Thanksgiving Thoughts

My main reason for blogging is not to develop a business, make political points, or earn money off of book reviews, advertising, or anything else, but to give something back.  I have a gift of sorts, which means that I should do some “pro bono” work for the good of all.

My work is an expression of me, with all of my idiosyncracies, biases, contrarian views, and as my wife would say, “Merk Quirks.”  I love my wife.  We just celebrated our 24th anniversary.  She doesn’t understand much about money and finance, but she supports me in all that I do — as I support her in our efforts in homeschooling our children.  She works as hard as I do; we both work 12-16 hours/day, 6 days per week, and we love it.

What I write here is an expression of who I am, and how I interpret the world.  My experience has shown me that so far I do better than most at anticipating future problems.  That said, I usually can’t get timing or severity right.  But if I make things easier for people to understand, I consider that a victory.

I am healthy, but I don’t know how long I will live.  True for most of us.  While I have the chance, I try to write articles that will have longer validity than most.  I view my role as not telling you what to do, but trying to teach you how to think, so that you will do better.  I don’t want to die without recording what I think are my best thoughts.  I think I have done most of that, but there is more to do before I am done.


With that, I want to comment briefly on Thanksgiving.  To me, it is more than family around a meal, though I cooked an excellent spread for my family and in-laws.

The next time I visit my in-laws house, I need to get the title of a book that I read there, which purports that the Pilgrims worked exceptionally hard to pay off their debts to the merchant adventurers who funded them.  The Pilgrims were idealists who risked life and limb for religious liberty.  I have no Pilgrim blood in me, but my kids have ~10% of their ancestry there through their Mom.

How hard did the Pilgrims work?  Consider this piece from my friend Caroline Baum, which she publishes annually, with small changes each year.  The Pilgrims, who suffered huge losses in their first year, would not have survived as a colony if they had not privatized agriculture.  Once they did that, they had plenty to eat and to trade for other goods.

Caroline comments, “Their good fortune had little to do with God.”  I would disagree. The Bible commends personal property rights and diligent labor through the eighth commandment.  Obedience to what God commanded brought blessing.

But to take another angle on this, the Pilgrims had quite a debt to pay off, and their agents in London did not negotiate well for them.  It took them ~20 years to pay off the merchant adventurers, who earned a return of ~40%/year off of the idealists who could not do the math, but who did love God.

Considering how well the merchant adventurers did, I would still say the Pilgrims were the victors.  They flourished in their faith, and having more wealth would not have brought them much in the new world.

Bradford, on the other hand, was not as pleased by the end of his life.  In a pattern that would repeat in US history, by the end of his life, Plymouth was almost deserted, because the descendants of the settlers had moved further west, seeking earthly prosperity.  Did they put the ideals of the original Pilgrims first?  No.


In my own life, I could have earned a lot more money had I sacrificed my family and church.  There are tradeoffs in this life, and often the better things get sacrificed for monetary goals.  But to what end?

As for me, I am grateful for my family, my congregation, my church, my nation, and all the blessings that come from God to support them.  May God bless you, my readers, richly as well.