Mailbag: Readers’ Thoughts on Ethics, Our Broken Bowl and Shortcuts to Wealth

A friend of ours hosts a breakfast on his farm every few months.

He gathers some eggs, digs up a dozen potatoes and fries up a few links of pork sausage. It’s all farm fresh.

It’s quite good.

But it’s also quite illegal.

The law tells us we need a certain type of kitchen to do such things.

It also tells us we can’t feed folks at the same place their food is produced.

It’s kind of silly.

That’s why our friend does it anyway.

“When the Feds invade us,” he says. “We’ll offer them a fresh sandwich and a heaping plate of ignorance.”

Ain’t that America. The land of the free… and home of the folks brave enough to snub their nose at the law.

It’s a growing trend these days. It’s something we’ve written about a lot in recent months.

We’d never recommend somebody break the law. But we get why more and more folks are doing it.

From the president declaring an emergency on the border to the little guy pushing his way through a tax loophole, there are so many laws these days, it seems we have to break them just to get business done.

But what’s the point of it all?

What’s the point to telling some well-meaning farmer that he can’t invite his customers to enjoy what he enjoys each sunrise?

Or, going where we almost certainly shouldn’t, what’s the point of telling some young lady she can’t use her body to make a few bucks? As many cash-heavy folks have argued… who’s the victim in that oh-so-old crime?

Ah… but give a man a blank book and he’ll surely fill it with laws.

And give us a mailbag… and we’ll surely stir some controversy.

Legal Ethics 

As we opened our mailbag this week, we were forced to call 911.

There was a bit of an emergency.

We think somebody has kidnapped our archnemesis… super-reader J.H.

We think somebody has broken into his house, has him duct taped to a chair and – for the first time ever – is sending coherent, reasonable messages from his laptop.

We’ve sent the authorities to look into the situation.

We’re worried for his health.

In the meantime, here’s what the intruder sent us…

Hi, Andy, here is something I don’t do much – saying you are right that Trump is flaunting the law to fulfill his overreaching campaign promise. It is a slippery slope. Glad you said it. [Yes, our nemesis is definitely tied up and gagged in the corner.]

But I want to point out that laws are not all we Americans as a whole think they are. Some judges will tell you laws are the foundation of our society. They are wrong – ethics are the foundation of civilized societies, but we pass laws as mere tools to make people behave ethically or to pay taxes, etc.

I want laws enforced only to uphold ethics. No harm, no foul. 

The catch, however, is that raising money for the police dept. and the township or city and the state has mucked up the water. Indeed, if the police or the court is making money off the fines, that is such a huge conflict of interest I am amazed it has not been challenged. Take all those court fines for traffic tickets and give them (entirely – every last cent of the fine) to the national disaster relief fund (or some such charity or national interest – paying down the debt) and our police would be a lot friendlier – give us more warnings instead of tickets and they would get a lot more cooperation from the citizens. That requires police to understand and enforce ethics, not laws (ethics as totally expressed in the golden rule which is universal and simple). Super-Reader J.H.

Oh my… We hope the real J.H. is OK.

But we must admit… this criminal invader has a point.

Let’s start with his first idea.

If we are so bold as to be able to scratch our head and ponder it for a moment, we’ll see a bit of humor in it.

It’s funny that the most unethical folks we can think of – swamp dwellers – are the same folks setting the nation’s ethical standards.

It’s a debate we have at the Manward house quite often. Our dinner plates are used to dancing as fists pound the table.

Should morality be mandated by the state?

If so… what the hell has happened over the last decade?

And whose moral code is it? Yours or mine?

As for the free-thinking invader’s second idea… we disagree. But he’s not too far off the truth.

We know of no police department or court system that pays for itself with fines and costs. Few officers write enough tickets in a year to pay their salary.

But here’s the thing… give a man a job to do and he’ll soon ensure there’s enough work for two. And those two will find enough work for four… then eight… then 16… and soon enough you’ll have yourself a police department and enough acronymed agencies (DEA, ICE, TSA, DEP, etc.) that nobody will know who’s knocking on the front door.

That, dear reader, is why my friend can’t serve breakfast on the farm.

Moving on… but not straying too far from ethics and morality.

We wrote last week about the sins of debt. We showed readers how debt has become the new – and socially acceptable – form of slavery.

Several readers sent us entries from the oldest lawbook we know of…

As Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Reader D.F.

We wonder if anybody has sent that line to the fine folks at the SEC.

They seem to be having a tough time writing their own rules of morality.

Finally… Some Sense

Another reader wrote in with a different take on the same essay…

Howdy, Andy, fully enjoyed your article. As with the broken bowl, reducing your plate size helps. Not spoken of in circles advocating independence and self-reliance (financially) are DRIP plans. Once a core amount is established, the dividends acquire more shares without burden to the daily budget. Yes, the dividends are taxed (capital gains rate), and yes it’s slower compared with more volatile favorites. Yet now my post-college-aged daughters have an egg in their financial nests for future use. Now 5X the original value. Perhaps some commentary in the future?

It’s a different kind of financial knowledge. Thanks for sharing your approach to life. Reader R.H.

Good stuff. Dividend reinvestment plans (aka DRIPs) are a world-class way to grow wealth.

They’re quite simple. Buy assets that pay dividends… and automatically use those dividends to buy more stock.

It doesn’t get much smarter or easier. Going back to the theme of our essay, it’s the best way we know of to fill our bowl.

We’ll pen an essay later this week on the subject of DRIPs. It’s certainly some must-share Know-How.

Drowning in Success

One more… in response to Friday’s essay about that darned dog that yearned to run.

There was a kid on this island that had a thirst to be successful. He was told for years about a wise old man on the other side of the island who could provide him with the answer he was seeking. When he came of age, he set out across the island and searched for days until he discovered the man’s whereabouts. 

“I’ve been told that you have the key to success, sir,” he stated as he encountered the man. 

“Son, follow me,” as he led the young man out into the surf. 

As the boy followed the old man into the water, it got increasingly deeper and deeper. Then suddenly the old man grabbed the boy by the shoulders and thrust him under the water. The old man was not letting up, and the boy was panicking and thrashing in the water trying to get a breath of air as the old man held him under the water. After several minutes the old man let him go just as the young boy was certain this crazy old man was going to drown him. 

As he dragged himself back to the beach, he cursed the old man and shouted, “You are crazy. All I came here for was to find the key to success, and you tried to drown me.” 

The old man looked at him and answered, “Son, I did show you. The key to success is to WANT it as bad as you WANTED that breathe of fresh air, for there are no shortcuts!” – Reader V.G.

Yep… isn’t it amazing how the hardworking among us seem to breathe a bit easier?

It’s crazy how that works.

Keep the comments and questions coming. Email us at

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