Works in the Herald 1934

Within recent days the rather puzzling subject of Thrift has greatly exercised my mind. That is to say, it has troubled such mind as remains mine after I have watched from the sick couch others celebrate a post-depression Christmas and New Year season.

In fact it was these celebrations - modest and moderate enough in themselves - that awoke the train of thought leading to this involved matter of Thrift in all its aspects. So, having ample opportunity to recapture, at least sporadically, the lost art of meditation, I promptly recaptured it, and was immediately sorry that I had.

Not so very many years ago the whole thing was perfectly simple. I had all the virtues and vices nicely ticked off and docketed and the eternal verities duly labelled and filed for reference. But, if the depression has taught us nothing else, it has at least taught us the folly of being too cocksure about anything.

Yet I read, only the other day, in an article by one who is recognised as a leader of thought, the unqualified statement that this centenary year of 1934 is one in which Thrift should be carefully practised. The author of the article makes no attempt to define Thrift; he simply says, "be thrifty. be moderate," and leaves it at that.

Yet, what is Thrift? What is moderation?

Less than twelve months ago we were being urged by nearly all our leaders, headed by the Prime Minister himself, to thaw out our frozen assets (the accumulated result of Thrift) to spend freely, to find employment, not to be skinflints, hoarders and wrenches in the machinery of recuperation.

And I, as one who took that advice to heart (mainly because I rather selfishly enjoy spending money) did have my house painted and did have my front fence mended and my garden titivated by other and more eager hands than mine.

And, talking of that same house, I find the Government itself persistently discouraging the alleged virtue of Thrift. For, since I happen to own the house, they tax me yearly upon its annual rental value. Whereas, had I spent my money on riotous living I should not be taxed at all.

It is all very puzzling.

Anyhow, having followed the advice of my leaders so far, and having dissipated most of my small capital in finding employment (and, incidentally, indulging my craving to spend) I am now advised to right about face and gather together a few more frozen assets for some purpose undefined.

I shall continue to take the advice of my leaders, and, for me, this centenary year of 1934 shall be a thrifty year. Well, reasonably so, anyhow.

Of course, there's that rather expensive set of books I have had my eye on for some time and which, despite certain hints, no friend had the intelligence to present to me at Christmas. I might, possibly -

But, no! I must be firm in my resolution. I must practise Thrift.

And yet, on second thoughts, who am I to prevent the seven hundred and forty-fifth part of a bookseller from making his just profit? Why should I withhold decimal oh, oh, eight two nine of his weekly wage from some needy printer? What possible justification can I have for robbing even a vulgar fraction of a bookbinder of his daily bread?

Supposing we all gave up buying books? Ridiculous!

I shall send down an order for those books at once before the Evil One can tempt me into the sin of what used to be known as "the virtue of Thrift."

Herald, 16 January 1934, p4

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002