Towards A Good Samaritan World

Thursday, July 06, 2006

How curious! The Weekly Standard celebrates Independence Day with a tribute to... Thoreau, and Walden:

There he sheltered his human spirit from the encroaching mass culture that surrounded him, of those who defined the human being merely as an economic unit, a machine of pleasure and pain,
or a "tool making animal." Thoreau sought to defend the whole man. At Walden Pond, he domesticated the complete human being: body, soul and mind.

Artistic knowledge is intuitive and spiritual. Materialism and rationalism rarely see beyond the tyranny of fact--of what can be seen, touched, or sold. Thoreau challenged our whole notion of material progress. He wrote, "while civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them."

Can economists and Thoreau get along? Thoreau's opposition to specialization and materialism seems to counter the whole trend of economics. And yet it might just be possible for economists to domesticate Thoreau's insights. Thoreau's declaration of independence from government that libertarian economists should like. Anyway, I have a stake in making Thoreau respectable because I applied his arguments to the immigration issue in "A Right to Migrate."


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