From science fiction to fact in less than thirty years.
In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Stephen Moore highlighted the parallels between today’s economic events and those depicted in Ayn Rand’s classic Atlas Shrugged.
“Many of us who know Rand’s work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that ‘Atlas Shrugged’ parodied in 1957,” Moore wrote. Point taken: Rand was eerily prescient in predicting the encroachment of big government during this crisis.
Then again, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that eventually government will go awry. In fact the ultimate riff on government came out roughly 1,957 years (give or take about 33 years) before Atlas Shrugged, when someone, probably a clever proto-Objectivist, quipped, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” as if to warn us that eventually the government is going to do what it wants to do, and the rest of us are better off worrying about more important things.
No, if you are looking for the most complete forecast of today’s economic and political turmoil in 20th century literature you will have to look beyond Rand’s one-dimensional economic vignettes to a work of scope and sophistication: Douglas Adams’s all-encompassing masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Adams prognosticated the current scenario in such detail that it is hard to know where to begin accounting for his accuracy. But perhaps a good place would be the election of Barack Obama, who in Adams’s framework is a giant lizard.
As the alien Ford Prefect explains to the human protagonist Arthur Dent, an ancient democracy is bound, eventually, to elect only lizards for its leaders. Why?
Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
Ford shrugged again.
“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.
Precisely right — in the last election we elected one younger, slightly more government-loving lizard over another older, slight less government-loving lizard, and some of us think that the lizard we ended up with is the best thing ever. They’re completely and utterly wrong, of course.
Don’t hope for anything better in the next election cycle, though. Adams distills the underlying flaw of democracy in one paragraph:
To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online