This is a guest post by Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert), “reviewing” his latest non-Dilbert book.
When I was asked to write something funny but insightful about “economic discipleship,” “simple living,” and “just giving,” I thought you folks must be hurting pretty bad to ask an atheist cartoonist. But luckily for you, my agent suggested I use it as an opportunity to promote my book. Even better, I could write about those topics with a few applications of cut-and-paste, saving me the need to do any real work.
While browsing your site, I found “ideas for inexpensive weddings.” I wish I had seen this before I got married. More to the point, I wish my wife had. Luckily I had stashed away a few acorns so I could afford this shindig. Still, I felt some inner need to keep the budget under control without appearing cheap. My strategy was to frame all wedding decisions in terms of how many African villagers could be saved from starvation with the equivalent amount of money. For example:
FIANCEE: Do you think we should have a big cake or a little one?
SCOTT: Well, the difference seems to be … about twelve Rwandans. It’s up to you, honey.
And speaking of wasting money on wedding stuff, I don’t get the concept of favors. “Favor” is one of those great ironic names. To my way of thinking, you’re not doing a guy a favor by giving him something he doesn’t want and can’t throw away. That’s more like a penalty. In fact, I could imagine exactly this sort of penalty for minor crimes.
JUDGE: You urinated in public. Your sentence is that you must keep this functionless knickknack somewhere in your home for the rest of your life.
I see that your site is not only about saving money, but also the morality of giving money away. Let me ask you folks a simple question: Who is holier — Mother Teresa or Bill Gates? Let me being by pointing out that on Mother Teresa’s side of the ledger is her lifetime of spiritual inspiration and helping the poor. Not too shabby.
On Bill Gates’s side, we have his targeted philanthropy — for vaccines and whatnot — that will probably end up saving the lives of 100 million people. And he has already convinced his good friend Warren Buffet, and perhaps others, to do similar things with their own fortunes. So let’s add another 100 million people saved by Bill Gates’s secondary effects. You could talk me down to an estimate of 10 million eventual saved lives, but still, it’s a big number.
If you can answer the above question, then we can move onto who would win in a fight between Santa and Jesus. I won’t tell you my favorite answer, but it’s in my book (p. 61).
Finally, let me ask you: What Would Trump Do? If my religion were based on the teachings of Donald Trump, I would try to make a lot of money and keep it all. And I’d feel good about it because I was being true to my beliefs. I’d hate to go through life feeling like a hypocrite. Nonbelievers have it good, too. They can keep their money or give it away — whatever feels right.
Things get trickier when you base your religion on a nice fellow who wants you to give most of your money to the poor. How do you justify buying a third television set when people in New Orleans are living in rolled-up carpets? That’s not a rhetorical question. I actually wonder about the answer. Here are some of my best guesses about your rationalization:
- Jesus likes me better than poor people. He’d approve of my second iPod.
- If I give a poor person a fish, he’d only eat for a day anyway. What’s one day?
- I give 10 percent of my money to charity. God says that’s exactly the right amount. Eleven percent would anger God.
- Poor people are lazy or crazy. My money won’t fix that.
- There’s a loophole in the Bible that says I can keep my money. Woo-hoo!
- I am bad at economics and I am convinced that keeping my money stimulates the economy and helps poor people indirectly.
Am I missing any reasons?
I hope this has interested you in buying the book — it’s chock-full of these annoying but entertaining questions and anecdotes, as well as teaching you how to live on less than $1000/day while saving the world from economic injustice. Please order it from Amazon using this affiliate link, which as I understand pays a nice kickback to this site’s editors: