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…