Let’s talk about money in The Hunger Games. You can tell a lot about a society if you look at how its money flows. Of course, that will only be a portion of the story, and yet a lot of information can be made clear.
How does money flow in the books? Well, obviously there is some sort of currency issued and managed by the Capitol, some medium of exchange. How do people get it? By working various jobs. It appears that money flows into the districts in the form of very minimal payment for labor, administered by district mayors and Capitol appointed staff, who hold slightly better-paying jobs.
From there, those payments flow to vendors who provide the necessaries of life. Those vendors buy those necessaries from other districts, facilitated by Capitol direction to maintain scarcities. To maintain a solid grip on the people, the Capitol makes sure the scarcities are severe, and then supplements with allowances.
That is an in interesting detail, by the way. The Capitol doles out allowances that can be increased by bartering additional entries into the Reapings. Where does the Capitol get these rations to distribute? Well, they confiscate everything that the workers of the districts produce, which can be considered a socialist enterprise. Some people produce and others determine how those products are distributed.
But why can the Capitol control this system of money? Why can’t the people producing goods just keep some of those goods for themselves? Why did Rue have to starve, while picking fruit that would be consumed and vomited up by the Capitol elites?
Because the Capitol owns the means of production; in other words, the people of the districts are slaves to the Capitol. Money and mayors are just administrative tools for Snow and his autocrats to employ in maintaining and controling the system. And they maintain control with the iron fist of the Peacekeeper, the lash, the Games, the guns. (And of course, Snow can’t trust the people of the districts to own guns. Panem is a gun-free zone, because the Peacekeepers are exempted.)
Of course, many will say that the Capitolists (sic) are the bourgeoisie, the people who accumulated so much more wealth that everyone else has nothing. And yet, that fails to comprehend basic exchange. (And to distinguish clearly, Capit-O-l is the city in HG, while capit-A-l is wealth)
In Catching Fire, the Peacekeepers have to crack down on the black market, because that free trade undermines the Capitol’s control. In other words, government thugs have to be sent in to stop people from engaging in capitalism, to stop people from accumulating their own wealth.
Does anyone think that Katniss was screwing over Greasy Sae when they made trades? No, not at all! The interesting thing about the black market was that people made trades where both people they were better off. In a free market, wealthy people only get that way because they provide a good or service to other people who believe their lives are better off. This is why socialists have to pervert definitions. They have to insist that people whose lives are manifestly improving under free markets are actually worse off, that they are slaves and just too blinded to know it. (Read about alienation in Thomas Sowell’s powerful breakdown of Marxism.) No, Katniss traded on the black market, because those free transactions helped her and also helped the people she traded with.
Now, the Capitol only let the black markets exist for a while, and suppressed them enough that no one could accumulate capital. Still, people used those off-the-books exchanges to make ends meet, and they did it voluntarily. Only when the Capitol had to crush people further did they shut down the black markets.
But is this a premonition of the final end of a capitalist society?
The Marxian vision of the communist revolution is paradoxical, confounding, and tedious “end of history.” Here’s the quick and dirty version:
- Capitalism produces excess wealth for the bourgeoisie (wealthy capitalists) who must hoard it or destroy it to keep it away from the proletariat (the working class). If the proletariat kept their produce, they wouldn’t be willing slaves to the bourgeoisie.
- The working class realizes how oppressed and enslaved they are and they unite, as the only remaining class besides the wealthy.
- These united workers of the world rise up and murder the bourgeoisie, and seize all capital. Private property is abolished, all wealth is redirected to perfect equality, and the last of the capitalist class are eradicated through violence or laws intended to usher in the new era.
- Everything anyone wants just comes to them from this utopian society and there remain no conflicts, since only the proletariat class is left (because in Marxist theory, all struggle comes from class differences and the class system has been replaced with communism). The state fades away, leaving only perfected humanity in a world without want and without greed.
And that’s pretty much it. Now, you may say, ‘Well gosh, Panem looks an awful lot like the first stage there.’ And so it does.
The problem is that stage three always, and I repeat always reverts to stage one. You see, the moment the leaders of the proletarian movement seize power, they become a new bourgeoisie, they have seized the wealth and in their greedy human failing, they refuse to let go of that power and that property. Even by Marxian definitions, this is precisely what must happen. Marx himself should have known better. (Maybe I’ll write a bit about that some other time.)
In every communist society in the world, those who have seized power to usher in this eventual, inevitable end have retained their power. In the case of Soviet Russia, 70 years passed, with every General Secretary striving with more and more plans to implement a five-year plan, time after time after time, and still the utopia never came any closer. The state only withered away when socialism could no longer sustain an army to oppress the peoples of the Eastern Bloc any longer. And despite what is commonly thought, Gorbachev tried his best to save the communist system in whatever form possible, only relenting as the tide of history turned irresistibly against that backward, disgraceful, and horrendous government.
Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Cuba, North Korea, Cambodia, Venezuela; you name the nation gone communist and you’ll have examples of a supposed proletariat seizing power in attempt to destroy the bourgeoisie once and for all, and the only result is a new dictatorship that does everything it can, everything to maintain its hold over the people. No one is more equal, because the communist party insiders love living the high life. No one is more free because the communists have to fund their lavish lifestyles, as well as their economic reform plans, by stealing the products of the people.
George Orwell termed this doublethink for his harrowing novel 1984, holding two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. The communists hate the bourgeoisie, and make excuses for themselves once they become the bourgeoisie, all the while pounding on the rest of the people to make them into a new proletariat.
And the problems are even greater than that. Contrary to Marxian prediction, these proletarian movements have never even been populated by proletarians. Proletarians were supposed to be the working class, but in every case, the communist parties were created, staffed, and empowered by the intellectuals, the powerful, and those of second-generation wealth, or even third.
Lenin and Stalin were bourgeoisie by their own definition. Karl Marx himself was born to a rich family, went to college, and lived for most of his life mismanaging his finances, constantly being supported by friends and family (namely Engels who was the son of a wealthy businessman). Marx was a lout and a leech, even to the point of his children dying, because he neglected to provide for them by getting a stable job. Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh were both educated by communist professors in Paris. Not exactly the poorest peasants, if they could afford to travel thousands of miles to Europe for expensive university programs.
So let me see if I have this straight. The Capitol in Panem has been oppressing the districts for at least 75 years, probably a lot longer since the districts rebelled in the first place, and yet this is a capitalist society based upon the free market? As I said in my previous post, that’s absurd. There is no other way to say it.
Panem is a communist society. The government owns the means of production. Panem is a socialist society. The government confiscates all wealth and distributes it however it prefers.