One of the smaller ironies in my life has been teaching Henry David Thoreau at an Ivy League school for half a century. Asking young people to read Thoreau can make me feel like Victor Frankenstein, waiting for a bolt of lightning: look, it’s moving, it’s alive, it’s alive! Most students are indifferent–they memorize, regurgitate, and move serenely on, untouched. Those bound for Wall Street often yawn or snicker at his call to simplify, to refuse, to resist. Perhaps a third of them react with irritation, shading into hatred. How dare he question the point of property, the meaning of wealth? The smallest contingent, and the most gratifying, are those who wake to his message.
Read this article, then read Walden: it’s one of the most important books ever written in America.