A Harsh Winter in Chicago Provokes Thoughts on the Economy; Warm Up With Thoreau

The beginning of another harsh winter in Chicago, more than halfway through what is predicted to be our first full week of sub-freezing temperatures, forced me to recall what Henry David Thoreau wrote about heat and the economy.

The major theme of the understanding of the markets that the Mixed Market Artist attempts to provide is probably not yet obvious to many for a couple reasons. First, this is the case because the Mixed Market Artist is so new. Also, this is because the major theme of the Mixed Market Artist is bold and unique. The markets and the economy can only be understood in a realistic context; this context is reality itself. Taking the risk in seeming to simplify a subject that so many make too complex, I am simply providing that the markets and the economy must be studied and approached for what they are – a product and depiction of nearly every aspect of mankind (See The Responsibility of the Merchant – Understanding the Free Market: Freeing the Sports World of Steroids, Silencing Donald Sterling, Stopping Global Warming and more…).

Hence, I want to provide an excerpt from “Walden”. The first chapter of the book is called Economy. In the following, Henry David Thoreau ponders what is essential to man’s existence.

By the words, necessary of life, I mean whatever, of all that man obtains by his own exertions, has been from the first, or from long use has become, so important to human life that few, if any, whether from savageness, or poverty, or philosophy, ever attempt to do without. To many creatures there is in this sense but one necessary of life, Food. To the bison of the prairie it is a few inches of palatable grass, with water to drink; unless he seeks the Shelter of the forest or the mountain’s shadow. None of the brute creation requires more than Food and Shelter. The necessaries of life for man in this climate may, accurately enough, be distributed under the several heads of Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel; for not till we have secured these are we prepared to entertain the true problems of life with freedom and a prospect of success. Man has invented, not only houses, but clothes and cooked food; and possibly from the accidental discovery of the warmth of fire, and the consequent use of it, at first a luxury, arose the present necessity to sit by it. We observe cats and dogs acquiring the same second nature. By proper Shelter and Clothing we legitimately retain our own internal heat; but with an excess of these, or of Fuel, that is, with an external heat greater than our own internal, may not cookery be properly said to begin? Darwin, the naturalist, says of the inhabitants of Tierra Del Fuego, that while his own party, who were well clothed and sitting close to a fire, were far from too warm, these naked savages, who were farther off, were observed, to his great surprise, “to be streaming with perspiration at undergoing such a roasting.” So, we are told, the New Hollander goes naked with impunity, while the European shivers in his clothes. Is it impossible to combine the hardiness of these savages with the intellectualness of the civilized man? According to Liebig, man’s body is a stove, and food the fool which keeps up the internal combustion in the lungs. In cold weather we eat more, in warm less. The animal heat is the result of a slow combustion, and disease and death take place when this is too rapid; or for want of fuel, or from some defect in the draught, the fire goes out. Of course the vital heat is not to be confounded with fire; but so much for analogy. It appears, therefore, from the above list, that the expression, animal life, is nearly synonymous with the expression, animal heat; for while Food may be regarded as the Fuel which keeps up the fire within us, – and Fuel serves only to prepare that Food or to increase the warmth of our bodies by addition from without, – Shelter and Clothing also serve only to retain the heat thus generated and absorbed.

Somehow, I find this excerpt from “Walden” warming. Thoreau accurately depicts reality without conjecture – so different than most modern discussion of the economy.