How Much Money Do We Need?

The long tradition of finding joy outside of consumerism

There’s a wonderful short story by Leo Tolstoy, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” It tells of a man who got the opportunity to claim a piece of land as his own: as much as he could walk around in one day. The man starts in the morning to walk, and at every point where he might turn back, he pushes himself to go another little bit, just until that next corner — because why should he leave that piece of land unclaimed? So he walks happily until the late afternoon, when he realises that the sun is sinking and that he’ll have to hurry up to return to the point of departure and close the circle — or else he’ll lose the land. So he starts running back, trying to complete the circle around his future land, more and more frantically as the sun slowly sets in the West… he runs and runs and reaches the starting point just at the last possible moment, where he finally breaks down and falls to the ground: dead from exhaustion. He is buried and at this point it becomes clear how much land a man really needs: six feet — that’s enough for him for the rest of eternity.

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