A Capitalist Carol, Stave 8

The story so far: The third spirit to visit the high-spending politician Ed Splurge is showing him the dystopia that will be created by his statist policies…

 

What Splurge had seen was bad enough: talk of universal surveillance, the suppression of free action, free speech, even of free thought itself, in this future of his own creation. But as the Ghost of Freedom Yet to Come continued to point Splurge towards the dismal scene, he knew that worse was to come.

The zealots arranged around their computer screens continued their business. “Report from the Minister of Public Safety!” called the figure at the head of the gathering, as another got up to speak.

“I am glad to report, Prime Minister,” said this second figure, “that a complete ban on unhealthy living is now in place. After our total suppression of smoking – “

“Total?” asked another, skeptically. “I understood that the black market in cigarettes was booming since you outlawed tobacco, and that thousands were being smuggled in by organized gangs!”

The Minister of Public Safety hardly missed a beat “– we moved to ban fatty foods and fizzy drinks, with similarly harsh penalties for those who subject their bodies to these vile substances.

“But there is more sugar in orange juice than fizzy pop!” cried Splurge, before realizing that the shadows before him could not hear, and were unaware of his presence.

“Chocolates, bacon, and eating Christmas goose are now all illegal,” continued the Minister. It is a positive contribution to the health and welfare of our citizens.” There was yet more satisfaction expressed by the assembled gathering.

“Oh, spirit! Cried Splurge. “Can they not see that in the name of promoting the welfare of human beings, they have robbed them of their very humanity? They have robbed them of their freedom!”

“Chancellor of the Exchequer!” Another figure rose up to speak at the command: “The new 100% tax on income is working well, Prime Minister,” it reported. “Our procedures to assess how much people actually need to live on are now in place, and most are receiving their allowances within a month at the most.”

“Can we really be taking all people’s income, and then giving them back only what the state deems fit?” howled Splurge, realizing the horror of where his high-spending, high-taxing, high-borrowing policies were actually leading. “Do people in this future really need to ask officials before they dare do anything at all?”

Another figure was called to speak: “The Permission to Act Bill has now completed its passage through Parliament and is now the Permission to Act Act,” it began.

But by this point, Splurge’s head was reeling. As darkness swept over him, he had a strange feeling, that the figure at the head of the discussants was none other than – himself.

“Spirit!” he pleaded. “Are these the shadows of things that must be? Tell me these things might yet be changed!” But there came no reply, only darkness.

A Capitalist Carol, Stave 7

The story so far: The politician Ed Splurge has been visited by two spirits who have shown him the error of his high-spending ways; and now he is expecting the third.

 

In the darkness, Splurge remembered the prediction of old Adam Smith, and, lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand.

“Are you the Ghost of Freedom Yet to Come?” said Splurge.

“You are about to show me shadows of things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us?” Splurge persisted. The spirit’s garment moved, as if the phantom had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.

“Ghost of Freedom Future,” exclaimed Splurge, “I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. I am resigned! Lead on!”

He followed the spirit’s outstretched hand, and found himself in his old office in Downing Street. But now it was full of the strangest equipment. Splurge realized he was looking at it in some future configuration. A group of people sat around a circle of computer screens, deep in discussion.

“Next item: report from the Minister of Truth,” said the figure at the head of the circle. Splurge surmised that this must be a Cabinet meeting of the future.

“Excellent progress, Prime Minster,” said another. The last of the nation’s CCTV surveillance cameras have been completely decommissioned and recycled.”

“Well, that at least is welcome news, spirit,” said Splurge. “Freedom is not yet completely extinguished.” But in an instant he realized that he had formed this conclusion too soon.

“Excellent indeed!” said the first, gleefully. “Now that the entire population has been microchipped, we can trace everyone’s movements with far greater precision and reliability. Crime will soon be a thing of the past.”

“But how can this be justified in a free society?” exclaimed Splurge.

The figures round the table did not respond. Splurge knew that they were but the shadows of things that would be, and that they were unaware of his presence, or that of the ghost.

Yet it was almost as if they had heard his question, for they all said in unison, in a sort of mantra, “Only the guilty have anything to hide.” Much mutual congratulation followed.

The first spoke again. “And thought crime…?”

“Quite unthinkable,” said the first, now that all computers are configured to prevent the use of banned words, phrases and concepts. Already this is leading to a measurable fall in criticism of the government.” There was much self-satisfaction again.

“Oh, no! I did not want this to happen,” wailed Splurge. “I just wanted to make people safe. To cut crime. To spare people from upsetting others.”

But the shadows of this dark future carried on with their business…

A Capitalist Carol, Stave 6

The story so far: The second of two messengers sent by Adam Smith is showing the big-government statist Ed Splurge the dismal results of his policies….

 

“Spirit!” wailed Splurge. “What is this miserable place to which you have brought me?”

They stood in some kind of a prison, though much more dismal a prison than any of Splurge’s imagination. It heaved with abject members of humanity. Yet even though the place already seemed to be bursting at its seams, more new inmates were arriving.

“What vile country, spirit, treats people so?” he inquired.

“Yours, Splurge,” responded the Ghost of Freedom Present. “The more laws you have passed, the more criminals you have created out of honest men and women.”

“Are there no proper facilities for their accommodation, their education, and their rehabilitation?”

“You know well, Splurge, that spending on such things buys you no votes,” answered the ghost. “So you choose to spend public money on much more visible causes.”

Splurge was downcast in shame; he knew it was true.

“You, Splurge, spend it to buy off the vested interest groups. You take money from those who work hard and use it for your own political advantage.”

“Oh, spirit! Such Public Choice Theory realities pain me! Take me away from this place!”

“There is yet more to see,” said the ghost. “Let us visit some of these criminals that your bulging statute-book has created.”

Splurge and the ghost passed down an endless corridor of bulging prison cells. “These unfortunates,” it explained, pointing to the first, “are victims of your anti-terrorism legislation.”

“But we must have such laws!” objected Splurge.

“There were already plenty,” growled the ghost. “And each new law you passed cast wider than the last, until near any action could be punished in the most dire way. This woman was arrested merely for walking along a cycle path. This old man, for heckling a politician at a party conference. This couple, for a silent anti-war demonstration.”

“This was not meant to be,” pleaded Splurge. “The police must have exceeded their powers.”

“You gave them those powers,” replied the ghost. “Did no one tell you that power corrupts?”

“This man” – it pointed to another wretched inmate – ”is here simply for insulting someone else. This other, for proclaiming beliefs that some find unwelcome. These, for selling fruit in non-metric measures.”

It turned to Splurge. “It is evident, is it not, that in this country you have created, freedom exists only in name?”

“Oh, no,” said Splurge. “This was not meant to be! Kind spirit, say that human freedom will survive.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered, none other of your race,” returned the ghost, “will find freedom in any action.”

Splurge hung his head, overcome with penitence and grief. A sudden tiredness came over him, and all turned dark.

A Capitalist Carol, Stave 6

The story so far: After meeting the first of Adam Smith’s heralded three messengers, the high-spending enthusiast for statism, Splurge, prepares for the second…

 

Awakening in the middle of a loud snore, Splurge felt that he was restored to consciousness for the especial purpose of conferring with the second messenger dispatched to him through Adam Smith’s intervention.

Consequently, when the bell struck One, he was not surprised to find himself enveloped in an eerie light, the source of which seemed to be in the adjoining room. He rose softly and shuffled to the door.

The moment Splurge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice bade him enter. “Come in! And know me better, man!”

The spirit that introduced itself gave every appearance of one who had known better days. It had a weak, sickly pallor. “I am the Ghost of Freedom Present,” it explained. “Touch my robe!”

As Splurge did so, the room vanished instantly, and he found himself standing, in his night-gown, in the city streets. As before, there were people about, all wishing each other good-day. But many of the shops and ale-houses seemed to be closed and shuttered.

“It must be Christmas morning,” ventured Splurge, as he sought to explain the evident lack of commerce.

“It is,” said the spirit, “but that is not why all these enterprises are closed. He pointed: “This ale-house, for example, shut two months ago, unable to bear the cost of all the regulations – on planning, on its product, and the terms on which it employs its staff. Like thousands of others, it was driven out of business.”

“The young people you see,” it continued, “a million of them, are not in the street for exercise and enjoyment,” – Splurge wondered why anyone should think they might, given the coldness of the air and the light snow that was falling – “but because they have been driven out of work by the minimum wages that employers cannot afford to pay them.”

“Oh, no, spirit!” exclaimed Splurge. “These laws were meant to protect workers! To guarantee a fair deal to the poorest, to the young, to women, to minorities and the vulnerable.”

“…The very groups who employers stop hiring,” said the ghost, “when times are most difficult. As they are now. Thanks to you.”

“That was the bankers!” Splurge insisted.

“No!” replied the ghost. “It was the easy credit and loose money you created, in the attempt to create an economic boom. But it was a fake boom, which inevitably turned into a bust – a bust deep and damaging, for these wretched individuals and the businesses that, in a more liberal age, once sustained them.

“Spirit! I cannot endure these Austrian visions!” cried Splurge. “Do not torment me with the unintended consequences of my policies! Take me away from this place!”

“Touch my robe!” answered the ghost; and in an instant, the scene dissolved again.

A Capitalist Carol, Stave 5

The story so far: After meeting the first of Adam Smith’s heralded three messengers, the high-spending enthusiast for statism, Splurge, prepares for the second…

 

Awakening in the middle of a loud snore, Splurge felt that he was restored to consciousness for the especial purpose of conferring with the second messenger dispatched to him through Adam Smith’s intervention.

Consequently, when the bell struck One, he was not surprised to find himself enveloped in an eerie light, the source of which seemed to be in the adjoining room. He rose softly and shuffled to the door.

The moment Splurge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice bade him enter. “Come in! And know me better, man!”

The spirit that introduced itself gave every appearance of one who had known better days. It had a weak, sickly pallor. “I am the Ghost of Freedom Present,” it explained. “Touch my robe!”

As Splurge did so, the room vanished instantly, and he found himself standing, in his night-gown, in the city streets. As before, there were people about, all wishing each other good-day. But many of the shops and ale-houses seemed to be closed and shuttered.

“It must be Christmas morning,” ventured Splurge, as he sought to explain the evident lack of commerce.

“It is,” said the spirit, “but that is not why all these enterprises are closed. He pointed: “This ale-house, for example, shut two months ago, unable to bear the cost of all the regulations – on planning, on its product, and the terms on which it employs its staff. Like thousands of others, it was driven out of business.”

“The young people you see,” it continued, “a million of them, are not in the street for exercise and enjoyment,” – Splurge wondered why anyone should think they might, given the coldness of the air and the light snow that was falling – “but because they have been driven out of work by the minimum wages that employers cannot afford to pay them.”

“Oh, no, spirit!” exclaimed Splurge. “These laws were meant to protect workers! To guarantee a fair deal to the poorest, to the young, to women, to minorities and the vulnerable.

“…The very groups who employers stop hiring,” said the ghost, “when times are most difficult. As they are now. Thanks to you.

“That was the bankers!” Splurge insisted.

“No!” replied the ghost. “It was the easy credit and loose money you created, in the attempt to create an economic boom. But it was a fake boom, which inevitably turned into a bust – a bust deep and damaging, for these wretched individuals and the businesses that, in a more liberal age, once sustained them.

“Spirit! I cannot endure these Austrian visions!” cried Splurge. “Do not torment me with the unintended consequences of my policies! Take me away from this place!”

“Touch my robe!” answered the ghost; and in an instant, the scene dissolved again.