Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Economy: Lives of Quiet Desperation

This is a short post to celebrate the birthday (12th July) of writer Henry David Thoreau who was born in Concord Massachusetts USA in 1817.

An economics blog appears to be an appropriate forum for referring to Thoreau's first chapter in his book  'Walden'.  It is titled 'Economy' and explores concepts related to how time, life endeavours and objects are valued.  What is essential to life versus what is frivolous:
"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation..."
"At the present day, and in this country, as I find by my own experience, a few implements, a knife, an axe, a spade, a wheelbarrow, etc., and for the studious, lamplight, stationery and access to a few books, rank next to necessaries, and can all be obtained at a trifling cost.  Yet some, not wise, go to the other side of the globe, to barbarous and unhealthy regions, and devote themselves to trade for ten or twenty years, in order that they themselves may live, - that is, keep comfortably warm - and die in New England at last....Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind..."
Economists could read this book and it would be time well spent  ;-)


gaddeswarup said...

Thanks for the reminder. I do not remember this passage but Walden was one of the text books when I started university studies in 1954 , Andhra University, India.

Brenda Rosser said...

I didn't read Walden till the early 1970s. It seemed at the time that every book I studied urged a move to the countryside and a life of ever-increasing self-sufficiency for the coming post-industrial age.

I'm glad you appreciated Thoreau's birthday reminder.