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Family Lessons

My blogger friend Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek wrote an interesting post that discussed his family background. It was an assessment of his "Class Background". The following quote prompted my comment below:

Growing up, my siblings and I were aware that we weren’t wealthy, but we thought of ourselves as middle-class. Our home was comfortable (despite having only one bathroom!) and our family life (dare I say it?!) normal and loving.As I look back on my childhood, I appreciate my parents’ values.

Never, not once, did I ever hear my parents complain of not being rich; never was there any expressed or felt despair about driving mostly used and often rather decrepit automobiles; never was there any hints that the economic deck is stacked against us. Never did I suppose that I was cheated, robbed, or even unlucky. I know that my parents, and each of my siblings, feels the same way.

My Comment:

Funny that I should read this post today. Fox News had done a story about the biggest fear of the "wealthy" beings whether their children will wind up lazy rich kids (a la the Kennedys---indulge my never-ending joy in picking on them).

I was thinking this morning how I am now a solidly middle-aged professional with moderate means. Yet, the one facet of my life that tends to impress people (and myself looking back) were my 5 years as a Rhode Island dock-hand and part-time commercial fisherman. Both jobs entailed incredibly tiring manual labor, dangerous work conditions, appearing for work on time (though not necessarily sober) and decidedly unintellectual tasks. For me it was fun and paid the bills and bar tabs. I did this from the formative years---21 to 26. Then I began law school.
To my land-lubber cohorts who are mostly lawyers or businessmen, it is this romantic background that they lack, having gone right from college to post-grad studies, that they seem to envy.

I know this portion of my life turned me into a morning person, someone who could get up and do the work when it was required despite a lack of sleep, energy, health or a clear head. I spent time with real men and inculcated a firm conviction that the measure of a man is in his production, cooperation, recognition of hierarchy, bravery and integrity. In some ways it was my military boot camp.

So what do I do with my kids? They are living in a level of luxury that I never experienced. How do I ensure they do not become mini-Kennedys.

Mike Taylor responds with something he entitled "Take A Page From Andrew Carnegie:

"I should as soon leave to my son a curse as the almighty dollar."

Carnegie sold his steel interests in 1901 for $480 million. In today’s dollars that’s close to $11 billion. (For reference, Bill Gates is worth somewhere near $45 billion today.) Carnegie gave it all away. Two thousand eight hundred library buildings; 7,000+ church organs established in his name.

Tell your kids they’re getting nothing… and then buy a bumper sticker that says “Spending My Kids’ Inheritance” for the new RV.

That ought to lead them to believe that they need to work for a living… and if it doesn’t, there’s something really wrong.

-- MTT


At 6:56 PM, Blogger Happy0303 said...

Thank you for submitting this great post to the carnival. I can totally relate. We are not crazy wealthy by no means but we can afford pretty much anything we want. I just don't want my kids to take advantage of that.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Neal Phenes said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Neal Phenes said...


My buddy at work, who has raised 4 boys, currently the 3 oldest at various levels of college and the youngest just finishing high school, was asked to address an audience of parents of 14 year olds who were about to enter high school. He was asked to provide them the secret of successfully raising responsible teenagers.

He told the audience that he could not respond to specific hypotheticals as each depends on what was taught to a given point so that the reaction would be logical. But he could tell them that the key to raising children consists of 2 words:

"Deprivation" and "Intimidation". There is no question that the former sees little use in today's families. The latter is probably hyperbole to a degree but necessary at times in a child's early years.


My best friend's youngest brother was always a bully of sorts. He was intimidated by his oldest brother and I always suspected that he never pulled any crap with me because of his fear of reprisal from his bog brother (and his construction worker father). I learned in my senior year that the reason he always treated me with respect was that I punched him out when he was 13. I never remembered the incident as I am no fighter. But I guess at some time in the past I stood up to his nonsense. And it carried me through highschool when he wrestled at the heavyweight class and remained something of a bully.

The point is a well-placed single "lesson" can go a long way.

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