The following amounts to an over-simplified (but the older I get the simpler things become dear reader–note I did not say easier, simpler and easier are not equivalent or synonymous) plan for setting up shop for prosperity. If you have read the proclamations of the Puritanical Libertarian, you know by now that he is for moral and material prosperity. But, the purity comes first. In (4.17) you will find the argument for the hierarchical supremacy of moral over material prosperity and the role the former has in ssupporting the latter. Onward.
Prosperity, more generally, is here conceived as an accumulated good. Early on this string of posts (4.2-3 thereabouts) it was argued that one of the distinguishing features between moral and material goods is that material goods are susceptible to diminishment by nature (moths and thieves), moral goods are not. Rejoice! The ONLY way to diminish a moral good is to give it away. Rejoice…or despair. Sigh. I have been profligate. Finally, whereas one can become addicted and obese on material goods (gold, sugar, sex) there is no upper limit to the fitness achievable in moral goods. Rejoice! To work.
He who wants to accumulate more of what is most worth having, and is undiminishable if he wills it not to be diminished, and has no upper limit on its accumulation, must set to work now. I mean now. What must he do? He must consume less than he produces. Hug the simplicity. The formula is such: (x-y= + (savings)) and not (X-Y=0) and one certainly wants to avoid modeling after the raging lunatics at the government who keep propelling the entire country into (X-Y= – (debt)).
The net value of production and consumption must be positive. MUST be. Later, and we can look forward to this later, we can think about INVESTMENT which is the product of saving which is the product of living on less than is produced. For now, let us convert this very simple mathematical model into the moral realm and see how the soul power of virtue can be accumulated through a kind of consuming less than is produced. Here we go.
First, in talk of the accumulation of moral good we are talking about virtue. Virtue is shaped feeling. Vice is also shaped feeling. The former is to be pursued and the latter avoided.
Second, the ingredients that are mixed to produce virtue or vice are will and feeling. When the soul stream of feeling is directed toward undevelopment (sloth, envy, rage, gluttony, lust) it is a kind of living beyond one’s means. It is like flushing money down the toilet. It is a kind of prolifigacy. That which is available for producing virtue is redirected to vice. Even more frightening, the end result is debt and bondage. Anyone who has climbed out of bad habit (called technically and medicalized in our culture as addiction) has realized later how they wished they had not spent earlier, how much interest has been accrued, and how much better it would have been to have never spent so profligately.
Third, when he who is in charge of the direction of the stream of soul feeling finally realizes his power (he is like a god here but it is so hard to convince him of his position) he can do the following: he can block the flow of soul feeling toward undevelopment. This is cutting up the credit card. This is the unwillingness to spend. Two things happen that are worth mentioning. The first has been discussed often in these pages: he who is in charge of making the soul better will feel like he is dying. He who goes in for saving and investment must embrace what feels like death. Second, what happens to the stream of feeling is that as it builds up and is prevented from flowing in what it took to be its natural profligacy is that it will find the new outlet that the will is permitting. This does not happen overnight. It is the beginning of the dawn after the night in the valley of the shadow of death.
Fourth, as the stream of soul feeling is willfully (and freely) redirected it begins to flow into the form of virtue. The form of virtue begins to take shape. And here is the deep accumulation of moral good. The form of virtue, say temperance, is infinitely fillable which means there is no upper limit to the calm of soul in the contact with bodily pleasure. One should conceive of the packing of the form of virtue with the material of feeling (now shaped by that form) along the spectrum of gas and solid. The more densely packed the form of virtue becomes the more real the virtue becomes. As you, repulse, dear reader, from the image of rigidity and density in soul, let me expostulate.
What amounts to a density of soul intensity shaped by the form of virtue expressed itself in a nuanced sensitivity and flexibility to external reality. It has the sound of the sweetest moments of Franz Shubert. It has the scent of Wisteria. It has the presentation of a William Blake sketch, a Hokusai print or a Michelangelo sculpture.
What feels like a a belt tightening to the point of death amounts to a storing up, redirecting, and producing that which is more valuable than gold. Virtue. Virtue is one. Seen from different perspective it is temperance, courage, justice, prudence, contemplation. It is the sweetest and most beautiful.