There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed…

There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed.  - Mahatma Gandhi

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18th century

Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev (1751-1809)

“With land in excess of 800,000 hectares and more than 200,000 ‘census serfs’ (which meant perhaps a million actual serfs), … the Sheremetevs were, by some considerable distance, the biggest landowning family in the world. In monetary terms, they were just as powerful, and considerably richer than the greatest English lords… . The Sheremetevs spent vast sums of money on their palaces – often much more than they earned, so that by the middle of the nineteenth century they had amassed debts of several million roubles. Extravagant spending was a peculiar weakness of the Russian aristocracy. It derived in part from foolishness, and in part from the habits of a class whose riches had arrived through little effort and at fantastic speed… .”

“Serfs were essential to the Sheremetev palaces… Where skill was lacking, much could be achieved through sheer numbers. At Kuskovo there was a horn band in which, to save time on the training of players, each musician was taught to play just one note… their sole skill lay in playing their note at the appropriate moment….”

“A large part of the Sheremetevs’ budget went on their enormous household staffs. The family retained a huge army in livery. At the Fountain House alone there were 340 servants, enough to place a chamberlain at every door; and in all their houses combined the Sheremetevs employed well in excess of a thousand staff… .”

Entertaining was a costly business, too. The Sheremetev household was itself a minor court. The two main Moscow houses – Ostankino and the Kuskovo estate – were famous for their lavish entertainments, with concerts, operas, fireworks and balls for several thousand guests. There was no limit to the Sheremetevs’ hospitality. At the Fountain House, where the Russian noble custom of opening one’s doors at mealtimes was observed with unstinting generosity, there were often fifty lunch and dinner guests. The writer Ivan Krylov, who dined there frequently, recalled that there was one guest who had eaten there for years without anybody ever knowing who he was. The phrase ‘on the Sheremetev account’ entered into the language meaning ‘free of charge’.”

From ” Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia ”
by Orlando Figes.

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21st century

The Russian Oligarchs

A staggering 35 per cent of household wealth in Russia is owned by just 110 people, the highest level of inequality in the world barring a few small Caribbean islands, a report by a major investment bank says…

The fall of communism saw Russia’s most prized assets sold off to businessmen later known as oligarchs. President Vladimir Putin allowed them to keep their wealth in exchange for political loyalty.

As Dennis McCarthy notes in his book ‘An economic history of organized crime’, the conventional approach to Russian organized crime uses the oligarchs as one of its building blocks as many business activities of the oligarchs fall into that gray area, the Russian ‘twilight zone’, which seems to expand the deeper one probes into relations between the Russian state and Russian organized crime.

Image 1: Sheremetev, Nikolay Petrovich, by N. I. Argunov from the Online Collection of Historical Documents
Image 2: from http://www.therussianoligarchs.com/
Image 3: from Tolerance, Values, Virtuous Living and Our Education

ENDS

Live simply so that others may simply live…

live-simplyFrom the Art of Simple

Voluntary Simplicity is a lifestyle designed to focus on living and veer away from material possessions by subtracting the unnecessary and adding the meaningful. The rejection of consumerism arises from the recognition that ordinary Western-style consumption habits are degrading the planet; that lives of high consumption are unethical in a world of great human need; and that the meaning of life does not and cannot consist in the consumption or accumulation of material things. Extravagance and acquisitiveness are accordingly considered an unfortunate waste of life, certainly not deserving of the social status and admiration they seem to attract today. The affirmation of simplicity arises from the recognition that very little is needed to live well – that abundance is a state of mind, not a quantity of consumer products or attainable through them.

According to this philosophy of living, personal and social progress is measured not by the conspicuous display of wealth or status, but by increases in the qualitative richness of daily living, the cultivation of relationships, and the development of social, intellectual, aesthetic, and/or spiritual potentials. As Duane Elgin has famously defined it, voluntary simplicity is ‘a manner of living that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich, … a deliberate choice to live with less in the belief that more life will be returned to us in the process’.

It should be noted that voluntary simplicity does not, however, mean living in poverty, becoming an ascetic monk, or indiscriminately renouncing all the advantages of science and technology. It does not involve regressing to a primitive state or becoming a self-righteous puritan. And it is not some escapist fad reserved for saints, hippies, or eccentric outsiders. Rather, advocates of simplicity suggest that by examining afresh our relationships with money, material possessions, the planet, ourselves and each other, ‘the simple life’ of voluntary simplicity is about discovering the freedom and contentment that comes with knowing how much consumption is truly ‘enough’.

From What is Voluntary Simplicity?

HappinessFrom SimplySpiritualLiving

THE END

Researching the Money-Empathy Gap

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Bible, Mark 10:25

CamelFrom Class Warfare?

New research suggests that more money makes people act less human. Or at least less humane.

Psychologists at the University of California at Berkeley have found that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.” They also discovered that “Putting someone in a role where they’re more privileged and have more power in a game makes them behave like people who actually do have more power, more money, and more status”.

Check out their experiments on the Money-Empathy Gap in the video below:

These experiments also demonstrated that while a poor man playing in a ‘rich world’ becomes more self-centred, a rich man playing in a ‘poor’ world becomes more compassionate to others. That can potentially help people understand their subconscious biases and relate better to others.

Prince Pauper“As long as the King lived he was fond of telling the story of his adventures, all through, from the hour that the sentinel cuffed him away from the palace gate till the final midnight when he deftly mixed himself into a gang of hurrying workmen and so slipped into the Abbey and climbed up and hid himself in the Confessor’s tomb, and then slept so long, next day, that he came within one of missing the Coronation altogether. He said that the frequent rehearsing of the precious lesson kept him strong in his purpose to make its teachings yield benefits to his people; and so, whilst his life was spared he should continue to tell the story, and thus keep its sorrowful spectacles fresh in his memory and the springs of pity replenished in his heart.”

From “The Prince and The Pauper” by Mark Twain

THE END

By sowing frugality we reap liberty…

“By sowing frugality we reap liberty, a golden harvest.”

Agesilaus

From the Frugal-Wise blog

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“Twenty years ago we began studying how people become wealthy… In time, we discovered something odd. Many people who live in expensive homes and drive luxury cars do not actually have much wealth. Then, we discovered something even odder: Many people who have a great deal of wealth do not even live in upscale neighborhoods.

Most people have it all wrong about wealth in America. Wealth is not the same as income. If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.

How do you become wealthy? Here, too, most people have it wrong. Is it seldom luck or inheritance or advanced degree or even intelligence that enables people to amass fortunes. Wealth is more often the result of a lifestyle of hard work, perseverance, planning, and, most of all, self-discipline.

There has never been more personal wealth in America than there is today (over $22 trillion in 1996). Yet most Americans are not wealthy. Nearly one-half of our wealth is owned by 3.5 percent of our households. Most of the other households don’t even come close…

More than twenty-five million households in the United States have annual incomes in excess of $50,000; more than seven million have annual incomes over $100,000. But in spite of being “good income” earners, too many of these people have small levels of accumulated wealth. Many live from paycheck to paycheck…

How long could the average American household survive economically without a monthly check from an employer? Perhaps a month or two in most cases…

“This people cannot be millionaires! They don’t look like millionaires, they don’t’ dress like millionaires, they don’t’ eat like millionaires, they don’t act like millionaires – they don’t even have millionaire names. Where are the millionaires who look like millionaires?” The person who said this was a vice president of a trust department. He made these comments following a focus group interview and dinner that we hosted for ten first-generation millionaires. His view of millionaires is shared by most people who are not wealthy. They think millionaires own expensive clothes, watches, and other status artifacts. We have found this is not the case… Looks can be deceiving.”

(From “The millionaire next door:
t
he surprising secrets of America’s wealthy”
by Thomans Stanley and William Danko)

From Startups: 7 Tips on Being Frugal From Millionaire Entrepreneurs