In 1757, the American businessman Benjamin Franklin wrote a small pamphlet which he called The Way to Wealth. It was widely read and its maxims were assiduously followed.
Franklin thought of wealth as an asset, not as making a profit today but maybe tomorrow. Today, the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism seeks to draw attention to assets as the engines of market capitalism, including intangible assets such as personal character and social capital.
Wealth was capital for Franklin, that which made income possible. Thus, to enjoy lots of income in the future required first building up assets and sustaining their value. The most important assets for him were personal, readily at hand for every right-minded person.
His advice was:
1) Avoid bad habits: idleness; sloth; pride; folly; for God helps those who help themselves; want of care does us more damage than want of knowledge; a little neglect may breed great mischief
2) Be industrious day in and day out: many words won’t fill a bushel; do not squander time for that’s the stuff life is made of; the sleeping fox catches no poultry; there will be sleeping enough in the grave; lost time is never found again; one day is worth two tomorrows; early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise; he that lives upon hope will die fasting; there are no gains without pains; diligence is the mother of good luck; little strokes fell great oaks; keep your nose to the grindstone
3) Our wealth is ourselves: trusting too much to others’ care is the ruin of many; he that by the plough would thrive, himself must either hold or drive; if you would have a faithful servant and one that you like, serve yourself
4) Keep what we have: get what you can and what you get, hold; be frugal; for age and want, save while you may for no morning sun lasts a whole day; a penny saved is a penny earned; think of saving as well as getting; a small leak will sink a great ship; fools make feasts, wise men eat them; silks and satins, scarlet and velvets, put out the kitchen fire; when the well’s dry, they know the worth of water; a ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees
For Franklin then, the way to wealth must run through character, an intangible capital of great value.