Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Have we found angels in the forms of pigs to govern us?

Jerry Stratton, April 8, 2009

I love T.S. Eliot, but this is missing the point by a mile and a half. Faber and Faber was a publishing house that rejected Animal Farm before it was picked up by Secker and Warburg. They rejected it because they saw the moral as, we need more pigs in government:

We have no conviction that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time.

And after all, your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm—in fact there couldn’t have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed (someone might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.

Which reminds me of this famous quote about angels in the form of kings to govern us:

“Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.” — Thomas Jefferson (1st Inaugural, 1801)

It doesn’t matter if the pigs are smarter. We shouldn’t be turning our rights over to anyone, smarter or not, especially when they’re the ones saying they’re smarter. The pigs were certainly “smarter” at consolidating political power. They had precisely the sly elitist hypocrisy we should fear most in our political leaders. Those who promise full health and care—and then charge us for it, imprison us if we don’t accept it, and don’t deliver in the end anyway. It would have been a cop-out for Orwell to make his pigs less crafty than he did.

Giving governments absolute power, and then appealing to politicians to use that power wisely, is doomed to fail, no matter how smart or public-spirited the pig. The nature of politics is that it is the pigs who want power who are successful. That was Orwell’s lesson.

Hat tip to Daring Fireball.

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