Just Enough is Plenty: Thoreau’s Alternative Economics (Audio Lecture and E-Book)

I’ve recently started teaching a Masters of Environment course called, “Consumerism and Sustainability,” through the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne. Last night I was privileged enough to deliver a lecture on Thoreau, and I have attached an audio file of part of that lecture if anyone would like to have a listen. I have also attached an e-book called ‘Just Enough is Plenty: Thoreau’s Alternative Economics,” which the lecture was based on.

Just Enough is Plenty (AudioLecture)

Just Enough is Plenty (E-Book)



12 Responses to “Just Enough is Plenty: Thoreau’s Alternative Economics (Audio Lecture and E-Book)”

  1. sgl says:

    only read the first 7 pages so far, but your comments about thoreau’s feeling of his elite education prompted me to recall the following excellent essay, which perchance you or your readers haven’t discovered on your own:

    The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

    Our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers

    By William Deresiewicz



  2. Samuel Alexander says:

    Sgl, thanks very much for this – an excellent essay indeed. Thanks for bringing it to my / our attention. As you suggest, a very Thoreauvian perspective.

  3. Allen Thoma says:

    Just finished listening to the e-book. It was an excellent overview of Thoreau. I somewhat wonder what he would have done in 21st century USA. Without free access to healthcare (which only comes with a job) one’s self and one’s family could easily be impoverished. Easier to be free in progressive Europe/Australia. Your site has caused me to start to re-reading Thoreau after some 30 years. Sadly after having wasted most of my life in pursuit of material possessions I am now slowly trying to simplify. Slowly divesting myself of the curse of the 20th Century – Consumerism and the attendant buying of Stuff. Simplifying is a necessity if the planet (i.e. Global Warming)is to survive. To paraphrase: we all have to live on less (so that others may simply live).
    Keep up the good work, your efforts are appreciated.

  4. Allen Thoma says:

    In response to sgl:

    I enjoyed, “The Disadvantages of an elite Education”. However, I would go the author of that article one step further and say any college education that is not earned after one has had to experience the “real world” of work is a disadvantage for all but the truly unusually aware young person. I believe the goal in life is awareness(both personal and societal) of our place in reality and making some attempt to illuminate clearly that reality (through reason and science.) That should be the goal of a college education. I think quoting the author; “Only a small minority have seen their education as part of a larger intellectual journey, have approached the work of the mind with a pilgrim soul”, encapsulates the message of what any education should strive for.
    Thoreau was one of those rare individuals who did not come out of college with a closed mind seeking a job, but came out questioning his place in his culture. His answers and the reasoning he used help guide us to questions of our own to this day.

  5. whyofry says:

    Excellent, accessible lecture – Hope to hear more from you on simple living in general!

  6. tim clare says:

    Hi Samuel,

    I embrace your philosophy but am frustrated by my spouse, who often agrees with the concept of simplified living, but finds it difficult to ‘walk the talk’. As an example, she has a passion for fashion which requires regular additions to her wardrobe.

    I am the sole money earner in the family and would like to work less (ironically, she would like me to work less too). Unfortunately, we both need to be on the same page to make this a reality.

    Any suggestions?

  7. Samuel Alexander says:

    Hi Tim, thanks for your comment.

    In the ‘simple living’ survey conducted through the Simplicity Institute, we asked participants: “What is you the greatest obstacle to simple living?” We provided the six obstacles, and also left a blank box for comments. Perhaps the most common comment left in the text was: “Spouse / partner not on board with simple living.”

    So this is clearly an issue. I doubt there is any easy ‘solution’ to this, other than discourse – that is, in such a situation, people have to talk it through. Find time to explain why it is that simple living is important to you and talk through what life might be like if you started taking small steps to simplify. Enjoying expressing oneself through clothing, for example, is not necessarily inconsistent with the simple life. Op-shopping and “making your own” are two ways in particular where fashion can be explored without the expense of ‘high fashion.’

    Ultimately, however, I think each person’s situation is to unique for any general advice. You’ll have to figure this one out yourself.

  8. […] Just Enough is Plenty: Thoreau’s Alternative Economics (my extended essay and audio lecture on Henry David Thoreau and the simple […]

  9. Quinton Blue says:

    Thoreau’s life after Walden naturally gets less focus. John Lienhard wrote a piece on “Thoreau’s Pencils,” and the inventions he made related to the family business. Those aspects of Thoreau don’t get discussed in elite universities or any school, as far as I know, a reality that dovetails nicely with “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.” As far as I can tell, our educational system rewards obedience more than either originality or even intelligence. If you play the system, you are defined as smart, which I suppose is nice for people who need that validation. They are wasting their time and that of their students. They would be better off joining a zen monastery and meditating or chopping wood.
    Latest post from Quinton Blue…Five Answers From Blue on The Sun Tea Chronicles

  10. Gholam says:

    Dear Dr. Samuel Alexander,
    I am a so called translator , and i am going to translate your essay into Farsi (Persian), and put it into public access in internet like its Original text.
    i have translated Civil disobedience into Farsi 13 years ago, and it is in my blog for public download.
    is it possible to ask you questions about correct meaning of some complex words and sentences?

    sincerely, Gholam

  11. Samuel Alexander says:

    Hi Gholam, my email address is available on the About page at

    I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have, but please send questions directly to my email address. Thanks for your efforts


  12. patrick says:

    a) what about judging thoreaus’ action’s? ie. heading back to the city after w years.
    b) allen thomas: just don’t use the hospital doctor racket. Rely on prevention and alternatives simply.

  13. Samuel Alexander says:

    Patrick, good question about ‘why did Thoreau leave the pond?’ – which is an issue I address at length at the end of the booklet.

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