Posted on 09/02/2014

Photo taken on September  2, 2014

See also...


Henry David Thoreau
Henry Thoreau
A Life of Mind
Robert Richardson Jr
Cellphone image

Authorizations, license

Visible by: Everyone
All rights reserved

Photo replaced on September  2, 2014
96 visits


The opening chapter of Walden is a thoughtful and informed meditation on economics which gains greatly by being read as a response to the new economics and, particularly, to Adam Smith. Thoreau was not interested in the wealth of nations so much as he was in the wealth of the individuals who made up the nation, but he was familiar with Smith’s work – and that of Say and Ricardo – and much of his opening chapter is an application of Smith’s ideas and terminology to the individual case.

Thoreau is in agreement with Smith’s fundamental premise that it is not gold or silver, but productive labor that is the real basis of wealth. Smith’s famous book begins:

“The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life which it annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediate produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce from other nations.” ~ Page

……. Where Smith wanted to see consumption maximized, Thoreau wants it minimized and simplified. Thoreau emphasizes now hot much one can consume, but how little. He stresses this theme with production as well. Instead of increasing production, Thoreau planted fewer beans his second year and he closed his economy chapter with a story about the only tree that could be said to be truly free, the cypress, because it produced nothing and this was free of the cyclical and tyrannical processes of getting and spending.