The Man Who Quit Money Short Summary

Selfishness is defined as the stinginess resulting from a concern of your own welfare and the disregard of others. Selfishness, once passing a certain level, is seen as a character flaw by many people. Where does selfishness come from? Is it a trait in which as humans we pick up over time, or is it an animalistic trait in which we are born with and have no control over? Author Mark Sundeen tells us the story of Daniel Suelo, in the book The Man Who Quit Money.

Daniel Suelo was a mid-aged man, who decided to drop everything and live on his own without the use of money; he would no longer live the typical American lifestyle and survive strictly on the kindness of others and the leftovers he could find in dumpsters. There are two kinds of selfishness’ mentioned in this book, the clear selfishness of people and what they are willing to give, and the unclear selfishness of Daniel Suelo and only caring for himself. I believe Daniel Suelo was unintentionally a selfish person, and that money makes us all selfish people.

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We first see clear Selfishness on page 11, when Suelo takes Mathew and Melony into the patch with the watermelon, and the fruit and vegetables. The patch was owned by a man who thought everything would turn to shred after Obama was elected president, but after it didn’t the man abandoned it; however, it was still his. Suelo took Mathew and Melony down to the patch and at several watermelons with them. Is this selfish because they are technically stealing from another mans property and his work that he did.

Or is it selfish that this man owned this land and just abandoned it. This idea of selfishness is based on perspective and how the individual sees the situation; however, it is still a form of selfishness. “Mathew and Melony and I filled our arms with melons, hoarding them like iGadgets we’d liberated from Best buy after a hurricane. But Suelo chose only a single, small green fruit. ” ( Sundeen 11) Often in the American lifestyle, we take more than we need and we end up wasting a lot.

The three who filled their arms with melons in attempt to get all they could grab, were actually capable of going to a grocery store and purchasing the same kind of melons but Suelo who had no money and had no idea where his next meal would come from only grabbed a single fruit. This is key in the idea of selfishness because as humans, we often take more than we need and end up wasting a lot. On campus when I eat at the commons, I know I can grab a lot of food because of the meal plan I am given as a football player. I often grab more food than I will eat, just like the saying “eyes bigger than the stomach”.

So at the end of my meal, I will have a lot of food left on my tray, and I throw it away; which is a big waste. I feel even worse once I see other students with normal meal plans, who can only grab a limited amount of food, eat everything on their plate and waste little to none. They simply grab what they need and what will satisfy them until their next meal. This is the same idea that Suelo tells us about in this book. Suelo talks of how through his experiences the people with less were more willing to share, and wasted less.

It is ironic that the people who are truly able to share more are less likely to actually do so, and will waste more; although, the people who have less will actually share more and waste less. To me this is a crazy concept, and is very hard to understand why people with more are less willing to give. Through my life my father has taught me a lot and told me a lot about his life situations and which he learned. My father is considered upper middle class and has provided my family with a lot. We do not have everything that we want, but we have everything which we need.

Even though my father is not the wealthiest man, he still gives back a lot. He donates money and he donates time to various causes and he is often helping other people out. I remember one summer when I asked my father why we had to help these people fix their yard up, when he could simply pay for it. He told me that he never wants to let money make him selfish and that he doesn’t help people because it makes him look good but because it is the right thing to do. I didn’t truly understand it at the time, but as I grow older and mature I am beginning to understand more and more.

Also, in that same conversation, my father told me about some of the people he works with and works for, and how they give back but often only in the spotlight. They will donate money when the attention is on them, or they will do charity events when the media is involved. Looking back at it, this is a very selfish idea. When do we hit that point in our life where we are so selfish that we can not help others; is it a conscious decision or are we just not aware of our actions? I have seen this same of idea of selfishness in my own experiences. I went to a very wealthy private school, with many students coming very wealthy families.

Often these families would donate money to the school, but in return they expected a plaque or they expected something to be named after them, some kind of recognition. Some people will say this is not selfish because they are giving back; however, others will say this is a selfish action because they are only giving looking for a return. People often jump to the conclusion that Daniel Suelo is very unselfish because he doesn’t have any money, and because he will work jobs for free. In my eyes Daniel Suelo can be seen as a selfish person, not with money because he doesn’t have any but he makes selfish actions.

This may seem as an outrageous claim, but I think many people have never looked deep enough. Daniel Suelo, lives in the woods and lives like a vagabond. From what I have read, he has never taken the time to think of how his actions effect the people around him. First starting with his selfishness towards his family, has he ever thought of the pain and frustration he has put them through. They have no idea where he is sleeping at night, and whether or not he will make it to the next day. These people love him and want the best for him, yet they know the best won’t necessarily be provided for him because he chooses to abandon that lifestyle.

Secondly, we can look at his selfishness to the community and the people around where he decides to live. Suelo was living in a cave for several years, until one day a park ranger came across Suelo’s home. The ranger says, “If I were hiking along here and I saw this camp… I’d feel like I wasn’t allowed here, that it was someone else’s space. But this is public land” ( Sundeen 14) Suelo was being selfish because he was unintentionally claiming this land and taking it from anyone else who would like to experience this as well. Even though he actions of selfishness were not meant to be this way, it still in a way was.

This is the second time we see Suelo, unintentionally being selfish which brings back the question are we naturally selfish people or is it a trait we consciously choose to take on. The flip side of this situation with the Park Ranger is whether or not the government is actually being selfish and what we are allowed to do with public space. Nature, to some, was created by a higher being and is free to everyone. This is the concept that the Native Americans lived upon, man did not create land so man can not own the land. Yet the government makes people pay permits to stay on land and we must pay to view natural sites.

Suelo was fined one hundred and twenty dollars for sleeping in a natural cave for more than the government allowed. So Suelo had to pay because he was living on an area that the government decided to claim as their own. So once again we see this theme of selfishness appear. The government owns public land and can makes laws regulating it and make people pay for breaking these laws. Again Suelo was faced with this idea of what is public space and how do people own it. Suelo tells us how he was digging in dumpsters and how he was pushed away and restaurants and companies who owned this dumpster did not want him digging in it.

Suelo would go through dumpsters eating off of what people would waste, yet companies wouldn’t allow him to do so. Why is this? IF they threw it in the dumpster that means in a few days it will be destroyed anyway. I believe these companies are being this selfish all because of money; they don’t want people to eat food out of their trash because they want people to but the food at their prices. Money makes people and companies selfish. Our country was founded on capitalism, and basically everyone wants to make and keep every dollar possible.

This is why people with more are not as willing to share and give; they want to keep every single dollar, and not waste any. The government wants to squeeze every dollar out of citizens this is why they make laws on nature, and allow people to purchase land so that they can make every dollar possible. I believe that every person is selfish to an extent, the levels will vary for each individual but in the end every human has a natural selfishness born to them that they can not get rid of. We as humans are born this way, as selfish individuals.

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The Man Who Quit Money Short Summary. (2016, Nov 10). Retrieved from