With a new year under way, this would be a good time to have Benjamin Franklin around. Not for the great issues of state, but the little everyday business and economic things.
Founding father Franklin (1706-1790) was America's first "success story," from rags to riches. And the uncanny thing is that the way he did it makes you think anybody can. Apply brains, ambition and honesty, and nothing's impossible.
As a teenage printer, he realized that fellow workmen, although decently enough paid, never got ahead. They "couldn't save." On what they spent on beer, to make them "strong," Franklin, a water drinker, had shillings left on paydays. "Thus these poor devils keep themselves always under," he later wrote. Wonder what clues to poverty he'd see today.
"There are croakers in every country, always boding its ruin," he wrote. A respected citizen stopped at the door of his new print shop to say "he was sorry for me -- for Philadelphia was a sinking place, the people already half-bankrupts." And this despite many signs of boom, 50 years before the American Revolution.
Franklin never used the term "diversification," but practiced it. His printing work led him to writing, book-selling, newspaper and almanac publishing. He beat competitors on quality, won contracts for government and currency printing. He pushed paper through the streets in a wheelbarrow, "to show that I was not above my business. …