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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Penny for Your thoughts, November 12, 2009
This review is from: In CHEAP We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue (Hardcover)
Now, what are you going to do with that penny? Save it? You're thrifty, and the Puritans would be proud of you. Hoard it? You're a miser, and possibly fulfilling an unpleasant ethnic stereotype. Spend it? You may be carrying thousands of dollars in debt but congratulations, you're a patriot! Of course, that depends on when you spend that precious cent and what you spend it on.

In Lauren Weber's entertaining "In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood America Virtue," the key word is "American." The Founding Fathers, arriving in a land of unparalled raw abundance, worked hard, prospered, and then preached but did not practice that idea that material attachment leads to moral decay. As Weber writes, "... no amount of hellfire sermons against pride and excess scared giddy American consumers away from enjoying the benefits of their burgeoning wealth and their vital trade with the rest of the world." The rest of the world doesn't consider spending habits a key piece of their national identity, but thrift has always been a defining American concern, because how we handle our money is tied to our independence. Buying a new car, riding mower, washing machine, in the 50's, meant freedom from drudgery. Going "freegan" today means scavenging out a living in support of values which the Founding Fathers would sanction. Our reluctance to pay unjust taxes, in the first place, sparked our campaign for freedom. How we spend our money is, in the end, a reflection of what kind of independence we truly prize.

Weber traces our topsy-turvy relationship with thrift through the history of our country, profiling such notables as Franklin, Penn, Emerson, and the Typical American Housewife, and outlining the waxing and waning of thrift versus indulgence in both these advocates and our society. One decade preaches "Keep up with the Jones," followed by a decade which preaches "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without," which takes us to a decade which advises, "Buy days mean paydays ... and paydays mean better days ... So buy, buy!"

An enlightening read. Buy this book, if you've got the pennies.
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