Benjamin Franklin in the Pacific Islands?

What an American founding father can still teach us about life and wealth

Sean Jacobs, Pacific Institute of Public Policy, 6 July 2015

For some time now I’ve thought about what the great Benjamin Franklin would say if he took a walk (or paddle) through the Pacific Islands.

Franklin, who helped found the United States, is one of the most well-known figures in history for contributions to writing, publishing, diplomacy, innovation and politics.

The most accomplished American of his generation, and arguably of all time, he has provided generations with universal advice on ‘the way to wealth’ through simple values like thrift, industry and frugality. He delivered this advice at a time when America, just like today’s Pacific Islands, was undergoing great economic change.

‘We can easily imagine having a beer with him after work,’ writes his acclaimed biographer Walter Isaacson, ‘showing him how to use the latest digital device, sharing the business plan for a new venture, and discussing the most recent political scandals or policy ideas.’ So, if Franklin visited the region’s market places, villages, resource projects, campuses, businesses and supermarkets, what thoughts would he deliver to Pacific Islanders about wealth and life?

First, I feel his observations would not be loaded with GDP figures or economic charts and tables. Indeed, contrasting most experts, writing report after report about the region’s un-shiftable poverty, he would likely talk about the values – the attitudes, priorities and behaviours – that typically build wealth and fulfilment among people, regardless of where they are and what circumstances they find themselves in.

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