Life Without Principle
by Henry David Thoreau
"Life Without Principle is an essay by Henry David Thoreau that gives his program for right livelihood.
• Don't cheat people by conspiring with them to protect their comfort zones.
• Don't make religions and other such institutions the sort of intellectual comfort zone that prevents you from entertaining ideas that aren't to be found there.
• Don't cheat yourself by working primarily for a paycheck. If what you do with your life free-of-charge is so worthless to you that you'd be convinced to do something else in exchange for a little money or fame, you need better hobbies.
• Furthermore, don't hire someone who's only in it for the money.
• Sustain yourself by the life you live, not by exchanging your life for money and living off of that.
• It is a shame to be living off of an inheritance, charity, a government pension, or to gamble your way to prosperity - either through a lottery or by such means as prospecting for gold.
• Remember that what is valuable about a thing is not the same as how much money it will fetch on the market.
• Don't waste conversation and attention on the superficial trivialities and gossip of the daily news, but attend to things of more import: "Read not the Times. Read the Eternities."
• Similarly, politics is something that ought to be a minor and discreet part of life, not the grotesque public sport it has become.
• Don't mistake the march of commerce for progress and civilization - especially when that commerce amounts to driving slaves to produce the articles of vice like alcohol and tobacco. There's no shortage of gold, of tobacco, of alcohol, but there is a short supply of "a high and earnest purpose"."
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About the Author
Thoreau's books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. Among his lasting contributions were his writings on natural history and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism.
He was a lifelong abolitionist, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law while praising the writings of Wendell Phillips and defending the abolitionist John Brown. Thoreau's philosophy of nonviolent resistance influenced the political thoughts and actions of such later figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thoreau is often claimed as an inspiration by anarchists, as well. Though Civil Disobedience calls for improving rather than abolishing government - "I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government" - the direction of this improvement aims at anarchism: That government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have."