One Hundred Dollars of Virtue
Why is Benjamin Franklin honored on the one hundred dollar bill? Franklin wasn’t even a president, yet the “Benjamin”is the highest denomination of common money. Franklin’s adage, “a penny saved is a penny earned,” distinguishes him among those honored with their likeness on our nation’s money.
A founding father, Franklin led Americans two-hundred-forty years ago; his words on virtues still work today. He turned away from acquiring wealth and considered his productivity to be of service and benefit for fellow citizens. In fact, he refused to take patents on his inventions, including the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, any of which would have generated great financial wealth. The most valuable image on paper money is what Franklin stands for—virtue.
However, there is a vast difference between the value of money as currency for goods and services and the face value of wealth, above all, the size of corporate wealth schemesare open-ended—unchecked capitalism purely for money’s sake. This version of wealth is dangled in our faces everyday by corporations promoting “consumerism” as a bond of greed.
It’s the nature of corporate law, lacking virtue, that creates the competitive game of lobbying for special interests and tax breaks to increase wealth, leaving
behind a government that has no revenue to serve the civic good—completely in opposition to the goals of a government “by the people and for the people,” i.e. to serve civic interests and pay for it with taxes. Today a government has emerged that accommodates corporate greed at the expense of the common good and future generations; this we notice as we awaken from the “American Dream.”
Comparing the legal distinction between “corporate persons” and sole proprietors, a major loophole is that owners of a corporation are NOT RESPOSIBLE for its misdeeds and nobody goes to jail, whereas a sole proprietor is held accountable in business. Whom may we point to as the instigator of incorporation vs. common people—or is it a universal genetic lack of virtues and civic responsibility? Did you see the Devil in the mirror today—or was the Devil flying overhead in a Lear jet?
Let’s add up today’s situation: a government that hesitates to represent civic needs + corporations with plutocratic and oligopolistic wealth schemes = a similar situation, in 1776, when Franklin and others found it necessary to declare independence from a monarchy that promoted indentured servitude via a one-way trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Now let’s add up Franklin’s $100 of virtue: you earn a living wage that sustains your household and pays taxes + a government with revenue to provide schools, transportation, police and fire departments, health care and welfare = a productive, egalitarian, culture.
How could you afford to create and maintain a household today? You’d be industrious enough to build your own home and it would cost less than $50,000. You would save for a few years and build it in a few more years’ time. You can cover future expenses because you’re debt free, earning a living wage, and because you made up your mind that wealth is not a virtue. Fair warning if instead you “finance” the same home, the market price would be about $150,000 and you would owe $450,000 on a mortgage—it’s not a win-win situation when you are playing for goods and services and “they” are playing for wealth.
International corporations found they can get even more profitable servitude by “outsourcing,” adding to their wealth, and at the same time foreclosing for the inflated price that must be paid by the people left behind without jobs, and then aggrandize the homes separated from the once-owners to generate even more wealth. MUST WE PAY? Did you ever hear about the Boston Tea Party event? A citizen might not be a criminal for being in debt, but you are outcast. Franklin dealt with prejudiced sentiment by taking civic action, which ultimately resulted in the American Revolution.
The backbone of America is citizens with living wage jobs and affordable housing, two things that myopic corporate greed has taken from us. How do we, the ninety-nine percent today, tolerate servitude and loss of habitat? What are your choices if you opt-out of corporate consumerism? While some may free themselves of the wealth game by choosing to join the Gypsies, be an “Occupier,” or go “Off-Grid,” the majority wants to hear a neo-Franklin say loudly, WEALTH IS NOT A VIRTUE, and show us the way to civic action, ending this creeping glitch of corporate tyranny.
Christopher James Marshall is the author of the do-it-yourself small house book Hut-Topia and is a modern-day off-grid mountain man. After weathering recessions and lay-offs every decade since the 70s through the “Great Recession,” he became semi-retired by making plans to live sustainably and then built his 500-square-foot off-grid home.