Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Truth about Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond

By Gary North

Henry David Thoreau was one of the most successful literary scam artists in American history. Walden was a masterpiece of fraud.

This book has been inflicted on helpless English majors ever since the 1930's. It is anti-capitalist and pro-green. It has been the supreme literary testament of the greens.
It was fake from day one.

Henry David Thoreau was a practicing capitalist. His family owned a pencil-making business. He worked for it for most of his adult life. He was an American version of Frederick Engels, who converted Karl Marx to socialism in 1843. He bankrolled Marx for the rest of Marx's life. Engels had the money to do this. He ran the family's textile mill until he retired a wealthy man.

A year after Engels turned Marx into a Marxist, Thoreau went to live on Walden Pond. He did not own the pond or the land. Walden never says who owned it. Ralph Waldo Emerson owned it. Thoreau briefly had taught Emerson's children and also the children of Emerson's brother.

Thoreau built a shack on the land. He lived in it for 26 months. Then he left the land forever. He went home to mama's, and spent eight years writing Walden. It is an anti-capitalist, anti-commerce, pro-green tract. He hated economic growth. But he profited from it as a capitalist.

While living in "the wild," he had his mother do his laundry for him. He never married. He lived with her instead.

In other words, the book was a sham from day one. The mythology of Walden Pond is a sham. The mythologists know this, but they refuse to let loose of the myth.

The book had no influence in his lifetime. He died in 1862. It became widely read by intellectuals in the 1930's, during the Great Depression. It was part of the anti-capitalism worldview of Leftist intellectuals. They recognized a kindred spirit.

The book is a literary disaster. I have spent my adult life writing for a living. I can recognize good writing. He shows occasional flashes of brilliance, but most of the book is either irrelevant or insufferably boring. It is worse than National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

The most gripping section of the book describes a battle between red ants and black ants. There are few passages in literature that better illustrate the Darwinian phrase, "nature, red in tooth and claw." I am therefore not saying that Thoreau could not write well. I am saying that he rarely wrote well in Walden. Its reputation as a literary masterpiece is part of the anti-capitalist, pro-green mythology.
The praise that literary critics heap on the book is a public testimony to the academic con job known as literary criticism. Let me offer an example of 


  1. Wanting to get rid of fractional reserve banking because it violates Exodus 22:26 is anti-capitalist.

  2. I had to read Walden in high school as a summer reading assignment. I read about two pages and quit. What an awful, boring, pointless two pages that was. I can't imagine what the rest of the book is like.

    1. That's nothing. My "evil" English teacher once actually recommended Finnegan's Wake. Every English major must be *required* to read this book.

  3. North you're wrong about this one. Not everything on earth must be perfectly in line with Austrian econ principles to be good