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Economy: Desperation

Henry David Thoreau

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

What is desperation and why does Thoreau begin talking about desperation in this opening chapter on economy in his semi-memoir of his time at Walden Pond?

Economy seems to be so much more than the mere exchange of stocks, setting of interest rates, and the procurement of capital. Economy is the way in which you live your life in relationship to others and the world around you. Despair comes when these relationships are lost or misrepresented. When we begin to think that economic growth comes as a result in the growth and expansion of money as opposed to the growth and expansion of relationships. We become slaves to the very systems that were created on the backs of slaves. The chief end of humankind becomes the current market performance and the price of bananas.

In this is despair. And it is indeed a quiet despair. A slow decomposition of the self with the loss of the ability to relate to a songbird or the neighbor that needs a friendly hello.

Maybe it is by the shores of Walden Pond that principles of economic growth ought to be learned.


About david b. clark

a husband and father || a student of philosophy, theology, history, literature, music, art, computer science


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