Let’s take a quick look at the other government in The Hunger Games.
My other articles have focused on the Capitol in Suzanne Collins’ books, pointing out how that oppressive plutocracy actually matches up with communist governments. The man-made famines, the political murder, the suppression of individuality and property rights, the stores exclusively for the elite while those outside Snow’s favor are left in squalor; all of these things line up very well with the Soviet Union, particularly during Stalin’s reign of terror.
But there’s another government in The Hunger Games, District 12. Now, we don’t actually see District 12 until the third book, Mockingjay, and we really only get a thin survey of it during the book, because so much takes place elsewhere. Yet, the tendrils of government action spread throughout Panem, much to Katniss’ chagrin. (She sounds like a Tea Partier, always skeptical of government involvement.)
Interestingly, the Capitol and District 12 are not very different from each other in some very basic ways. The small differences at core turn into large differences at surface level.
The Capitol is content to let people decide how to spend their time, so long as everyone stays in their district and doesn’t challenge Capitol authority while the Capitol skims off almost all economic productivity.
On the other hand, District 12 is not comfortable with people deciding how to utilize their own time, feeling that any unproductive moment is harmful to society. They are given daily schedules that dictate what they must do for almost every single moment of that day.
One must smirk a little at that. After all, someone has to set the schedules, and even with technology, it is likely that creation of daily schedules for every person in a society would consume far more time than it could ever save by maximizing the productivity of each person. Other problems persist; all people need some down time where they decide what to do on a whim; no one could possibly understand all the factors involved in an economy well enough to program the lives of every person more efficiently than those people could do for themselves. Knowledge is diffuse, and consideration of knowledge is also diffuse. Efficiency in economy is best when left to the individual.
But that doesn’t stop a society from trying to program lives. In any event, District 12 owns all the means of production, and the people just act in accord with orders. By strict, confusing, Marxian definitions, that makes District 12 a more communist state than the Capitol and it’s eleven districts.
I refuse the Marxian definitions because Marx even manipulated his dictionary to support his ideal of the inevitable communist revolution. In modern parlance, socialists would say that the Panem is a fascist-capitalist state, whereas District 12 would be a socialist state. What they mean is this; the Capitol lets people own themselves, only insofar as they are essentially slaves of a bourgeoisie, the ruling class of the Capitol who have everything. Whereas in District 12, society owns everyone and every thing, doling out fairly and demanding fairly.
But as stated time and time again, human nature doesn’t operate the way Marx and socialists insist. Their very definitions are corrupted by their refusal to accept human nature as is. The difference between Rousseau/Hegel and Montesquieu/Locke is enormous, but if I go much further, this page will become NyQuil Extreme for most of the readers.
No, the Capitol is an excellent example of what actually happens when communist ideas are attempted in real life, rather than an idealized thought experiment. In terms of what actually happens in real life, District 12 is a socialist state.
District 12 has all the machinations necessary to establish the Capitol’s brutality, its plutocracy, its depravity; but has not yet taken that step. District 12 re-distributes everyone’s labor to everyone ‘evenly.’ From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, as Marx and Engels wrote. But it isn’t a utopia by any stretch, is it? Nobody has individual autonomy and the only property they have is doled out to them by the system, in rations only just sufficient to get through the tasks assigned to them.
There is no room for art, leisure, entertainment, romance, beauty, spontaneity, or creativity. Quite literally, the price of real socialism is the total destruction of individuality. You end up with survival absent meaning or purpose. So why bother? And even then, someone is still pulling strings on top. Corruption of the system is only a matter of time. Montesquieu’s famous dictum holds ever true, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
What’s the difference between President Coin and President Snow?
A little taste of sin, which numbs the soul and must grow.
No wonder Katniss was so hesitant. In the books she comes across as being concerned for her family’s safety, and dabbling with pacifist sentiments. It might be telling that Collins brought those two concerns of Katniss’ together in one stunning moment. That’s for another article, though.
You’d have to ask yourself. Yes, we fight against a brutal regime, but what are we fighting for? Coin’s version of autocracy? What worth is that? Wouldn’t it be better to pick up arms against Capitol and District 12?
I really love America, don’t you?