A New Economics, Once Again

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Green Lantern
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A New Economics, Once Again

Reading through the many threads on prepare accordingly and inspired by Turd's recent blog post "Of Revolution and Revolutionaries" I am reminded of a piece of writing on Economics that I think is relevant to both of these discussions.  In 1858, Henry David Thoreau wrote "Walden"  His chapter on economics is as relevant today as it was in 1858.    He touches on the major themes that I believe are at the core of the financial changes we are living through.    It is also a sort of manifesto much different from Karl Marx's Communist manifesto which endorses change through a group revolution or anarchy.   It is the notion that through gaining personal responsibility we create the change that we would like to see in the world.    It is through a deeper connection to the land and nature that we are able to survive and even thrive.    We have become so disconnected from the food chain that the average person would not be able to survive by cultivating their own fruits and vegetables.   And by the time you've eaten that chicken, it has raised and farmed, given to a distribute and made presentable by the butcher.  

Probably WAlden's most famous passage is one you've heard. 

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things."

He summarized the entire credit default swap crisis over 100 years before it happened. 

Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I have no doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour

"It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of life and what methods have been taken to obtain them; or even to look over the old day-books of the merchants, to see what it was that men most commonly bought at the stores, what they stored, that is, what are the grossest groceries"

I am not suggesting his writing is the answer for everyone or that everyone should move off the grid.  There is a definite sense of a disdain for a capitalist system although we know that markets in America aren't a true capitalist, free market enterprise.  But I do think there are some very important idea's that are useful.   For those not into literature, metaphors, allusions, and hyperbole, this is not for you.   There is a definite spiritual tone to his writing although not at all religious.   I do think what he is espousing is somewhat a picture of what we are moving into.  A life of greater self-responsibility, respect for the land, nature and the cycle of life, and an economics based on fulfilling the basic needs of life with an emphasis on fulfilling the more essential human needs and much less of trying to keep up with the Jones's.  Possible a bit idealist but nonetheless a worthwhile read for the more philosophical thinkers among us.   

Here it is for your online reading pleasure. 

http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/hdthoreau/bl-hdtho-wald-1.htm

Edited by admin on 11/08/2014 - 06:06

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