Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Taking Thoreau Down a Notch. Or Two.

It has been a long time since I read On Walden Pond, probably since college actually. While I recall the book having some appeal as far as simplifying one's life, there was also something a little disquieting about it. Timothy Sandefur has put it into words. Read it all of course, but here's a key bit:

"I thought I would delight in the eloquent prose of a journey of self-discovery and celebration of life.

Instead, it turns out to be an album of pseudo-sophisticated claptrap; a merciless collection of false profundity and Puritanism. Thoreau’s ignorance of economics is absolute. His hostility to material prosperity and spiritual invocations to “simplify” are nothing more than the old asceticism of Savanarola tranplanted into a quaint country cabin. “Trade curses everything it handles,” for instance. Yeah, right—unless you have a family to provide for. His hostility toward the drive for productivity goes beyond merely
sensible and Epicurean advice to live sparingly and to relish our gifts—which would be true wisdom though unoriginal—and becomes instead a real contempt for people that he doesn’t know and of whose circumstances he is totally ignorant. Not just ignorant, but ignorant in that colossally self-righteous way reserved only for youths. He is, really, a fey, self-absorbed, coddled little brat, like many college students one meets, more concerned with demonstrating their own self-righteousness than with accomplishing anything worthy of praise. "

Sounds like a few "progressives" I know.

(Via Samizdata)

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