In Leo Tolstoys’ tale, ‘How Much Land Does A Man Need?’ written in 1886, a wealthy peasant named Pahlom is told of the rich earth in the land of the Bashkirs beyond the Volga.
They are simple folk and he will be able to get all the land he wants from them without much trouble.
When Pahom reaches the land of the Bashkirs, they tell him that for a thousand roubles he can have as much land as he can walk around in a day.
Pahom, despising them for their lack of sophistication, is exultant. He is certain that he can enclose a huge distance.
Almost as soon as he starts out, however, he spots one attractive feature after another that he decides to include, a pond over there, or a stretch of land that would be good for flax.
Then, he notes that the sun is starting to go down.
Realizing that he risk everything, he runs faster and faster to make it back in time. ‘I have grasped too much’, he tells himself, ‘and ruined the whole affair’.
The effort kills him. He dies at the finishing post, and that is where he is buried.
‘Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed’, was Tolstoy’s conclusion.
Leo Tolstoy was a great supporter of Henry George’s lifework to untax labor and business and for government to take its revenues from the economic rents of the land.