He didn’t say whether he thought this was a good thing

[Stephen Leacock was for many years the head of the Department of Economics and Political Science at McGill University and the author of numerous textbooks and history books. To counterbalance this very serious work, he began writing humour and soon his income and fame from these humorous writings far outstripped the income from his serious work. At one point, he took it upon himself to rewrite some of the old proverbs to make them conform to modern reality. Someone might be tempted to say that an ability to see the humorous side of life is ultimately more helpful than an understanding of economic theory. I’m not sure if anyone really does understand economic theory anyway, real life keeps messing things up.]

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

Entirely wrong again. This was supposed to show that a young man who wandered from home never got on in the world. In very ancient days it was true. The young man who stayed at home and worked hard and tilled the ground and goaded oxen with a long stick like a lance found himself as he grew old a man of property, owning four goats and a sow. The son who wandered forth into the world was either killed by the cannibals or crawled home years afterwards doubled up with rheumatism. So the old men made the proverb. But nowadays it is exactly wrong. It is the rolling stone that gathers the moss. It is the ambitious boy from Honkville, Indiana, who trudges off to the city and leaves his older brother in the barnyard and who later makes a fortune and founds a university. While his older brother still has only the old farm with three cows and a couple of pigs, he has a whole department of agriculture with great sheds-full of Tamworth hogs and a professor to every six of them.

-Stephen Leacock, from Winnowed Wisdom, first published in 1926

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