How much land does a man actually need? Explain the message conveyed by Tolstoy through  this story?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Tolstoy was very strongly influenced by the ideas of the American reformer Henry George, who was initially influenced by the British philosopher Herbert Spencer. Henry George in his chief work Progress and Poverty  held that no one was entitled to own any part of the earth, that it should be common property like the sea and the sky. The government should rent out the land and derive its entire income from that single source. People, according to George and Tolstoy, will tend to acquire more land than they can possibly use and then force others to pay them for the use of it. That is what happens notoriously with sharecropping and explains why sharecroppers are usually so poor. Tolstoy believed that if men only took as much land as they could use, there would be enough for everybody, and poverty would be reduced or eliminated. In Pahom, the protagonist of "How Much Land Does a Man Need?", Tolstoy is mainly exhibiting the greed and selfishness inherent in human nature.


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