tv After Words with Emrys Westacott CSPAN January 30, 2017 12:00am-1:01am EST
instead, we see members of the mexican american generation who are liberal, who are fighting in the streets and using unruly taxes and art expanding postwar liberalism tell people. so i think that and the election of obama. i start the book with the election of obama. in 2008 and 12 is drying around 70% of the latino vote and everyone wants to know what's going to happen is it going to keep growing and continue to support african-americans and white candidates like hillary clinton? so i think we are trying to answer those big questions. the case i am making this the way we talk about coalition's electoral politics is these different groups coming out of voting on election day is not enough. we need to think about building grassroots social movements and how that is connected to
politics. i think those are different forces at work. it's a critical question. if we are going to build more democratic society, the question of how do the largest minority groups in the country interact with one another and with progressive lights and labor whites, that that is the key question to figure out the answer to. my hope is that this book is a start on that. >> thank you very much for having me. [applause] thank you for coming out tonight. we will be doing the signing. if you could form a line we will come around with posted's in case you want to personalize your book. >> you do need to purchase it downstairs.
[inaudible] >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to today by your cable or satellite provider. >> afterwards is next. this weekend professor explores the history of frugal living. the book is the wisdom of frugality. he is interviewed by michelle singletary. >> so i am so thrilled to be talking to you. you said i can call you and ritz with i totally enjoyed your book. i would like to just start by asking you the simple question, what is frugality? >> well it's a phrase in the book. the concept is can this
simplicity itself is not all that simple. frugality is usually misunderstood. living within one's means, living on very few resources. saving, being the opposite of extravagant. but i began to realize there is more to frugality than just that. there frugality is traditionally considered the virtue in many cultures. but it is associated with simple living in general. and that many different meanings of simple living including living within one's means but also achieving a degree of self-sufficiency. being close to nature. being aesthetic or political. and being independent. enjoy the simple pleasures of life rather than requiring expenditures. all of those things go into the concept of simplicity.
>> you are a penny picture yourself, right? i am rather. my family would vouch for that. i think to be fair, as i said in the book, it is sometimes worthwhile spending money on something you really enjoy that is valuable to you. the crucial thing isn't never spent money on any kind of luxury at all. the crucial thing is to be aware of what it is you really value. what is really worth spending money on. what is something like you're just wasting money or just spending it just because people tell you this is the kind of thing you ought to be doing or buying. >> you wrote throughout your book you talk about various philosophers. 2000 years worth of folks telling us we need to be cheap.
i embrace the word cheap it. but your rights, you say, if frugality equals virtue, wisdom and happiness, why do so many people rejected? why are we rejecting all of these years of smart people telling us we need to be cheap? >> that is a question that is been puzzling philosophers since the days of socrates. it seems obvious to many philosophers, socrates, epicurus,, many others that the good life is the simple life. and sometimes the reason people will go along with that and said yes i totally agree, but they don't actually practice what they preach. a good example of that is the christian tradition. one of the great teachers of simplicity is jesus. yet, many christians from jesus'
time onward have not really heeded his advice to give everything to the poor. i think what i'm saying is simple hypocrisy but i don't think that is the main answer. i think that it's complicated. it's different depending on different times. i think in the past one of the main reasons people for instance did actively seek wealth was simple. while represented security. in a very insecure world. that made made a certain amount of rational sense. even though it was beyond most people. most people would be born poor anti-pork until fairly recent times. with. with the avatar of the industrial revolution it's a little bit different. many people already enjoy a certain level of security. now the recreation opportunities in the vocation opportunities are much greater.
now it is not just sucking away money for security, it is more live life to the fullest. be willing to spend money on great experiences. >> it's interesting. those of us who and i counted two of us, because we are similar. i love to be cheap and i totally embrace it. i tell people all of the talk that i breast-fed all three my kids because the milk was free. my kids hate when i say that these days as they are teenagers. but should frugality be considered a moral virtue? i sometimes can get on my moral high ground when it comes to being frugal. and i see so much waste. should we be considered better than those who are wasteful? >> about the book started with that question. should we consider frugality a
virtue? i found that a tricky question because i have to ask myself why did people traditionally consider frugality a virtue? one reason is that it takes people away from temptation. if you live a very simple life just with the basic necessities you will not be tempted into decadence and luxury and even sin. another reason was, and i think this is still true to some extent. to live simply shows people that you have the right kind of values. very noticeable to me that when people want to praise someone in a much more extravagant way, they often point to the fact that they're living simply. simply. warm buffet, one of the richest men in the world often pointed out that he lives in a house he built in 1958.
the recently appointed pope, made it he had the papal palace and lived a very simple apartment. why do people say that question because they took that as evidence to embrace a simple lifestyle was assigned of a virtue. is that true? i think there may be some truth in it. it does reflect a certain set of values. someone who starts buying lots of private planes or goldplated roles royces. you you kind of wonder what are their values. i think that is the reason for the question. >> there is a part in your book since you are talking about how we look at those who live frugally and we admire them. but right now we are in a time when we have elected someone who exemplifies access.
there's something you wrote in your book i wanted to ask you about. you write, many people play lip service to the seals of frugality and simplicity but you still don't see many politicians trying to get elected on the platform on a policy shaped by the by the principle that the good life is a simple life. on the contrary, politicians promising government strive to raise society's level of production and consumption. the value of continual economic growth is a given. but then you write the majority of individuals everywhere seem to associate happiness more with extravagance than frugality. and that made me think about donald trump. why does he appeal to the masses, many of whom are working-class, lower-class and middle-class. he is the example modern-day example of the excess. why is that?
>> that's a good question. for several he doesn't appeal to the majority. the majority do not vote for him. there's no question at all that people do admire wealth and they admire extravagance. there's nothing you can do about that. you go back to the homes of -- there's tremendous praise for the magnificent well. go to the bible and there's some heavy-duty praise for solomon's wealth. in fact an agent time sometimes wealth is associated with wisdom. like in the case of solomon. so there is nothing new about people admiring the rich and the powerful. and whether the extravagances for the benefit of the public, then you could even praise it in the case of solomon building a
temple for the benefit of the people or for that matter aristotle praises magnificence as a virtue. it doesn't mean by the vulgar access, i think he would regard trump is vulgar access but magnificent in the sense of generosity with one's wealth for the benefit of the people. that could be considered a virtue. in the case of donald trump. i think some people often sit wealth is very rich and that shows he is a good businessman and knows how to handle money. i think that is a bogus argument. he was born into wealth. >> why do you think it is a bogus argument? and i love what you just said because threat your book you talk about there's a lot of contradiction. on one hand we think frugal be immoral and then when he sees so much wealth it could be a bad thing.
e disapprove of extravagant spending? every year there's a survey, not, not about how much people are spending on weddings, 30,000 dollars on average which to me is crazy. i bought a used what interests and my family was aghast. they were outraged. and i said to them. this income i think i paid less than hundred dollars for the dress. said the person who were before me, she's not going to be in my wedding. what i care. but this is contradiction. why do we on one hand love the rich but disapprove when they spend crazy. >> there are good reasons sometimes to disapprove. when you know there are millions of people homeless millions of people going hungry. as a people in dire need of care. and then you see people spending money on absolute huge amounts
on things that are completely trivial. a special mansion for their dog to live in. then it's a philosophical argument which is that that money could be put to much better use just alleviating people's misery. there's one argument. i think there's a objection to it to some extent widgets vulgar this kinda spending. some of the excess especially for donald trump it's not particularly pleasant to look at. think also it back to an expression of values. take the way people handle money as an expression of values. you give the example of spending a lot of money on a wedding. it is a peculiar thing. people spend huge amounts of money on a single day wedding celebration plus the ring and
all of the scanned thing. rather than put a down payment on house. to me, that's not very rational. but some people would say well it's an expression of true love. in effect i have heard students who have argued say this. that how much you're willing to spend on your fiancé is indeed hot reflection of how much you love her. >> that's crazy talk. it's one day folks. one day. the main i got my cousin to drive us. we didn't have any liquor. unlike drink your own alcohol. >> you'll see the same thing for instance coming up to the christmas holidays. and some parents will spend huge amounts of money on their children's christmas presents. why? to some extent they feel like
how much they spend is a reflection of how much they love them. it's not. not that they don't love them, it's just a misguided value. >> you talked about the song minicamp i love except we spent so much time just doing that. spending money to show people that we love them. i don't understand. in the book you talk about let stand this idea of extravagance. he said there's two ways extravagances harmful. you talk about the knockoff affected being wasteful. we covered wasteful little bit. tell me about the knockoff affect. >> the knockoff effective it's really that all of us in society when we look around us and particularly we look up to her socioeconomic superiors and to the people who are in higher pecking orders.
and to some extent we emulate them and to some extent we want to be like them. so let's take an example of higher education. you look at salaries earned by university presidents. some of the top presidents are making several million dollars per year. that seems to me to be ridiculous. after all universities and colleges are nonprofit organizations. same as hospitals. but some of the big medical facilities have ceos earning in the millions and that's just their salary. there's something unhealthy about that. but then you esquire the heads of charities and medical facilities and colleges are making so much money. the answer is because they're basically saying look how much seals and private industry make.
i'm a co i should be getting a comparable income to those people. >> i have they [inaudible]. we talked about the negatives. so when is it a good thing? you point out two ways economic growth and i love the part where you're writing about culture and in particular you mentioned the city my husband and i just visited. you go see david in here stunned at this. and some people are like how could you possibly spend that money to go to florence. but those are two positive things about extravagance right. growth and culture. talk about that a little bit. >> in the book. it's called the wisdom of frugality. and clearly as we started out saying, i have my own
cheapskate's tendencies. so i'm somewhat inclined to favor frugality and simple living. on the other hand the book is not telling everybody you must change alike. it is a genuine attempt to reflect philosophically and fairly on the pros and cons of frugality and simple living and lecturing and arrogance. when you try to achieve objectivity you have to recognize that a huge amount of what we value in our civilization and culture is the result of extravagance. let's say for instance the music of beethoven and mozart. this was to some extent fueled by aristocrats hiring court orchestras which is pretty extravagant. the great author in cities like florence was financed by the extravagance of families. and one of us would now wish it
was different. we don't wish they did not hire court orchestras so we didn't have the music of mozart. but we actually spend our own hard-earned dollars going to sit and going to admire it. so there's a powerful argument in favor of a certain kind of extravagance. even today new york and perhaps on here i will take in a show which to me would be a big expenditure. but why not. it is one of the things that makes new york an interesting city. >> we talked about one of the positives of spending his economic growth. in your book you write talking about patriotism. were not just constantly and aggressively
encouraged to buy stuff on credit. as for many commodities often coupled with low interest loans. but we are told at times that to be an enthusiastic consumers to be a good citizen. and citizen. and then he went on this. consumerism is a form of patriotism. so should we be spendthrift to help save our country? >> i would not endorse that view that consumerism is a type of patriotism. so what i'm doing there's quoting certain people famously. george w. bush urged people to get out there and spent as a form of patriotism. it is a problem for people like me who generally would like to see more people embracing the values of simple living. i think a genuine problem is the fact that our modern economy runs on a lot of people getting and spending. we do expect and require a high level of economic
activity in order to keep the boat afloat. i think that's that's difficult and complicated problem. at the same time, i think there are solutions. i think the way things are organized at the moment there is plenty of money in the system that the money is not evenly distributed. there is plenty of work that needs to be done, yet strangely many people are unemployed or underemployed. so all of the time and through the book now pushing for what i consider a more rational society. if there's work to be done which there is there certain people who want to do it and there's resources available to pay those people to do it, they can we organize things in such a way this this can happen? i think we can. i think it requires not only
radical change in government policy but also requires a change in people's way of thinking. in particular people need to think again about how they do work. at the moment we value hard work. we push the work ethic and we are proud of how hard we work. everyone says how are you doing it was they were really busy. but i think it would be more rational society if we could find a way to read distribute work so everyone worked less and there are fewer people were seriously under employed or unemployed therefore requiring social security in this kind of thing. this is a bit of a utopian vision in a sense. in a sense it will not happen anytime soon. but there's nothing wrong with utopian vision where the purpose of which is to say to people stop and think again about how we are doing everything and if we could organize things in a
more rational way. i love what you say but is so difficult. the u.s. economy is driven on consumerism. every day there is thousands of messages on television ads for people to buy and replace. our homes are -- with stuff. i noticed in your book you talk plus self storage space. we have so much stuff that stuff has its own place and it's air-conditioned. it's crazy to me. so talk a little bit about -- we been talking about the contradiction and we really are split on this thing. on one hand love wealth and on the other hand be frugal. you talk about two in particular, ben franklin and one of the quotes i live by his quote was way of little expenses
a small leak will sink a great shit. i lived by that. my grandmother taught me a lot about being a penny pincher. on the other side -- who died broke. i dies i have lived. beyond my means. so talk about these two people who live simultaneously. i'm on team been an talk a little bit about that part of your book. >> ben franklin is the representative of the one who says live within your means any famously did and he and his wife lived very frugally. there is a funny anecdote of how one-time his wife decided he really did deserve slightly better cutlery and they moved up
-- oscar wilde's famously decadent and was basically live for the moment. at least with oscar at least it is a form of life. if you go a john stuart mill and want to encourage people to experiment and lifestyles than i guess it was in experimenting lifestyle. he didn't die very happily. but that was perhaps more to do with the times he lived in rather than a particular way that he lived. they they start off the question talking about consumerism. i think what i want to say there is this. you're absolutely right. we are bombarded every day from all sides with to lunesta by this that or the other. in the basic message is that if you buy it you'll be happy.
you'll be more attractive, sexier, you'll have better vacations, you'll be more likely to whatever. the question question you have to ask is is any of that true. is it actually true that consumerism produces happiness? it seems to me there's plenty of research on this that points to the fact that it's not true. there is a consensus among social -- which is this. to get out of poverty in proves your level of happiness. to to achieve a basic level of comfort and security is very desirable in your happiness will increase. but beyond a certain point it doesn't make much difference. i think the figure they taught is a household income of about $70000 per year. that seems quite high to me
actually. it seems to me the question to ask about all the consumers is just that you actually doing and making things happier. i don't think it is. i actually think it quite likely breeds discontent. an interesting fact that i have been going over and i don't have an answer to this. in the recent election across millions of people voted for donald trump. the people who voted for donald trump are often described as angry. angry with the system. yet the average income of the household of a donald trump voter was 70,000 dollars. then you wonder why are these people angry? after all $72000 of household income puts you in the top two percentile of the world economy.
it means you are among the richest people who have ever lived in history. why are people by any normal standards angry? >> why are they angry? >> as i said i've been puzzling over it. not sure. i think the answer is probably complicated. it has to do with the fact that it is not just your objective circumstances that determine how you feel. it is your perceived circumstances and what you perceive about yourself. you may indeed be among the richest people in history but it may not feel like that. you tend to compare yourself not with people below you are people worse off than you, but you compare yourself with perhaps were you expected to be or where you would like it to me or perhaps with the people who are just a bit better off than you. there always be someone better
extraordinarily high so you have to make a lot of money to avoid being homeless. many countries don't have the health care system. i am a sort of unreconstructed socialist reconstructive type. denmark provides a secure safety net and guaranteed health care paid for by the taxes with a decent education. yes you have high taxation. i would like to see us move in that direction to ensure everyone can feel less anxious about the basics being taken care of because that way people could in fact reorient their
values and to say i don't have to worry about health care or my kids education so maybe i can try a different career and live more simply and sacrifice simple pleasures. it's one reason for the stress. >> host: i was struck at two places in the book where you list synonyms for being frugal and extravagance and set up the difference between a miser and a saber. in dante's inferno, it's a place
it could even become irrational. i know people like this. but there's a vice to see you as you say $20 no way i'm paying for that especially with a spouse and two children in tow but then later on you think that was my first chance. later on you're not going to miss that $60 where you would have had that experience so sometimes the habit can lead you
penny pinchers. you mentioned solomon that there is a part where he talks about how he spent so much so there is the wa line between being a misr and being frugal? >> guest: it is a spectrum and i think that one aspect would be to be ungenerous or to give money to charity. that's the downside of being excessively frugal. you can try to cultivate the
behavior. there is a sort of obligation to give regularly and one of the ideas of that is to cultivate the habit of being somewhat generous against the self-interest tendency to hold onto everything yourself and i think many people who are frugal can be very generous. many of my students when i talk about this have been raised on depression era of values and even in old age will absolutely not shake the habit of saving
every penny and being very concerned about waste. they are not ungenerous but they don't want to waste money. but there is a difference. >> host: i love that. >> guest: i can't stand throwing food away. >> host: i am with you on that. >> guest: i will make strange leftover meal combinations my wife will never eat. >> host: i loved it. we have left overnight.
we are a large family of five. pay the end of the week there is to hear or three here in servings so i take them all out on the counter and yell left overnight in a as you hear them. the better leftovers are the ones later in the week so i totally get it but that leads me to this. can you define the buck in your term and what is that? >> guest: i take the term from the person that wrote and i subscribed to it.
>> guest: there's a thing about turning your lights out anthe lights out andsaving food. every little bit helps. every small action you take constitutes to a way of living and if enough people share that way of living it does shift the world into a direction that make sense. >> host: the next question i would ask these simple living the old days environmentally sound? my husband and i have to move things out of the bedroom for painting. all the stuff i'm accumulating and things i can throw away really pained me because some of
the stuff you can't recycle and i got a moment of depression because i felt like i even as frugal as i am i am still wasteful and not as green as i should be. it is simple living always been? >> guest: no. i wish it was but it's not. in the last chapter of that i address this environmental argument. there is an obvious environmental argument which is that involves reducing one's ecological footprint. you reduce waste, turn off the lights to save energy etc.. you reduce the need for items. there's a lot of ways to reduce
your footprint there are parts of frugal living into the website did defeat the lifestyle associated with it. i live in a detached single-family house and it is far more efficient and i live where there is not a very good public transport and you drive more than if you were in the city where there is a good transit system so there are parts of the lifestyle but isn't all that green. >> host: i live in the suburbs and work from home for that
reason but also the cost of gas and emissions. what is everybody's thoughts, what would the economy and the country look like and wouldn't there be a loss of jobs, what if everybodbut ifeverybody was che? >> guest: let's say they followed you for christmas and the economy collapse and there would be a disaster for the producers as well.
it's worth asking if the wealthy want to create is more and more production millions of people have all the stuff they need, they don't need more stuff. more people have more than they can handle. you can't just turn it around overnight so that's one of the places philosophy has a value getting people to reflect on the current way of thinking and not reverse the direction overnight but to say can we reorient our
values to its embracing simple lifestyles with the simple pleasures and therefore redistributing wealth so everyone can share? it wouldn't be an overnight transformation but a reorientation of the values. >> host: what you just said and one thing that i've been writing about about in my column for the post is encouraging people to live together, families, multigenerational households because housing is expensive and i try to make the argument for example college students, i think it's fine they
should move home and live home for a while. not everybody can afford their own house but that's a hard sell, don't you think? a book about philosophers that is a hard sell in this economy and culture with more you have to have your own apartment and house. how do you make the argument that it's okay when we've been told kick them out they need to be on their own but if they are on their own than they need a whole household is. >> guest: for many people certainly in the modernized societies one of the biggest problems is housing costs explain a lot of people's
difficulties. they have to work hard and they don't have time for anything else. i don't have a solution to that. the government should stay out and invest money creating subsidized public housing to bring down the housing costs. the first thing you talked about his living more communallis livd again this is the case where we could benefit from thinking outside the box. one of the reasons the college days are such a happy memory is they live with a whole group of friends and again there is plenty of social science
research and people experiment with communal living their families share a compound and if he were in this kind of setup you might cook today is owned and wash cook today's armband washup today's a month and the rest of the time you show up for dinner time and in the evening his activities in this kind of thing. it's a departure from the family that's our cultural dna. i would love to see that strand board particularly when it comes to the way children are raised and we deal with people in older age because they suffered badly from loneliness. wouldn't it be nice and a worthwhile experiment to bring the generations together in
communal living arrangements where older people have younger people around them and the younger people instead of being isolated in their families where they are constantly mixing and mingling with many generations. >> host: i love that idea. >> guest: it was a subject where people though thought thee goings on but you spend time the time doing was writing, studying and eating food with friends and he said the most important his friendship. he really had his values. >> host: that is a hard so.
i love this part and we are getting closer to the end but i love this. simple living allows one to work with and enjoy more leisure. that list the money you need and more likely you are to save. it will reduce your need to work and increasing your leisure time and hits your happiness. so if you want less you can have more and live better so why are we not doing that? >> guest: we don't live in isolation from our society. if all around you that housing costs are going up to.
shell out in different directions when you don't have a choice about it and if people didn't really want to embrace a lifestyle that involved were endless and spending less than they would probably move to places in our country where housing costs are cheap and living is cheap. if you are a young person looking for opportunity, you will probably not move from the city with all kinds of opportunities to the remote location such people see in the backwater. >> host: so you wrote this book do you see there is more
movement after 2,000 years of philosophers advocating for this is very great change do you think? >> guest: i would love to save your witnessing the beginning but i doubt that is true. we have had the consumer society for two or three generations and people have become more aware that there's been a fair amount of criticism and we are more self-aware and critical.
there could be a gradual drift but for the longest period of time people didn't have enough to eat a. of the majority of the society had plenty to eat and then we got fast food and junk food into this kind of stuff so we started to eat more. it's in our dna because you never know when the next famine is going to come. it is not likely to come soon so we started eating more van was good for us but we are aware of that so we start taking measures
to try to deal with it and maybe we are aware of that now with the epidemic of too much stuff and begin to take steps to deal with it. the first step as always a is te self-awareness, self criticism and philosophy. >> host: when you taught a class, that's where the book came out us and give us some criticism about this class was there not? >> guest: quite a few years ago i taught at alfred university where i teach. it was one evening a week and it was cold the good life on a dollar a day. it is meant to be intellectual fun which there is a serious component but we also have fun.
we read contemporary philosophers and critics of consumerism and materialism and then there were a few classes that were a little more fun. we did a field trip to yard sales and then did a show and tell. students watched a video how to cut hair and practiced cutting each other's hair. at the end he had a banquet everyone hav had to bring a sere depression era feasting we tried to feed ourselves less than $10 but i would reject that it was a waste of time or foolish. even the less theoretical more personal finance where people learn about roth iras and average income of those are important things people ought to
know about. and students liked the class and i never met a parent objected thobject ofthe class. >> host: i certainly wouldn't. what do you hope people get from the book? your philosophy is very philosophical and i found myself nodding quite a bit but what do you hope for the average person to get a pic of the book and they should? >> guest: i think the philosophy is a serious discipline but it can also be an enjoyable and entertaininenjoyad it is fun to think hard about problems like why should we think that it's a virtue, what
does it mean to live simply and how do we find these terms, what are the arguments and where does the balance by, those were interesting in themselves but it's important because we are talking about isn't a trivial matter, the question is how he e ought to live as individuals and i'd hope not everyone would read the book and become a certified tightwad necessarily certainly they would reflect on their own values they theorize that and live by the words less waste.
>> host: it has been a pleasure to talk with you about this. the book is fidelity life less is more more or less. it has been a pleasure and i hope everybody will embrace frugality because it is a good thing. >> guest: thank you. my pleasure. hello, welcome. i don't know if we did a sound check. i'm so glad to see everyone here. i love dng