We are not built to be frugal, for thousands of years of life in hostile environments have encouraged humans to hoard resources, especially in their relationship with nature. Frugality is often evoked in times of crisis, almost as a euphemism in order to avoid mentioning poverty. But the author of this book believes that thrift is an option, not a result of coercion. Our challenge is to address it as an a priori choice, not as a rejection of a rich, consumption-oriented lifestyle. This choice depends on the awareness that we cannot continue to use up ourselves and the world that surrounds us at the rate at which we have done so over the last few decades. Parsimony does not mean returning to the past nor pursuing economic degrowth. On the contrary, it means throwing ourselves into the future and making the right investments (in the fields of environment, education, research, art, and science). Frugality means achievement and knowledge.
This book is part of a new series entitled "Forgotten Words": silence, patience, frugality, perseverance, decency, prudence, courage... and, finally, old age. This new series comprises brief essays by authors having different intellectual backgrounds, who discuss these forgotten words, explore their contemporary relevance, and identify their existential features.
Paolo Legrenzi is the co-ordinator of the Swiss & Global Experimental Economics Laboratory at the Ca' Foscari University in Venice.