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瓦尔登湖:经济篇15

2006-07-28 19:02

  When I consider my neighbors, the farmers of Concord, who are at least as well off as the other classes, I find that for the most part they have been toiling twenty, thirty, or forty years, that they may become the real owners of their farms, which commonly they have inherited with encumbrances, or else bought with hired money ——and we may regard one third of that toil as the cost of their houses—— but commonly they have not paid for them yet.  It is true, the encumbrances sometimes outweigh the value of the farm, so that the farm itself becomes one great encumbrance, and still a man is found to inherit it, being well acquainted with it, as he says.  On applying to the assessors, I am surprised to learn that they cannot at once name a dozen in the town who own their farms free and clear. If you would know the history of these homesteads, inquire at the bank where they are mortgaged.  The man who has actually paid for his farm with labor on it is so rare that every neighbor can point to him.  I doubt if there are three such men in Concord.  What has been said of the merchants, that a very large majority, even ninety-seven in a hundred, are sure to fail, is equally true of the farmers.  With regard to the merchants, however, one of them says pertinently that a great part of their failures are not genuine pecuniary failures, but merely failures to fulfil their engagements,because it is inconvenient; that is, it is the moral character that breaks down.  But this puts an infinitely worse face on the matter,and suggests, beside, that probably not even the other three succeed in saving their souls, but are perchance bankrupt in a worse sense than they who fail honestly.  Bankruptcy and repudiation are the springboards from which much of our civilization vaults and turns its somersets, but the savage stands on the unelastic plank of famine.  Yet the Middlesex Cattle Show goes off here with eclat annually, as if all the joints of the agricultural machine were suent.

  The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.  To get his shoestrings he speculates in herds of cattle.  With consummate skill he has set his trap with a hair spring to catch comfort and independence, and then, as he turned away, got his own leg into it. This is the reason he is poor; and for a similar reason we are all poor in respect to a thousand savage comforts, though surrounded by luxuries.  As Chapman sings,

  "The false society of men ———— for earthly greatness All heavenly comforts rarefies to air."

  And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.  As I understand it, that was a valid objection urged by Momus against the house which Minerva made, that she "had not made it movable, by which means a bad neighborhood might be avoided"; and it may still be urged, for our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them; and the bad neighborhood to be avoided is our own scurvy selves.  I know one or two families, at least, in this town, who, for nearly a generation,have been wishing to sell their houses in the outskirts and move into the village, but have not been able to accomplish it, and only death will set them free.

  当我想到我的邻居时,那些康科德的农夫们,他们的境遇至少同别的阶级一样好,我发现他们中间的大部分人都已工作了二十年三十年或四十年了,为的是他们可以成为他们农场的真正主人,通常这些农场是附带了抵押权而传给他们的遗产,或许是借了钱买下来的,——我们不妨把他们的劳力中的三分之一,作为房屋的代价,——通常总是他们还没有付清那一笔借款。真的,那抵押权有时还超过了农场的原价,结果农场自身已成了一个大累赘,然而到最后总是有承继的人,正如他自己说的,因为他这个承继人和农场太亲近了。我找评价课税官谈过话,惊诧地发现他们竟然不能够一口气背出十二个拥有农场,而又自由、清白的市民来。如果你要知道这些家宅的实况,你得到银行去问一问抵押的情形。真正能够用劳力来偿付他的农场债务的人是这样地少,如果有的话,每一个邻人都能用手指把他指点出来。我疑心康科德这一带还找不出三个这样的人。说到商人们,则绝大部分商人,甚至一百个中间大约有九十六个是肯定要失败的,农夫也是如此。然而关于商人,其中有一位曾经恰当地指出,他们的失败大都不是由于亏本,而只是由于不方便而没有遵守诺言;这就是说,是由于信用的毁损。这一来,问题就要糟糕得多,而且不禁使人想到前述那三个人的灵魂,说不定将来也不能够得救,也许他们会比那些老老实实地失败的人,在更糟的情况下破产。破产啊,拒付债务啊,是一条条的跳板,我们的文明的一大部分就从那里纵跃上升,翻了跟斗的,而野蛮人却站在饥馑这条没有弹性的木板上。然而,每年在这里举行的米德尔塞克斯耕牛比赛大会,总是光辉灿烂,好像农业的状况还极好似的。

  农夫们常想用比问题本身更复杂的方式,来解决生活问题。为了需要他的鞋带,他投机在畜牧之中。他用熟练的技巧,用细弹簧布置好一个陷阱,想捉到安逸和独立性,他正要拔脚走开,不料他自己的一只脚落进陷阱里去了。他穷的原因就在这里;而且由于类似的原因,我们全都是穷困的,虽然有奢侈品包围着我们,倒不及野蛮人有着一千种安逸。查普曼歌唱道:“这虚伪的人类社会————为了人间的宏伟至上的欢乐稀薄得像空气。”

  等到农夫得到了他的房屋,他并没有因此就更富,倒是更穷了,因为房屋占有了他。

  依照我所能理解的,莫墨斯曾经说过一句千真万确的话,来反对密涅瓦建筑的一座房屋,说她“没有把它造成可以移动的房屋,否则的话就可以从一个恶劣的邻居那儿迁走了”;这里还可以追上一句话,我们的房屋是这样不易利用,它把我们幽禁在里面,而并不是我们居住在里面;至于那需要避开的恶劣的邻居,往往倒是我们的可鄙的“自我”。我知道,在这个城里,至少有一两家,几乎是希望了一辈子,要卖掉他们近郊的房屋,搬到乡村去住,可是始终办不到,只能等将来寿终正寝了,他才能恢复自由。

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