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'Little House on the Prairie's' Contribution to Freedom

June 10, 2015 in Economics

By Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki

“Not ‘Harry Potter’!” says Alice, age five. “I want ‘Little House’!”

It’s the age of negotiated bedtime reading. My husband and I oblige, and tonight we read from “Little House in the Big Woods,” the first installment of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fictionalized autobiography. We take turns reading: Alice reads, then I do, then Scott does. Then Alice reads again. It’s never enough.

What draws her in? A lot of things. The characters are mostly female, young, and strong. Laura herself begins “Little House” at four, an age that wins our daughter’s ready empathy. Not unlike the first volume of “Harry Potter,” “Little House in the Big Woods” introduces an unknown world; done properly, that’s always exciting. As generations already know, the story is clean and earnest, without affectation or smarm. And it’s told in words that Alice can read all on her own—a great confidence builder.

It’s sometimes hard to fathom, though, just how different Laura’s life was from our own: churning butter, salting meat, boiling down maple syrup… Megan McArdle discussed all this in a recent piece for Bloomberg. The “Little House” books open up a lost world for today’s kids—and for today’s adults:

[A]s an adult… what really strikes you is how incredibly poor these people were. The Ingalls family were in many ways bourgeoisie: educated by the standards of the day, active in community leadership, landowners. And they had nothing.

We’re not just talking a different skill set, then. The skills came of necessity, and of hardships almost wholly unknown today: “Little House” contains the actual sentence, “They had never seen a machine before”—because, well, they hadn’t.

‘Little House’s’ Place in American History

I am no one’s idea of a nationalist, but the least harmful nationalism I know is the simple idea that nationhood comes from a group of people experiencing history together, and understanding it as a shared experience. “Little House” is one of those shared histories, and it’s one of the finest pieces of Americana that I know.

It’s also a story with a special connection for American libertarians: Wilder had only one surviving daughter, whose name was Rose Wilder Lane. Although less remembered today, Rose was a journalist and a successful author in her own right. Unlike her frontier mother, Rose lived an urbane and world-traveling lifestyle; she even separated from her husband, in an era when such things simply were not done. Scholars still argue over just how much of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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