Robust Thrift

Thrift doesn’t start with seeking sales and clipping coupons, but with a character of contentment.

Disasters strike, both in nations and in families. Hurricanes happen, jobs are lost, and terrorists crash airliners into buildings. Our first reaction is disbelief and disorientation. On 9/11/2001 many Americans spent the day staring at the television, unable to accept that such an attack happened in the USA and uncertain of what the attack meant for our future. On any day, when a family member is diagnosed with terminal cancer, a friend dies in an accident, or a husband loses his job, our normal reaction is stunned silence, fear, sadness, and stunned silence again.

Our second reaction depends on the individual. Some people sink into despair, others begin frenzied work, and still others lash out at whoever or whatever they think is responsible for their pain. Over time, those who are psychologically healthy transform their hardship into a new way of looking at the world, adjust their actions, and resume a normal if inexorably altered life. Those who cannot end up getting help from health care providers and ministers to help them reassemble the pieces of their shattered soul.

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Why We Buy

We often buy not to enjoy our purchase or meet a physical need, but to fill a hole in our hearts, a lack in who we are. 

The Christmas season has just ended, and people worldwide have been evaluating the effects of the holiday. Some people do not celebrate Christmas, and so whatever effect the holiday has on them is indirect. A Buddhist in China, for example, may not believe in Jesus Christ, but may be employed manufacturing toys or clothes given as gifts by those who do believe. A Muslim in the Islamic State may hate the very idea of Jesus Christ, but realize that his American and Western foes are less likely to attack him on December 25th. A Western secularist may scoff at Christianity, but still take advantage of Black Friday shopping bargains and deal with holiday traffic. For many in the West, and in other parts of the world, Christmas is a social rather than a religious holiday.

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Consumer Product Safety

In my grandfather’s childhood in rural Arkansas, most of the food that he ate and the clothes that he wore were produced at home. His ancestors had built their own houses and furniture for generations, and store-bought goods were rare and expensive. While people knew little about foodborne illnesses and other hazards, they knew where the food and other products in their lives came from.

Such is not the case today. Our plates are filled with Indian rice, Honduran bananas, Japanese fish, or American wheat. We buy shirts from Mexico, cars from Germany, shoes from Italy, or electronics from China. Imported consumer goods are only as safe as the governments and producers in their country of origin require. A report in the New York Times stated,

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Values-Aligned Investing

Put your money where your heart is, and live your conscious with your finances. 

Investments should make money, but they should also reflect a person’s values. Money invested in a country or company helps them accomplish their mission, and their mission may not the same as yours. Investors should be aware of the moral underpinnings and ambitions of companies, countries, and individuals in which they may invest or with which they may do business.

Companies that promote societal stability, individual initiative, and personal responsibility generally do better in the long run, both for their stakeholders and their nation. Therefore, investing in companies that promote family-friendly values provides the greatest chance for a reasonable long term return on investment. Long term growth, not “getting rich quick”, is the goal.

Countries that promote these same things, and allow religious freedom, also prosper compared to their more dictatorial counterparts. As a result, investing in companies and sovereign debt in these countries may be prudent. No nation is completely consistent. Germany, for example, is terrific on religious freedom but not as good on family values and personal responsibility.

Individual action also matters. No business is more than the sum of the people who work there, and company leaders sometimes support bad causes in their work, as well in as their personal lives. No real conservative would argue that they don’t have the right to do what they want with their own money, because conservatives believe in private property and individual liberty. However, we all have a right to know where the rich and famous are putting their money, and then decide whether or not to support them and their causes.

The information below can help you make the best investment and purchasing decisions.

Companies

  1. Political bias – Review websites including political donations, public statements, etc. The Center for Responsive Politics has very good information.
  2. Personal Experiences (good, neutral, bad)
  3. Recent events

Countries

  1. Religious freedom – US State Department International Religious Freedom Report 
  2. Personal Experiences (good, neutral, bad)
  3. Political freedom – The Democracy Project identifies nations with little or diminishing democracy.
  4. Recent events

Individuals

  1. Political bias (conservative vs. liberal) – review of websites including political donations, public statements, etc. The Center for Responsive Politics has very good information, including an individual donor site.
  2. Personal Experiences (good, neutral, bad)
  3. Recent events

Universities

  1. Divest U at Turning Point helps people direct giving away from some universities and towards others. It features a Professor Watch List to identify the most radical professors and their schools.

2nd Vote has a mobile device application that ranks companies on their support of conservative or liberal causes. Companies in green such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A support family friendly issues, while companies in red such as Starbucks and the United Way do not. These guidelines are hard to follow when it comes to shopping. If you wish to buy a computer, for example, all of the manufacturers support anti-family causes, so conservatives are forced to pick the least bad company. Investing is more flexible.

No man’s life is merely about money; it is about contribution to causes greater than himself. Investing is as much a moral decision as a financial one. As people weigh priorities about where to invest (and to shop), they would do well to consider all of the factors, not only the monetary ones.