Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Political Economy in Fiction QOTD

. Wednesday, November 30, 2011

L. Frank Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which appeared in 1900, is widely recognized to be a parable for the Populist campaign of William Jennings Bryan, who twice ran for president on the Free Silver platform -- vowing to replace the gold standard with a bimetallic system that would allow the free creation of silver money alongside gold. ... According to the Populist reading, the Wicked Witches of the East and West represent the East and West Coast bankers (promoters of and benefactors from the tight money supply), the Scarecrow represented the farmers (who didn't have the brains to avoid the debt trap), the Tin Woodsman was the industrial proletariat (who didn't have the heart to act in solidarity with the farmers), the Cowardly Lion represented the political class (who didn't have the courage to intervene). ... "Oz" is of course the standard abbreviation for "ounce." (52)
That comes from David Graber's book Debt: The First 5,000 Years, an anthropological take on the evolution of the role of money and credit in the economy. Via Daniel Little who has an interesting take on the book and also adds this:
(This is roughly as startling to me as an interpretation of Star Wars as an extended allegory on Reaganism (intervention in Nicaragua, scary military officers in the background, etc.). This doesn't quite work, though, since Star Wars appeared in 1977, three years before Reagan's first election as president.)


Latinamericanist said...

To be clear (and as Graeber says) this is hardly news. There is an entire Wikipedia page on it
with numerous references, including a 1990 JPE article.
I thought this was generally known.

Kindred Winecoff said...

LA -

Surely. But it was news to me. And a few of my friends/colleagues, which is why I thought it was post-worthy.

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Political Economy in Fiction QOTD




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