November 4, 2009

A Scout is Thrifty

JGrahamBy James N. Graham

50+ Lifestyles has been exploring the code of ethics known as the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law

In consideration of the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, 50+ Lifestyles has been exploring the code of ethics known as the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law. To date, we have been reminded that a Scout is “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful…” leaving us at “Thrifty.”

According to the BSA handbook, “Thrifty” means: “A Scout works to pay his own way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.” (pp. 47- 54, Boy Scout Handbook, 11th Ed. BSA 1998).

The Boy Scout Law was formulated and revised over several years and developed into its current form in the first two decades of the 20th century. Recall that this was a time when society at large seemed to be on an ever- expanding spending binge. As a reaction to this development and an effort to curb the unsustainable consumerism, a “thrift movement” was revived which stressed frugality and saving. Unfortunately, this movement was quickly co-opted and perverted into the belief that “thrift” meant consumerism on installment plans. Saving was incorrectly equated with spending. Easy credit resulted in a false sense of prosperity.

When production slowed, unemployment rose, and real income began to decline. There was no cushion of saved reserves to dampen the fall. There was a sustained depression.

We currently find ourselves as a society in a financial mess which is eerily reminiscent. Unemployment is high and sustained, production seems stagnant, and income is not increasing. While debt levels, both personally and nationally, have increased, savings have decreased. We have converted from being a nation of savers to being a nation of spenders, sacrificing long-term “needs” in exchange for immediate “wants.” The Scout Law advises us to take a longer term perspective and to avoid the irresponsibility which is the antithesis of thrift.