Posted On: Friday - January 31st 2020 5:01PM MST
In Topics:   Immigration Stupidity  Preppers and Prepping  Economics  Liberty/Libertarianism  The Future  Books  iEspionage
(This is the 2nd-to last of 5 parts of one book review - they may add up to a significant percentage of the number words that are IN the novel! Anyway, see Introduction, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.)
This is almost the last part of the review of The Mandibles, in which I want to discuss parts near the end to make additional points about this economic-what-if? novel by Lionel Shriver. Due to the necessity of my bringing up some details, and since I will highly recommend this book (oops, spoiled that too!), I ask the reader to PLEASE don't read this section coming - between the asterisks - if you plan on reading it! We all like some suspense, and this book has a good storyline that makes one wonder what unfortunate events will come next. I meant to put my overall conclusion afterwards, but this post got long, and that'll be the last one.
SPOILER ************************************************ SPOILER
As we left the Mandible family making a trek to upper-state New York, the China/Soviet-style collectivization of agriculture, the envy of Rotting-In Place Franklin Roosevelt, is going on. The family members that can work are just peasants now, and brother Jared's farm is no longer his to run. Peak Stupidity has discussed what happens when a country has nothing real to back up its "money" with, in "There's a lot of ruin in a nation." - Part 3*, and the author extrapolates this right on out, in what I think is a likely outcome. Foreigners, foreign companies, or foreign governments, especially Chinese, own the good ol' "means of production".
I've not written much of the author's exact timeline here, but that agriculture nationalization, and the family's time at Jared's farm ("the Citadel") was in the mid and late 30s (2030s), a century later than FDR's BS, and maybe even into the 40s. The section entitled "2047" starts with the youngest generation of the Mandible family, now mid-20's or so adults, living back in NY City in the 1st-generation real-Great-Grandmother's house (she had been murdered early on in the SHTF). Life has gotten less dangerous, but basically it's a 3rd world quality of life in the 1st world (i.e., probably brighter people!) The Lat husband Estaban has high-tailed it to Mexico, which has built a big beautiful wall to keep real Americans out (haha!). (I'm not really too harsh on the Estaban character here, as he lost the original-narrator wife Florence due to lack of simple medical care and his step-son Willing is one of the adult characters now.)
It's Willing, the hero, his girlfriend Fifa, his cousins Goog and Bing, and their sister Savannah - who, I forgot to tell you, became a whore during most of the worst economic times - and one of the 2nd generation, Nollie, who are present for the book's conclusion. Nollie is the sister of the Boomer Carter (remember Carter and mis-spelled Jayne?), who had been a writer in France most of her life but returned home before some of the worst of near-future America's times. It's her character that Miss Shriver obviously uses as a model, as the writing field surely is what she knows about. In fact, if you look up the author's bio, one of her book titles greatly resembles the title of character Nollie's most famous book.
There is a portion of the book devoted to Willing's initial refusal to get chipped. This chip is the true "Mark of the Beast" type, without which one can neither buy nor cell, but with plenty of other new features, for FREE. Yes, I know, the "Mark of the Beast" business is workable RIGHT NOW, with today's technology. Willing gets the chip, and there is plenty more to that story ... Peak Stupidity is pretty hip to this iEspionage business too, with more posts on it coming.
What's also a cool subject here is that the brother Goog has joined the dark side, the US Government's new version of the IRS, called SCAB as a play on the initials for Bureau for Social Contribution Assistance (with the "B" switched to the end). At this point, to keep the America show going on, this organization takes a majority of even the meager incomes of these young adults with 2 or 3 jobs. This is cool because we can see even this author's (did I mention she lives in Brooklyn and London) understanding of the brutality of high taxation. It also gives us a chance to hear more economic discussion and debate, as the young adult characters have what they can of a party. Goog has not been invited on purpose due to his being someone people in East Bloc during the Commie era would have been well familiar with - a government stooge who could get any one of his brother, sister, and cousin in trouble for any little thing. He arrived anyway. and I guess he was there for the economic debate, but he ends up staying quite a bit longer than he wanted to ... haha!
Let me insert here that Miss Shriver's extrapolation about the taxes, and the huge proportion of old "shrivs" who receive the lion's share of this taxpayer money may not be a good one. She's implies or has a character state that "they've got the votes". Really, will votes still matter? I'm of the opinion that, just as with all Commie governments, they will realize the bind they are in and make new policy, voting notwithstanding. Either way though, it's a good look at economic and social issues that exist already today among different generations.
Any good book ought to have a road trip, and Lionel Shriver does not let us down here either. It turns out there is no State of Nevada anymore - it is the "United States of Nevada", no utopia by any means, and cut off by all relations to any country but Eritrea (ha, she's funny too!), but a renegade land that unchipped brother Jared has gone off to. The people of this land live off the reach of the SCAB, and must survive completely without material imported or exported. The place has seen the endgame of the new economy and wants no part of it, so its economy is at square one. You need to have a place like this in any dystopic novel, if you're going to have something resembling a happy ending, and the same for real life.
The road trip is undertaken by Willing, an UNwilling cousin Goog, cousin Bing, and great-aunt Nollie, the writer and only one who enjoys actual driving of a car. There is just another beef have here. Again, I don't expect this Bi-Coastal (E. coast of N. America and island off W. coast of Europe) lady to write correctly of what she doesn't know.
This mistake is that Nevada may have been the closest state to be a Libertarian paradise, or at least full of people who would want that, 30-50 years ago, but it's not now, and won't be in 2047, barring an expulsion. After many decades of illegal alien immigration, especially to Los Vegas, the state is not the same, with those old ornery codgers and cowboys no longer having a big influence. Miss Shriver is imagining a Nevada of 1970. It's not like Miss Shriver didn't do a good job describing the State of Nevada, as "a magnet for kooks, misfits, outcasts, miscreants, mavericks - the malcontents, the fantasists, the workers of short-cuts", with a really cool background picture from its history. Due to huge Hispanic immigration, it's just way off now, and would be even more off
In general for this book you'd think this immigration aspect of all the changes in America would have some bearing on the writer's extrapolations, but all she's got is "Lats are OK". Is this a personal thing with her? Maybe, but, I still can't get over the Lat boyfriend helping do the dishes (see Part 1). Yeah, right!!
The group arrived at the supposed highly-defended USN border where the captive Goog was released on his own recognizance as someone too steeped in his Statist ways to want to live free. The border was a barbed-wire fence rather than the Great Wall that the US government claimed. Here's where I come to the lack of understanding of the gold standard. However, this may be my misinterpretation of the characters' wording, so you be the judge. It's an old codger who lives just inside the USN and Willing talking econ. again.
"Do Nevadans use money at all?" Wiling asked.Well, this is the old codger talking, but does the author get it? No, you don't need to carry gold coins around. That's not the gold standard. The gold standard is having this impossible-to-replicate element as the BACKING for whatever currency, continentals, dollars (before Nixon and the FED nixed all that), or anything else.
"What do you think, we use beads? We're not savages. Carson City issues continentals. First currency of the original thirteen colonies. But it went to hell pronto in the late 1770s. 'Cause it wasn't backed by nothin'. We fixed that."
"Don't tell me," Willing said. "You're on the gold standard."
"Ain't you quick! Before we cut loose, the Free State produced the majority of American gold anyways. But supply of continentals is real restricted. Learned out lesson from the thirties. Everybody round here pretty much agree that on the face of it the gold standard's dumb. Arbitrary, the governor calls it. Not much to do with the stuff but wear it around your neck. Can't eat it. But for currency it works. Even if we don't quite know why. One continental buy you a whiskbroom today? One continental buy you a whiskbroom tomorrow. So it's not that dumb."
OK, there is one more surprise in the ending. I will not tell the reader who has gone this far this, as, if you enjoy this blog full of economics talk, you'll enjoy this book too.
SPOILER ************************************************ SPOILER
Wheewww! The Conclusion is coming tomorrow.
* See also Part 1 and Part 2.