The Wisdom of Frugality

The Wisdom of Frugality is the title of a second book in a group of readings that may provide a general understanding of today’s world, its philosophical, financial, social, and moral incentives.[1]

Harari was tough reading.

The reader will have a completely different experience reading Emrys Westacott’s The Wisdom of Frugality. Emrys’ writing style is smooth, his points are philosophical, and his descriptions of frugality are expressed pleasantly.

An Evelyn Wood instructor once described Evelyn’s specific method for reading as “consuming and spitting out the book drained of all its information.”

One of Wood’s steps in quickly reading nonfiction and comprehending it as well is to read the author’s outline within the text. This means discovering which sentence in a paragraph contains the primary thought, read that sentence (habitually almost all writers designate the same sentence in every paragraph) then move to the next paragraph. Mariner uses this technique most of the time – not going back afterward to the beginning to read the text normally except to check some point in the text. However, Emrys’ book was so entertaining and filled with small gems of insight that mariner frequently found himself falling off the outline routine to read every word.

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In Emrys Westacott’s book, The Wisdom of Frugality, Why less is more, more or less, he examines why, for more than two millennia, so many philosophers and people with a reputation for wisdom have been advocating frugality and simple living as the key to the good life. He also looks at why most people have ignored them but argues that, in a world facing environmental crisis, it finally may be time to listen to the advocates of a simpler way of life.

The early chapters are definitional as any good philosopher starts an analysis. Living frugally is a surprisingly diverse subject. One must first distinguish between moral reasons and prudent reasons for advocating frugality. If we tell a child to share a toy, that is a moral reason, that is, it is right to share or a duty to share – that reasoning stands on its own and is moral in nature. On the other hand, if there is motive to share, perhaps we want the other children to like her and then they will share their toys with her. There is an ulterior motive in the reason to share. That is prudent in nature.

Westacott says that morality or prudence must be clear in one’s mind to sustain a clear sense of purpose for our frugality. Natural rules of behavior and implementation go astray and frugality becomes misguided if one does not understand why they are being frugal. Westacott goes on in his book to provide many illustrations of moral and prudential frugality that are full of refinement and further define frugality.

From Socrates to Thoreau we are told that ‘the good life’ is a moral and prudent life. This behavior is seen as beneficial to ourselves and wise, benevolent and trustworthy by others yet we consciously choose not to be seen as having these qualities. In a culture lacking in these qualities, society becomes weakened by greed, pride, and the degradation of its institutions. Inevitably society becomes fragmented and suffers the ignobility of economic classification that creates haves and have-nots.

Perhaps more than any other element of our culture, the issue of morality and prudence – frugality – lies at the base of our difficulties. Even on a quote calendar, the presence of morality and prudence pops up:

From Wednesday March 17 2017:

…On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. David Foster Wallace.

When you finish reading Westacott’s book, truth will mean something real and valuable.

The Wisdom of Frugality, Why Less is More – More or Less

By Emrys Westacott

published 2016 by Princeton University Press, 41 William Street

Princeton NJ 08540

ISBN 9780691155081

Mariner recommends giving to Princeton that which is Princeton’s and unto Amazon that which is Amazon’s. Order directly from Princeton at

or visit your public library.

Ancient Mariner

[1] [The first was Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari. It is a book about the future as Harari sees it. While the author is straight forward, logical and takes into account H. sapiens’ history and achievements, he offers little solace from a world chained to a primitive part of the human brain; we are not as morally flexible as we think when it comes to survival and domination in behalf of self. Contemporary greed witnessed in autocracies, oligarchies and growing separation between classes reflects Harari’s view of humankind. He believes the common man will be cast off because he is useless in an automated world.]

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