Wednesday, December 7, 2011

ten to fifteen years of the laborer's life

In the savage state, every family owns a shelter as good as the best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler wants; though the birds of the air have their nests, and the foxes their holes, and the savages their wigwams, in modern civilized society not more than one half the families own a shelter.  In the large towns and cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of a whole.  The rest pay an annual tax for this outside garment of all, become indispensable summer and winter, which would buy a village of Indian wigwams, but now helps to keep them poor as long as they live.  I do not mean to insist here on the disadvantage of hiring compared with owning, but it is evident that the savage owns his shelter because it costs little, while the civilized man hires his commonly because he cannot afford to own it; nor can he, in the long run, any better afford to hire....An average house ... will take a man ten to fifteen years of the laborer's life.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from Walden, "Economy,"  1854


J.T. said...

... and then still maybe he will lose it all overnight. I wonder what Thoreau would say about the wigwams of OWS (or maybe he has already spoken to us on the subject).