Guilt-free consumption has always been a cherished American value, but this book explores its flip side: a historical engagement with thriftiness, starting in the pre-revolutionary days with Benjamin Franklin, championed by reformers Booker T. Washington and Lydia Marie Child, taken to absurd lengths by the 19th-century miserly millionaire Hetty Green, espoused by economist John Maynard Keynes and married to environmental concerns by contemporary conservationists. Journalist Weber's treatise begins with recollecting her father's conservative habits and ramifies into a far-ranging examination of social programs, alternative movements and mainstream institutions including savings banks, home economics, industrial efficiency experts, "freegans," economists and war departments, all of which promote some form of frugality. While failing to provide a satisfying distinction between cheapness and thrift, the author provides a rich canvas from which to consider American ambivalence about saving; she examines how thriftiness became a racist pejorative hurled at Jewish and Asian immigrants. While the rise of consumer culture and advertising undercut individual and social efforts to save, the author also finds structural reasons for our profligacy in growing financial illiteracy, wage stagnation and deregulated financial markets. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtueby Lauren Weber
Cheap suit. Cheap date. Cheap shot. It's a dirty word, an epithet laden with negative meanings. It is also the story of Lauren Weber's life. As a child, she resented her father for keeping the heat at 50 degrees through the frigid New England winters and rarely using his car's turn signals-to keep them from burning out. But as an adult, when she found… See more details below
Cheap suit. Cheap date. Cheap shot. It's a dirty word, an epithet laden with negative meanings. It is also the story of Lauren Weber's life. As a child, she resented her father for keeping the heat at 50 degrees through the frigid New England winters and rarely using his car's turn signals-to keep them from burning out. But as an adult, when she found herself walking 30 blocks to save $2 on subway fare, she realized she had turned into him.
In this lively treatise on the virtues of being cheap, Weber explores provocative questions about Americans' conflicted relationship with consumption and frugality. Why do we ridicule people who save money? Where's the boundary between thrift and miserliness? Is thrift a virtue or a vice during a recession? And was it common sense or obsessive-compulsive disorder that made her father ration the family's toilet paper?
In answering these questions, In Cheap We Trust offers a colorful ride through the history of frugality in the United States. Readers will learn the stories behind Ben Franklin and his famous maxims, Hetty Green (named "the world's greatest miser" by the Guinness Book of Records) and the stereotyping of Jewish and Chinese immigrants as cheap.
Weber also explores contemporary expressions and dilemmas of thrift. From Dumpster-diving to economist John Maynard Keynes's "Paradox of Thrift" to today's recession-driven enthusiasm for frugal living, In Cheap We Trust teases out the meanings of cheapness and examines the wisdom and pleasures of not spending every last penny.
- Little, Brown and Company
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Meet the Author
Lauren Weber was formerly a staff reporter at Reuters and Newsday. She has also written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, American Banker, and other publications. A former resident at Yaddo, Lauren graduated from Wesleyan University and was a Knight-Bagehot fellow, a fellowship that invites 10 business journalists each year to study finance and economics at Columbia's Graduate School of Business.
Lauren grew up with a father whose creative and eccentric ways of saving money included rationing household toilet paper and developing a gas-saving method of driving in which light pedal taps substituted for full braking.
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