Monday, April 21, 2014

The Hunger Games: Fantasy or The Day After Tomorrow for America? An Anarchist Review

The Hunger Games has captivated readers and audiences alike over the past years since its release. It has sold over a million copies and pulling in almost 700 million at the international box office. It is easy to guess why. The book is a fun and full of non-stop excitement. The read is well-paced and keeps you on edge. Love, romantic conflict, violence, beauty, sex, nostalgia, the book has it all. Here at The Anarchist Review the question we put forward to the reader is what does The Hunger Games mean to our society? That is a question we attempt to answer. (Note: this is a review of  The Hunger Games book not its sequels or the movie.)

There is no shortage of doom porn floating around libertarian circles. The Hunger Games feels like it could fit in nicely next to 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World  for a perfect libertarian doom salad. The common theme of such libertarian reviewers is that our future is held in these books unless we change something. 

Indeed, there are many parallels between Panem and our current situation, but first for the benefit of the .1% of the population who has not seen or read The Hunger Games let me give a recap of the scenario.  A country called Panem in North America is divided into 12 districts and the Capitol. Each district specializes in producing some item, most of which goes to the Capitol. The districts are varying in wealth, but are mostly poor. The closer the connections one has to the capital, the wealthier. The protagonist is from the coal-producing District 12 which is located in current Appalachia.  The Capitol is in the Rockies (Salt Lake City?).  The Capitol rules the citizenry with an iron fist. To further demonstrate its power over the districts and avoid rebellion, once a year they hold the Hunger Games. Basically two people (a boy and a girl) between the ages 12 and 18 are chosen from each district to battle to the death for the entertainment of the Capitol.  Every year 24 kids are thrown together and only one survives, the Victor, who is lavished with wealth and fame. Obviously going to the games is a death sentence, so it is dreaded in the districts.

As of now Washington D.C. does not hold gladiator type games between teenagers from the different states. Also, D.C. is much closer to Appalachia than to the Rockies. So not a perfect fit, however there are some very relevant comparisons between The Hunger Games and today’s society.

In Panem your wealth is tied not to your work ethic or good ideas, but rather where you were born, or rather how close to the capitol you were born. The Capitol controls who is wealthy, who succeeds, who is poor and who fails. With federal spending exceeding three trillion dollars, and billions more handed out to Wall-Street via QE and other monetary trickery of the Federal Reserve, the Panem system is not that much different than our own.  Maybe you are laughing at me saying this is a ridiculous comparison. But is it?

The U.S. government spends 40% of GDP. That means if you take everything that all 300 million people make, the government spends 40% of it. That is a load of money. Google had revenues of 15.7 billion last year, Wal-Mart did 469 billion. The U.S Government spent 3,455 billion dollars in 2013. That means the spending power of the largest company in the world was less than half, less than a seventh of what the U.S government unleashes in terms of spending power. Google, the supposed king of the internet can only unleash 0.5 % of what the Federal government can. Companies make or sell products that we choose to use. The U.S. government simply pulls the money out of our paychecks without permission. Imagine how much you can influence who is wealthy and who is poor when you can outspend any other single entity by seven times? Also when you are able to take arbitrary amounts of money from people’s pocket books and distribute it to whoever you wish?

The unfortunate reality is that so much of success is not based on a company’s ability to provide a good or cheap product. It is based on the company’s ability to get on the government’s good side. Look at the Sugar industry in the United States. In 2013 The Florida Sugar Cane League, the American Sugar Alliance, and American Crystal sugar spent over 3.5 million dollars in lobbying. As a result Sugar in the United States has a large protective tariff and over the past 40 years has cost as much as double in the U.S. as opposed to outside it. Every regular person in the United States is essentially paying for politicians to get wined and dined by the Sugar Lobby. They pay in higher sugar prices, increasing the price of all their food and increasing the wealth of lobbyists, politicians, and Sugar corporations.

Look at the successful business in the world. Look what industries are hiring and giving big bonuses to their CEOs? Go to job fair. What businesses are there? If it is a technical/engineering job fair I can almost guarantee who you will see: government supported monopolies (i.e. utilities) the government (bureau of land/water management), and government defense contractors (Boeing and Lockheed Martin). Why is that? It is because they have a steady stream of “guaranteed” dollars flowing in from the Capitol. 625 Billion dollars were spent last year alone on building the war machine. That is 625 billion dollars taken out of people’s pockets, people that actually produce something people use, like computers and software and hotels and houses, in order to pay for bombs and a bunch of engineers to sit around and make death machines.  If they produce a product that no person would ever buy, it matters not. The money is there.

Go to none-engineering career fair. There will be a large swab of companies from education, healthcare, and finance. Three industries which are heavily regulated and subsidized by federal and state governments. Once again the government has chosen who succeeds and who fails. 

In The Hunger Games, the people in the Capitol do not work at all; they spend all their time on frivolous activities. The people in the Districts have incredibly strict laws that they cannot leave their areas, and barely have enough food to live.

What about here? For the most part, the capitol is not filled with people who spend their time dying their hair other colors and getting plastic surgery. Washington D.C I have heard actually has a pretty hard working atmosphere; everyone is a busybody trying to get things done. Which is scary.  However, what do they really accomplish? They write words on a piece of paper. They make laws. The tell people well where to move their guns. They produce nothing. They produce nothing that people can use. Their paper-passing is just as frivolous as the lives of the hair and prep team from the Hunger Games. The protagonist says this of them “It’s funny, because even though they’re rattling on about the Games, it’s all about where they were or what they were doing or how they felt when a specific event occurred. ‘I was still in bed!’ ‘I had just had my eyebrows dyed!’ ‘I swear I nearly fainted!’ Everything is about them, not the dying boys and girls in the arena.” 

Is it too much of a stretch to assume that politicians may be just or even more callous than these hair-dressers? They get their money by looking good and sounding nice and not offending people. They get their money by getting donations from wealthy people in trade for special privileges that hurt everyone else. They send thousands of men and women to die in Iraq and Afghanistan and they sleep peacefully at night in their suburban homes paid for by the labor of productive Americans. They argue about laws and send papers around from one office to another while men are dying because of their actions. Is this any less frivolous, any less callous than the speech of the hair dressers?

True, we do not have most the country working to pay for the lavish lifestyle for the politically connected, except we do. We do not callously ignore the deaths of people who die in the name of the country, yet we do. Since 2004, when drone attacks begin, as many as 951 civilians, which includes 200 children, have been killed by drones in Pakistan alone. This does not include the wedding guests who died in Yemen and other deaths around the world

Are we that far from The Hunger Games? Is our society really that much different than the one we look upon with such abhorrence? We let over 4,000 of our own die in Iraq so we could be unified and patriotic. Are we that much different than a society that lets 24 of its own fight to the death to maintain peace and order in society? Is this not exactly what the deaths of all our military is all about? That is why we have parades and ceremonies for the survivors, for the Victors if you will. Is there a difference?

Hopefully by now the reader is questioning if we are not exactly who the Hunger Games is talking about. You may be convinced that The Hunger Games is the day after tomorrow for America. Well I hate to burst your doomsday bubble, but it is not. Despite my radical political opinions, I affirm that this will never happen. There will be no Hunger Games here. Ever. How can I say that? What evidence is there?

We are not at the base of state power, we are at the pinnacle of it. This three-thousand year-old paradigm of the state is fading with Slavery and other barbaric institutions of the past. Will the powers that be relinquish voluntarily? No, of course not. Evil will not relent. Evil people will hold on with all they have to the source of power and livelihood. The state has created millions of dependents. This is of course to the state’s advantage because it means millions are interested in keeping it alive and well. But in the end it cannot. The state is simply inefficient. Violence and evil do not help people, do not produce good results, and do not produce anything of value. The state cannot compete with ingenious and innovation and entrepreneurship. It just cannot. Despite all the taxes, all the regulation and other violent actions the state will raise against free people attempting to serve others, but in the end it will be to no avail. The progress of man cannot be stopped.
Generally the villain is not taken down by the good guy, the villain is taken down through his (or her) own vanity, pride, irrationality, lust for power, or whatever it be. His own arbitrary authority is what will implode and destroy the bad guy. And so it will be with the state. Technology will get better so that free-seeking people will be better able to escape the state. Bitcoin. Sea-steading. The internet. All sorts of things will help to set us free. And the state will be left alone, and all the evil it harbors, crumbling under its own complete inefficiency. There is no stopping the revolution. There is no stopping the revolution.

In these hunger games it will only be evil that will be starving. And I can’t wait.

Let the games begin. 

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