Sunday, October 12, 2008

When is Enough Enough?

John C. Vogel thinks we’ve become greedy. Vogel ought to know – he’s the founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Group Inc, one of the largest mutual fund companies in the US.

Vogel has written a book due out next month, “Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life”. The title is taken from a conversation between writers Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller during a party at a billionaire’s estate. The story goes that Vonnegut pointed to the billionaire and asked Heller, "Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel Catch-22 has earned in its entire history?"

"Yes," Heller responded, "but I have something he will never have: Enough."

A few months ago, I took part in a focus group sponsored by a credit card company. The company was looking to understand….get this…why I didn’t spend more on the card. I turned to the moderator and said, “Because I don’t need anything.” Apparently, I was in the minority. The other participants seated at the table looked at me like I had just passed wind in church, and then proceeded to top one another with stories about how much they charge on their cards all in the name of collecting bonus points. That should have been my first clue.

Don’t get me wrong – I love stuff. I love money. But I just think that before you buy your stuff, you need to ask yourself two questions:

1) Do I really need it?
2) Can I afford it?

Likewise, I don’t think anyone is entitled to home ownership any more than they are entitled to a $40,000 Denali, a 50-inch plasma HDTV, and that wicked-cool Bang and Olufsen stereo. Nor do I think the government is obligated to ensure that you can keep any of it once you’ve maxed out your credit.

I keep looking for a silver lining in all of this mess. Maybe it’s this – perhaps this is the wakeup call for us to begin to take stock in what we truly have, and separate it from the things we don’t need.

The other night, Mrs. Goldwater and I had a friend over for dinner. Nothing fancy, just homemade pizza on the grill and a couple bottles of cheap red wine under the stars. As I unscrewed the cap of the second bottle, I came to appreciate fully the poignancy of Heller’s statement. I’ve got the fetching Mrs. Goldwater, good friends and family, great kids, a warm fire on a crisp October night...I have all I need. I have enough.


Anonymous said...

You were enjoying a fire? You global-warming, capitalist swine!

Got to eavesdrop on some conversation last night during an Oktoberfest celebration in CWs favorite gated community.

No longer were dot com stock tips or tales of house flipping discussed like we did back in the day.

No, my neighbors who own the "$40,000 Denali, a 50-inch plasma HDTV, and that wicked-cool Bang and Olufsen stereo" were trading tips on obtaining relief from their mortgage companies.

Goldwater's Ghost said...

*sigh* - I think America just hit the snooze button on that wakeup call.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for $6 bottles of red wine...

Dick Whitman

Goldwater's Ghost said...

Amen to that. There are some really good reds on the market today from $6-$10, but that's a whole other blog entry...

Dan said...

Amazing post in its timing. I was at Wal-Mart today and wondering about the excesses of American society as I gazed upon 11 aisles of various Halloween costumes -- masks, make-up, accessories, etc. This did not even account for the candy aisles. All of it made in China. Do we really need 27 different ways to make ourselves up for Halloween? When is enough, enough, indeed.

Anonymous said...

"...I gazed upon 11 aisles of various Halloween costumes".

Were any of those actually kids costumes?

Dan said...

Not a one.

Doc Milnamo said...

This will probably label me an old fart, but here goes. A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a co-worker when the subject of halloween came up. I mentioned how I hated this "holiday". She said she did as well because as a Christian, etc, etc. I told her I hated it for a reason other than religious. I used to think it was cute for little kids to go from house-to-house trick or treating. It stopped being cute when older teens would come to the door with no costumes and not say a thing and just stand there with open bags and attempt to extort candy. Then, the adults completely hijacked the day.

OK, old fart mode off.

Anonymous said...

Enough. A soul mate (and maybe passionate sex everyday). The chance to ski powder 30 days a year and wonder at the splendor of nature and the majestic outdoors. Time to stay fit and healty. Money to live comfortably in a place you love with friends that are unconditional, with money left over to give to others who need or did not get oppertunity or foundation of liberty Americans take for granted -- all without debate or regret. Security and charity enough to help others without concern for safety.

And a good bottle of $6 wine (OK -- maybe $8-$10).

Joe Heller is a great American.


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