As many of you probably know, I’m the author of The Old Money Book, and a fairly vocal proponent of financial independence, family, the work ethic, and generally what many would consider “traditional values”. I think a healthy marriage and living within your means are good ideas. I don’t care for conspicuous consumption. In a world of continuous online self-promotion and over-the-top bling, I’m Tweed Man in the corner, quietly working on my next book, trying to get one of my songs published, trying to get a film made, trying to keep my neck warm with a 30 year old scarf. (Which works just fine, thank you very much.)
Many people would assume that I’d fall in line with the status quo, be a champion of the establishment, and dutifully follow corporate policy or parrot the party line.
Not so. I have real issues with authority. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do, and I structure my life in order to be as self-reliant as possible, and to keep my choices as much my own as possible (my working definition of ‘freedom’.) I am, for the most part, blissfully unconcerned of the opinions of others, and have little need for approval. I don’t do things that are illegal, so government agencies have no reason to bother me. I don’t call attention to myself in the way I dress, so nobody really can tell how much money I do or don’t have. I guard my privacy, as much as an author promoting his books can, with aggressive diligence. If I ever wore an article of clothing with writing on it, the writing would most likely read, “Don’t Tread On Me.”
I don’t trust people in power for a second. Power, as has been said, corrupts. I don’t trust popular opinion in the least. There is often tyranny in the majority. I don’t pick a lot of cotton in the insights of ‘experts’ on any particular subject or the proclamations of ‘pundits’ and their views on the world.
I realize that I might be categorized as one of those two as a result of offering my opinions and insights into the culture of Old Money, and I’m equally suspicious of my own authority as it relates to that subject, or anything for that matter. What do I know, really? French philosopher Michel de Montaigne famously said, “All that I know is that I know nothing. And I’m not even sure about that.”
During my short life, I’ve discovered that the most dogmatic people are often the most well-intentioned, and the most wrong. The more perspective and information we have, the more inconclusive an issue can be, and the farther off any real solution. Still, we must endeavor to improve our own lives and our world, but there are a million shades of grey out there, and we must acknowledge the complexities and contradictions of the human condition. We must be passionate in our beliefs, but we must be circumspect in assessing their validity.
So read my books and this blog with an eagerness to learn and grow, but weigh whatever I say with your own experience. I may be dead wrong about a lot of things. Don’t cut me any slack. And be suspicious of every kind of authority.
The best way to live your life is to let the final decision about what is right, wrong, beneficial or harmful, truthful or deceitful, lie with you and you alone. Be slow to form your opinions, slower to share them, less confident about their absolute veracity, and open to changing them. Be patient when others are vocal and adamant about their positions. Listen and gravitate to those who offer their opinions quietly, moderately, and within a framework of historical context and polite consideration.
Find or formulate a half dozen principles that you can live by and apply them as often as you can to situations in your life. Find one or two that you’re willing to fight and die for. Don’t bother drawing a line in the sand for others to see. Just stand on a rock and hold your ground.
And if anything I write helps, great. Just don’t consider me an authority. I bristle at the word.
19 thoughts on “Issues With Authority”
Great post, Byron. Very well put. I like your observation that many people assume that you “fall in line with the status quo, are a champion of the establishment, dutifully follow corporate policy and parrot the party line.” Money can give you the freedom to be your own man or woman. It allows you a degree of freedom from certain constraints and the ability to avoid many types of enforced conformity. This can manifest as an independent streak, a devil-may-care attitude or good old fashioned eccentricity.
I believe this is one of the big differences between New Money and Old Money. NMGs and OMGs have the same freedom, but NMGs are sometimes left feeling unmoored by their new found wealth, without much idea of what to do or how to act now that they no longer “have” to do a lot of the things they used to. But the upbringing and education that are so much a part of Old Money culture provide a foundation for the ability to handle this freedom responsibly and maybe even with a bit of style and grace.
This is why OMGs usually appear fairly normal and conventional, but they are often independent thinkers who don’t simply go along with the latest fads or conform to group think. OMGs don’t usually look like rebels or non-conformists (except possibly for some go-to-hell pants or a rebellious phase during the teenage years) but they often have the ability to think critically and for themselves, and the financial, intellectual and emotional security to make a habit of using it.
Of course, I’m generalizing, but this is something I’ve noticed repeatedly. It’s not a knee-jerk emotional rebellion against authority; it’s a healthy and rational skepticism of those who presume to tell us what to think.
Again, great post! Keep up the good work in 2017!
Thank you, Amy! Great insight about OMGs looking conventional but thinking any way they please. Happy New Year! – BGT
Great reply, Amy. I always look forward to your comments as well.
Thank you, Bev. Happy New Year!
The mark of a genius is to realize that you know nothing after a lifetime of study. King Solomon said, “all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” I, for one, despise the establishment and popular public opinion. But perhaps that is the line of thinking of all Old Money. We save our money, not for retirement, but for freedom of choice and thought. We pass it to those we love most…our families in hopes that through training and education they will do the same for their offspring. We will make the world a better place this way. The world was never made better by following orders of corrupt leaders.
Excellent comment, Dario. Thank you. You’ve summarized it well. – BGT
This post really made me think of my father during his working life. He dressed so conventionally. In fact I think he believed thinking about clothes was so boring that he was happy to just buy grey suits and white dress shirts and cycle through his collection of ties. And yet, he has the heart of an artist and an independent thinker and one day he decided to start wearing fedoras just because he like them. He still wore the same traditional clothes but suddenly he added the hat simply because it felt right. This is an example, of the independence I think of among the true aristocrat. It’s just a confidence to know who you are because you know who your grandfather was, and he new his grandfather and his grandfather before him. When you have that kind of history and engagement with it, you know fashions are passing whimsy and you just do what feels right to yourself. You think, “my grandfather looked pretty sharp in his fedora, why don’t we wear those things anymore? You know what, I AM going to wear one.”
However, if I had one critique of your website, I would argue that you overlook one aspect of Old Money that relates to this “march to the beat of your own drum” attitude and that is the fact that a lot of old money fades pretty quickly. Not feeling able to take a high paying job because you don’t want to work for someone you can’t respect, not being interested in money, having familial tastes for the lifestyle of your parents (well made clothes, a full china set for entertaining, private school for your children, etc.) can burn up a family inheritance quickly. These are unique temptations for a family with a long history of wealth.
Thank you very much for the comment. I think in one post a few months back we did address the erosion of capital through the generations. The best advice I’ve heard on the topic is to “eat what you kill,” or to only spend what you earn, and leave the principal untouched and growing for future generations. Easy to say. Tough to do sometimes. – BGT
Ikerrin, that was the main reason for the old system of primogeniture. It was so the money wouldn’t keep getting divided more and more ways down through the generations. Today, preserving the money through multiple generations is a challenge even for very large estates. That’s why you don’t see many Old Money families that are more than three generations old.
I do find it fascinating that this is the case though for two reasons. First, the general rules of money are not that complicated. It really isn’t that difficult to learn that you should should diversify your investments (doesn’t even the bible suggest dividing them into 8 separate holdings which is a start, although modern portfolio theory seems to suggest 30 stocks is a better investment), live below your means, buy low and sell high, etc. Granted a modern understanding of inflation has only been available for a few generations (hence the challenge in Jane Austen books from living off “the funds” or the “5% consols” for multiple generations.). I know many people in my life who absolutely refuse to educate themselves on basic personal finance, and it’s frustrating since personal finance certainly isn’t rocket science. Second, it really isn’t that expensive to live well. The biggest expense is a home especially in popular cities like New York, Toronto, or San Francisco, but after that there isn’t that much to spend your money on. Often you get a start with some of your parent’s or grandparents furniture and jewelry. Investing in a good wardrobe can be expensive at first but afterwards you only need to add a few pieces each year. It baffles me how people can not live on $100,000 a year or even less, especially if you are helped to buy your first home.
Hello Byron, great post!
I spent pretty much my entire weekend reading your blog (I’m sure your stats will tell you how many hours). Promptly ordered your book and cannot wait to read it. It’s as though I’ve stumbled upon someone who has put to paper the niggling thoughts I’ve had about life and how to live it for a while now. I’ve written a book in a (vaguely) similar vein for young women. I hope to inspire them to look to conservative principles and values rather than run along with the destructive crowd (moralistically, materially and financially).
Having not even read your book yet, just going by the blog I can tell yours will be a book I wish I’d had years ago.
Kindest regards from England.
Alena Kate Pettitt
Thank you, Alena. The kind words about the book and blog are greatly appreciated.
I just took a quick look at “Ladies Like Us” on Goodreads. Congratulations! I think we’re advocating similar concepts and I’m delighted to see that you’re reaching out to young women.
I’m encouraging all of our readers to check out your book and The Darling Academy on social media.
Thanks again! – BGT
Thank you ever so much Byron, I blog over at https://www.thedarlingacademy.com – perhaps some of your readers with young daughters (13+) might be interested in the book especially?
Anxiously waiting for my Amazon delivery of yours.
You’re very welcome, Alena. I hope our readers will visit and support. Have a great new year, and all the best with your work. – BGT
“……and a fairly vocal proponent of financial independence, family, the work ethic, and generally what many would consider “traditional values”. I think a healthy marriage and living within your means are good ideas. I don’t care for conspicuous consumption.”
“I don’t like anyone telling me what to do, and I structure my life in order to be as self-reliant as possible, and to keep my choices as much my own as possible (my working definition of ‘freedom’.) I am, for the most part, blissfully unconcerned of the opinions of others, and have little need for approval.”
“I don’t trust people in power for a second. Power, as has been said, corrupts. I don’t trust popular opinion in the least. There is often tyranny in the majority. I don’t pick a lot of cotton in the insights of ‘experts’ on any particular subject or the proclamations of ‘pundits’ and their views on the world.”
And that’s the problem!!!
We are self reliant, we think twice, we judge carefully …….. we think out of the box. We manage our lives and teach this to our children and grand children. We are not greedy, we are magnanimous. We sacrifice with ease, but not because we are avaricious, but because we have ability to plan to the future and we don’t have to ask authority how to do that. We understand history, arts, money, family traditions and values. We don’t need anyone’s “authorization”. Our great grandmothers and grandfathers ……. are natural authorities for us. They carefully guided their lives, planed …….. and passed the wisdom on their children, who passed it to their children. We are family people.
And that’s the problem! There is a problem if you don’t rely on government – some strange people – out of the family circle. There is a problem if you don’t obey strange rules that go against your skin. There is a problem when you go and ask your father or mother for an opinion or advice if you don’t know how or what to do. There is a problem if you are not dependent on government apparatchiks. And people can clearly see it, that we are not dependent on the government. And that’s the problem! We are families and clans; and that’s against the government concept of life. We create something of value and government systematically destroys it. Government can’t create anything of value. And that’s the problem. We know how and when to redistribute family wealth to our clan members and the government hates it!
Please watch what sets authority apart from the rest
Where did he learn this? At government run school?
Happy New Year!
Omgm, I just finished watching the first video and it was so inspiring! I look forward to watching the second one. You’re right, that kind of creativity and imagination would be difficult to find in a traditional, paint-by-number atmosphere. Thank you so much for posting these.
Byron, you ended the year with a excellent post.God bless you with your projects.
Happy New Year everyone!!
Thank you, Mary. I was off the grid for a few days…hope your 2017 is a great one! – BGT
Thank you, Mary.
Great comment, thank you, sir. And thank you for the links. Have a great new year! – BGT