Politics and Economics from the eyes of Henry David Thoreau
To begin, Henry David Thoreau was very unique during his era, primarily due to his forward thinking style and rationality. In regards to economics, Thoreau would not favor the expanded powers of government currently prevailing in America. In fact, Thoreau often advocated for limited government with powers only responsible for the protection of society from foreign competitors. Thoreau is often quoted for saying, "I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government." In this quote he often refers to a limited government as best for the constituents of the country as a whole. As such, Thoreau would not be supportive of many of the progressive laws expanding government control and influence. Aspects such as universal healthcare and disaster relief funding, Thoreau would be against on a federal level. However, if individuals as a collective unit want to support healthcare, they are free to do so under their own means. As such, Thoreau is often viewed as anarchist for his beliefs in a very limited function of government. Further compounding this issue of limited government is Thoreau's notion on taxes. During his youth, he had been a stark advocate against taxes. In fact, Thoreau on July 25, 1846, was arrested for not paying a poll tax. He has been an advocate for very low taxes. As such, he would also disagree with many of the economic and political policies currently in place in America (Howarth, 1982).
Aspects such as quantitative easing would be against Thoreau's government responsibilities. By printing large sums of money, the government is attempting to lift asset prices throughout America, created a "wealth effect." As assets such as stock, real estate, and home values rise, Americans will feel more confident about their financial future. They therefore will spend more, and encourage economic growth. This notion however, is in contrast to Thoreau's beliefs. For instance, programs such as QE, take government powers too far. In addition, Thoreau would exclaim that inflating asset prices is politically motivated and is not in the overall best interest of society. He would rather allow individuals to make their own decisions regarding their finances. Furthermore, Thoreau would be an advocate for women's rights. During his era Thoreau was very active within the civil rights movement. He assisted in the underground railroad, opposed the fugitive slave law, and joined the abolitionist movement. As such, I believe he would be equally vehement about the roles of women in society today. Aspects such as wage disparity and inequality would all be attacked politically by Thoreau (Richardson, 1986).
Thoreau in regards to economics is an advocate for capitalism. Thoreau in a writing once remarked, "I am refreshed and expanded when the freight train rattles past me, and I smell the stores which go dispensing their odors all the way from Long Wharf to Lake Champlain, reminding me of foreign parts, of coral reefs, and Indian oceans, and tropical climes, and the extent of the globe." Thoreau believes in the merits of capitalism and would be please in the transition America has made in regards to innovation. In fact the Dow Jones Industrial average in 1900 was roughly 66 points. In the year 2000, the Dow was at 11,400 points. That meteoric rise is due primarily to capitalism. Thoreau realized its merits and believed in its ability to improve the overall quality of life for society overall (Petrulionis, 2012).
In conclusion it seems that Thoreau's economic beliefs are at odds with one another. He is an advocate for capitalism and its merits. This is indicated frequently in his writings. However, he does not believe in the role of government and taxes in regards to maintaining the transparency of the markets. Taxes are needed to maintain an economic system much in the same manner a home owner pays association fees. The government is needed to maintain the competitive forces of industry and innovation. Taxes are therefore needed to pay for personnel, legal expenses, overhead, and much more. Politically, Thoreau believed in equality as indicated by his heavy participation in the civil rights movement. He would be disappointed in the progress society has made up to this point.
Politics and Economics from the eyes of Ralph Waldo Emerson
In many instances Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are very similar in their beliefs. They were both advocates for individuality and little government involvement. They were also very involved in nature and believe it to be divine. They both participated in the abolitionist movement although Thoreau was move involved than Emerson. With these similarities there are some stark differences between the two men as well. For one, it many of his essays, Emerson have revealed being attracted to members of the same sex. In fact, he has written sexually charged poetry in response to his sexual attraction to men. As such, politically, I believe Emerson would be heavily involved in many of the more prominent homosexual movements of today (Bosco, 2003).
In addition, Emerson was a leader in the Transcendentalism movement (Gura, 2007). As such, if he were alive today, I believe he would respond very favorably to the overall economic system of America. Transcendentalists believe in the inherent goodwill and nature of human beings. Transcendentalists also believe that political institutions ultimately corrupt the purity of individuals. They believe that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. As such, entrepreneurship, innovation, and many of the small businesses enterprises that have arisen would appeal to Emerson.
Emerson was a heavy advocate for self-reliance. This coincides directly with the economic and political views of America. American's are often characterized as individualistic. They believe in self-interest and freedom. American's have freedom to pursue whatever is appealing to them so long as it doesn't harm another individual. As such, capitalism and our current market economy would be favored by Emerson. In fact, many of the new and innovative ideas arising from abroad would also be favored by Emerson. The economic rise of countries such as China and Singapore are, in part, a result of individualistic thinking. As a result, the collective society, as indicated by Emerson, has improved. People now have access to goods, services, programs, and items; they otherwise would not have access to if not for individualism. Products such the automobile, the airplane, and radio all were a result of individualistic innovation. Immigration has allowed individuals from other countries to pursue whatever endeavor that pleases them. Looking at America today, Emerson would be view the current market system favorably.
Politics and Economics from the eyes of Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway is very unique relative to the other two authors mentioned above. In many instances Emerson and Thoreau have similar thought processes and beliefs. Hemingway however, is a stark contrast to both men. I believe this is due primarily to the eras in which they were born. Thoreau and Emerson were born in the mid 19th century. As such their thought processes and behaviors were heavily influences by the economic and political constraints of their time. Aspects such as slavery, government, and religion were paramount during those periods. Emerson however, was born and lived during a period of much more prosperity. The early 20th century saw large improvement to transportation, entertainment, and leisure. Television, radio, automobiles, and aircraft were all invented during Hemingway's era. These items during Emerson and Thoreau's era were mere dreams. This, I believe contributes heavily to the divergent opinions of the three men. For instance, both Thoreau and Emerson grew up in very religious homes. This was customary during their eras. Emerson himself was a pastor and a devout man of God. Hemingway however was believed to be atheist as he once wrote, All thinking men are atheists." Hemingway,…