Archive | April 7, 2009

Doctor Thing

Swamp Thing and AbbyDuring his famous run on Swamp Thing, Alan Moore turned the hero into an alienated, vastly powerful cosmic being who teleports himself all over the universe – his only remaining emotional link to humanity being his girlfriend Abby Arcane, who lounges around idly in the swamp waiting to provide him with sex and nurturing whenever he drops back in.

In other words, the relationship between Swamp Thing and Abby prefigures the later relationship between Dr. Manhattan and Laurie Juspeczyk in Watchmen – the big difference, of course, being that while the first relationship was presented (somewhat tongue in cheek, I assume – or hope!) as idyllic, the second is portrayed, more realistically, as deeply frustrating and dysfunctional. So in Watchmen Moore in effect took the opportunity to deconstruct, under new names, the relationship he’d previously created.

(In related news, Swampy’s manipulating matter to create his own world on the Blue Planet [Saga of Swamp Thing #56] likewise prefigures Doc M’s doing likewise on the Red Planet – though of course one’s exile is chosen and the other’s is not.)

Democrats For Plutocrats

Nast cartoonLeft-leaning libertarians and libertarian-leaning leftists have been saying for years that “liberals” (in the mainstream sense), far from wielding the club of governmental regulation against big business, have been among the chief enforcers of corporate interests.

Now we get confirmation straight from the horse’s mouth. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Conical hat tip to Lew Rockwell and Ralph Raico), Obama, Biden, and Clinton all have a higher “pro-business” record than Ron Paul – because (and give them credit for their honesty) the Chamber’s criterion for being “pro-business” is support for corporate subsidies and special privileges, not support for free markets.

The right-leaning Washington Examiner’s story makes it sound as though it’s liberals rather than conservatives that are pawns of the plutocracy (hence their headline “New Chamber index shows conservatives aren’t corporate pawns”), but a look at the winners of the Chamber’s “Spirit of Corporate Welfare Enterprise” award shows Republicans and Democrats both eagerly filling the trough – with my own state’s Senator Richard Shelby at the top of the list.

Hail to Our Martian, or Perhaps Simian, Overlords

Good news! She's real [Lucy Lawless as Xena Warrior Princess] Bad news! So is she [Lucy Lawless as D'Anna the Cylon]Imagine a world where Conan, Xena, and Blackadder were real people while Hitler, Mussolini, and Churchill weren’t. A world where the Battle of Helms Deep really happened but the Battle of Hastings didn’t.

Sounds like a better world than the real one – until we add in that it’s also a world in which humanity has been conquered and enslaved by some combination of Martians, Cylons, and damn dirty apes.

What world is this? According to a substantial percentage of the British public, it’s the one we live in.

So cheer up, fellow Americans – we are not alone.

Fun With Totalitarianism

Alina is blogging the top 100 books on totalitarianism, and she has asked me to suggest my own top ten. But I’m lousy at such rankings – I can never answer “what’s your favourite X?” or “what’s the greatest Y?” questions. So I decided I’d just come up with a list of ten “pretty good” books that aren’t on her list. Then I couldn’t limit myself to ten so I picked fifteen.

These are off the top of my head, so I reserve the right to add other better ones. (I cast my net fairly widely genre-wise because she did too.) Reader suggestions?

1. Omnipotent Government by Ludwig von Mises. Mises’ analysis of the economic origins of Nazism; I’m not sure how much of it I agree with but there’s a lot of good stuff in here.

2. As We Go Marching by John Flynn. Explores parallelism between European fascism and the New Deal.

3. Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen. Goldhagen’s thesis – that average German citizens knew about and were complicit in the Holocaust – is controversial. I don’t know whether he’s right, but it’s certainly worth reading.

4. The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff. An analysis of the rise of Nazism from an orthodox Randian position. I have a lot of problems with this book, but it does provide a useful and – apart from his uncritical reliance on Rauschning – mostly accurate record of what Nazi ideologists actually preached.

5. Marxism, Freedom and the State by Mikhail Bakunin. The Russian anarchist’s prediction that implementing Marxism would create a new ruling class rather than abolishing the class system.

6. Statism and Anarchy by Mikhail Bakunin. More of the above.

7. The Bolshevik Myth by Aleksandr Berkman. Initially sympathetic anarcho-communist visits Soviet Russia, gets bummed out.

8. The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism by Bertrand Russell. Initially sympathetic state-socialist visits Soviet Russia, gets bummed out

9. The New Class by Milovan Djilas. Former Yugoslav apparatchik who showed how implementing Marxism had created a new ruling class rather than abolishing the class system.

10. The Black Book of Communism by Stéphane Courtois et al. Surely too famous to require explanation here.

11. The Political Economy of Soviet Socialism by Peter Boettke. Documents Soviet Russia’s early, abortive attempt to suspend market relations entirely.

12. Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective by Kevin Carson. Not about totalitarianism per se, but studies the various informational and incentival perversities that beset hierarchical, bureaucratic command structures generally, be they governmental or corporate.

13. We the Living by Ayn Rand. This one and the next two shouldn’t require explanation.

14. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

15. Animal Farm by George Orwell.

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