The Wisdom of Money by Pascal Bruckner

French philosopher Pascal Bruckner’s essay on money wends around through the roots of weath and our complex and often contradictory relationship with it. Bruckner shows us personal and cultural attitudes about the value and danger of money. The section on gift-giving and Christmas reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Gifts essay.

Money implies, first of all, confidence…It is not only a unit of exchange and receptacle of value, but above all a barometer of our desires…To talk about money is always to talk about ourselves. p. 3

In France, one has to seem humble to avoid arousing the envy of the disadvantaged. In the United States, wealth is flaunted…In America, the taboo on sex is predominant, in France it is the taboo on money. These two countries, incarnate in a chemically pure state, would be diametrically opposed archetypes. p. 42

America is in danger of reliving, in the capitalist mode, Europe’s experience of feudalism, the financial barons being the new aristocrats, without manners or blue blood…the American educational and health-care systems, which are expensive and easily accessible only to the wealthiest, and the incestuous proximity of Wall Street to Congress and the White House constitute a scandal and an enigma. p. 70

Giving should be taught like table manners and politeness. A gift has nothing to do with its price; it consists entirely in the intention and beauty of the act of giving it. No matter how humble it may be, it is like an emissary from the giver and bears his imprint on it.  p. 217

The genius of a great culture is primarily and above all the development of beauty, the feeling of an endless exuberance from which we cannot escape without suffering grave damage. That is the secret of a good life: Never run out of things to wonder at.
p. 134

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