The tagline on The Man Who Quit Money says simply: In 2000, Daniel Suelo gave away his life savings. And began to live. What unfolds is a well-rounded look at Suelo, who has spent more than a decade promoting a ‘gift economy.’
Early on in the book, the author, Mark Sundeen, is upfront with the reader and admits he knew Suelo because they worked together more than a decade earlier, but it is this insider knowledge that helps drive the story forward. Suelo, whose birth name is Shellabarger, is in one sense a drifter, but in another sense a philosopher on a spiritual quest.
Raised by fundamentalists in the Plymouth Brethren church, Suelo took an uneventful route to adulthood. After finishing high school, he entered college, eventually joined the Peace Corps and was working as a social worker when he finally gave up on the money system. It wasn’t a matter of laziness or lack of purpose, it was more his belief that all spiritual teachings — like Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism — taught that one should not be obsessed with material things and money. In fact, Suelo believes he is most Christ-like in his approach to living, since Jesus told his disciples that if they wanted to be holy they should sell their goods and give to the poor.
What Sundeen accomplishes is rounding out a story so readers get a better feel for what brought Suelo to this understanding. Suelo’s parents are a significant part of the story as are former professors, co-workers and acquaintances. But adding to the depth of the book is the research the author does about various movements in America that decry the monetary system, including references to books by the John Birch Society which blasts the Federal Reserve banking system — the ultimate driver of the U.S. economy.
Although few, I imagine, could or would embrace the philosophies of Suelo, his life is a poignant reminder that some of the systems in place in this country are neither natural nor ordained by God.
Rating 4 out of 5. Although the book is well-written and is a thorough interpretation of Suelo’s life and beliefs, the flow of the book gets weighted down somewhat in the second section with some extraneous information. Overall the book is a quick read, and for individuals, interested in Americans living on the outer fringe of society, will find the book quite enjoyable.