A Quest Begins
I was a little shocked. He was admitting to something
I had already suspected; Grandpa had no intention of
spending his money, ever. But it went farther than
that. Spending money wasn't part of his strategy at
any phase. It seemed irrational. My parents had been
teaching me differently. They taught that it was
important to save, but that the reason for saving was
normally some goal. At some point the idea was to
spend the money on something, even though most of the
time it would be earmarked for retirement. Working
for money with no plan to spend it seemed insane.
I thought about all of the hard work he had been doing
over the course of his life. I felt sad that he would
die without ever getting to spend his riches. I
couldn't think of any other reason why someone would
want to be rich. But I didn't complain too hard. His
plan was apparently to leave it to his family.
Still, I lied awake that night thinking about all the
mail he had delivered. I now understood how much work
it was. I thought about all the time he spent growing
his own food and catching his own fish. And how it
was all for the thrill of waking up each morning and
recalculating the value of his stock portfolio. The
thrill of seeing that number go up and up and up.
I felt he had fallen prey to a sort of mental trap. I
feared that I would fall into the same trap myself. I
thought about my basketball cards. Why did I want
them? I did enjoy them as objects of art. That was
true even though I didn't necessarily care about the
sport or the players or the teams they were supposed
But I knew the only reason I had started buying
trading cards in the first place was my belief that I
could get more money out of them. In that sense I was
just like him. Buying things and doing things simply
for the purpose of increasing the numbers in my
notebook. But I also got more enjoyment out of the
cards themselves, and trading them with other kids
than I would have if I had never bought them in the
I continued holding them on the rationale that I
liked them, but the real reason was that I wanted to
convince myself that they were going to rise in
value, eventually. I was holding on to the belief
that my money was in that shoebox, somehow.
The more I thought it over, I became convinced that
Grandpa had fallen for a trick; he worked a lot
harder than he should have without getting his fair
value in exchange. I couldn't see any reason to pour
all of my time and labor into something purely for
the purpose of accumulating financial balances.
For the first time, I began to wonder if money was
simply an instrument of social control. A way to make
good people like my Grandpa work harder than they
should, for less in return. I didn't want to fall
into that trap.
That was the beginning of my quest to discover the
truth about capitalism.