[Update: I am mystified why people who promote big government keep trying to do so with stories where the government is the atrocious beast. Check out A Better World.]
Yesterday, The Hunger Games released on bluray, which brightened my less-than-encouraging week.
Although not surprised, I was annoyed to see a portion of the special features wasted on comparisons between the HG protagonists and the Occupy protestors. None of it surprised me, because the people being interviewed were well-known members of the Hollywood ultra-left and New York City types; folks who have never breathed any air but socialist-Democrat, and may not know there is any other.
As someone who has actually been a leftie, and now is not, I found the comparisons to be childish and farcical.
Let’s take a look at what the Occupy protests were all about.
We will have to cut through a great deal of confusion and contradiction among the protestors, because a portion of them couldn’t coherently express what they were actually protesting. One item all they all seemed to agree on: ‘the job market isn’t properly aligned with the education system’; that is to say, people who received degrees in various fields found it all but impossible to obtain employment. Therefore, they advocate that all debts relating to college loans be forgiven entirely, and going forward, higher education be provided free of charge (meaning have the federal government pick up the tab).
A few quick points; it’s not the federal government’s money. It’s taxpayer money. Many workers may not have gone to college, and instead attended a trade school to become a plumber or electrician or HVAC repairman or a mechanic or a construction worker, etc. And those who did go to college and found work, got degrees in engineering, mathematics, science, technology, etc. Meanwhile, the Occupy protestors took out huge loans to go to school for degrees in fields like philosophy, art history, race theory, etc.
There is a huge problem here. Anyone who went to college should have been smart enough to look at the job opportunities in the field they were hoping to study. Frankly, you shouldn’t be able to earn a degree if you’re too stupid to realize $120,000 of student loans may be a little tough to pay back if you spent it getting that race theory degree. Where is the practical usefulness? What can you produce to sell to someone? Maybe you can be a diversity coordinator… which helps people… get along… a little better… maybe? I am not the only one who looks at that and thinks, what a waste of human potential!
No matter, say the protestors. Just make all of it free and the soft-science degrees won’t be a problem for anyone. Except by making it ‘free’, they expect you and I to pay for it, allowing their profound idiocy to go unpunished in the marketplace. The free market is a wonderful system because it rewards foolishness in kind. Don’t feel like working? Then maybe you can’t afford to feed yourself. Don’t feel like doing something that improves other people’s lives? Then you have nothing to sell them, and therefore no money to buy the food and goods and things that they produce. That’s the very simple nature of reality, and it happens to be a very efficient drive for productivity and careful decision-making. You reap what you sow in the free market.
Whereas rebellion against the government in Panem can be seen as a grand hurrah for independency from government, the Occupy protestors have actually spent all of their effort demanding a ‘right’ to enjoy dependency upon government. The rebels of Panem seek to get governmental regulation out of their way, so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor; the Occupiers seek to get governmental regulation in the way, so they can enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor. On the one side, Panem’s rebels recover that old American spirit of small-government, self-reliance. On the other, Occupy urinates on American history and cries out for giant-government, while chanting ‘no man is an island.’ (Note: District 13 is tyrannical as well, but the rebels themselves were fighting against tyranny. This should also serve as an object lesson as to how fragile our freedom is.)
This ties in with an article I wrote that remains popular, Capitalism, Communism, and The Hunger Games. So check that out, but don’t buy into this hype that there’s an once of similarity between Occupy and Panem’s rebels. The only way any of these people will be able to make an argument is through the Hegelian dialectics of Marxist alienation (which is far too large a topic to be dissected in a single post).
Fortunately, I don’t have to address it, because Marxist alienation was repeatedly exposed as a failed hypothesis during the 20th century, in America and elsewhere. It turns out, people don’t want to kill the mythical bourgeoisie, not in the numbers required to generate a proletarian revolt. They actually just want a chance to move forward, gain experience, and improve their lives. America consistently confounded the Marxists, enough that Friederich Engels felt it necessary to divine excuses for the lack of proletarian uprising in the States, throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s.
It was only the rising power of the state under Hoover and FDR that has given the socialist mantra a foothold in America. And the rise of state power caused a recession to become a decade-long depression. It took a world war to get FDR to pull his claws out of the economy. (It wasn’t the war that provided recovery. It was FDR’s inability to run a war and conduct endless economy-tinkering.) Occupiers demand expansion of that depression-era redefinition of the American citizen from self-determined individual to subject of the public will (translated as, what the powerful mob wants). Guess who are subjects of the public will in The Hunger Games! Oh, that’s right, the Districts of Panem.
Part my reasons for abandoning the left, is the their embrace of fatal contradictions. For instance, self-actualized, hard-working people, such as Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson, decry others whose self-actualized, hard work has produced enormous wealth, in exchange for providing enormous benefits to their customers. And they compare millionaire businessmen to Panem’s Capitol? Uh, no Donny and Woody; people who make piles of money selling a product, like perhaps a movie, don’t hold a gun to anyone’s head or put shackles on their ankles, the way the Capitol did in Collins’ books. In short, the Districts are not the Capitol’s customers; they are the Capitol’s captives. Panem is a government that has a people, and America is a people that has a government.
The one-percenters, as the Occupy folks call them? Yeah, it turns out America’s income mobility is among the highest. In layman’s terms, this refers to actual flesh-and-blood people who are in a given income bracket in a given year. Those who make up the top one percent of income earners in one year will not necessarily be the same people who make up the same income bracket the next year. Essentially, people’s incomes are constantly moving up and down based upon their productivity, for various reasons. No one would expect all 25-year-olds to make the same amount of money as 49-year-olds. The people who are 49 have more experience, which can make all the difference in the world.
In The Hunger Games, there is no economic mobility. The people of the Districts are never permitted to accumulate capital, and all the excess capital is accumulated and horded by the Capitol. Interestingly enough, accomplishing that required absolute tyranny by the government of Panem, but big government is precisely what the Occupy people demand, even if they demand it as a scourge against the marketplace. Either way, crony capitalism taking over a government, or a tyrannical government seizing control of an economy, the end result is the same; no free markets, no freedom.
President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, does a great job depicting a tyrant who rules by policy (very similar to Stalin). Until recently, America has not been a land of policy, but of law, thus our history as a Republic. Law establishes certainty within the people, so they may know what is right and what is wrong. In Panem, as in communist states everywhere, right and wrong are whatever the ruling elite say they are. This is known as a rule of policy and Panem is decent example.
If you want to guarantee that America will never become like Panem, the best way to do that is to stick to the Constitution. It severely limits government and mandates it with a few key tasks, namely to stop or prevent illegitimate force and to adjudicate the redress of fraud by perpetrators. Panem’s Capitol embraced so much force, it had no use for fraud.
Check out the free book The Law, by Frederic Bastiat. It’s a great read and makes a lot of sense.
Anyone who suggests The Hunger Games is an ode to Occupy is engaging in massive fraud to establish a statism of force. For vague hints of the individual self-ownership principle in story form, check out Least of These.