If thou desire not to be poor, desire not to be too rich. He is rich, not that possesses much, but he that covets no more; and he is poor, not that enjoys little, but he that wants too much. The contented mind wants nothing which it hath not; the covetous mind wants, not only what it hath not, but likewise what it hath.
The eighth commandment reads, “Thou shalt not steal.” It does not read, “Thou shalt not steal from the rich man.” It does not read, “Thou shalt not steal from the poor man.” It reads simply and plainly, “Thou shalt not steal.” No good whatever will come from that warped and mock morality which denounces the misdeeds of men of wealth and forgets the misdeeds practiced at their expense; which denounces bribery, but blinds itself to blackmail; which foams with rage if a corporation secures favors by improper methods, and merely leers with hideous mirth if the corporation is itself wronged.
Many individual fallacies in economics are founded on the larger, and usually implicit, fallacious assumption that economic transactions are a zero-sum process, in which what is gained by someone is lost by someone else. But voluntary economic transactions — whether between employer and employee, tenant and landlord, or international trade — would not continue to take place unless both parties were better off making these transactions than not making them.
Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.