The Dichotomous Subversive, part II of II

The Dichotomous Subversive: Douglas Adams and the Rule of Unreason
by Vox Day
copyright (c) 2004


Adams exposes the fundamental flaw at the heart of all centralism in the defeat of the murderous xenophobes of Krikkit, whose legions of deadly white robots operate under the direct control of the Krikkit War Computer. In much the same way that the Mongols, on the verge of conquering Europe in 1242, were brought to a complete halt by the death of Ogedai Khan, the Krikkit war machine is shut down by the exposure of the War Computer’s central intelligence core to the suicidally depressed robot. It is worth noting that Adams again ties together the concepts of centralism and mass death, as the Clerk of the Court at the War Crimes Trial concludes that two grillion guys were “zilched out” by the forces of Krikkit.

In addition to his unexpectedly fruitful harvest in the comedic orchards of death, war crimes and monetary policy, Adams manages to find hilarity in the always amusing topic of taxes. He jabs effectively at static revenue models, (which assert that individual behavior will remain the same despite changing tax rates), by introducing Arthur Dent to the corpse of Disaster Area lead singer Hotblack Desiato, who is “spending the year dead for tax reasons,”, and in doing so, highlights how government policies force otherwise rational humans to behave in an irrational manner.

Other government-fostered irrationalities are exposed in the brief discussion of bad poetry following Arthur and Ford’s escape from Earth. While the execrable and oft deadly Vogon poetry is a natural artifact of Vogon culture, public funding results in an even more dangerous form of composition :

The second worst is that of the Azagoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem “Ode To A Small Lump of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning” four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off.

Then there is the terrible punishment of the Belcebron people, whose quietly enlightened accomplishments incur the perverse wrath of the Galactic Tribunal. This sort of petty vindictiveness is all too typical of government bureaucracies, which always seeks to control that which is not beholden to them and to destroy what they cannot control. The unprovoked attack on the people of Belcebron is more than a little remniscent of the ongoing campaign being waged against the Boy Scouts by local governments around the country, which seek to deny the organization funds and access to public property on the basis of a 95-year old policy which was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA V. DALE (99-699) 530 U.S. 640.

The savage irony of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, what is surely Douglas Adams’ greatest and most subtle joke, is that this overtly anti-government collection of subversion was not only funded by the British government, but distributed by it to the masses in a variety of formats through the BBC. Through Hitchhiker’s, Douglas Adams does not so much bite the hand that was feeding him as rip it off entirely, leaving nothing but a bloody stump behind. The dichotomy is almost precisely the reverse of Lenin’s famous construction; in this case, the socialist state gave the very rope to the writer with which he throttled it.

Adams’ theme cannot honestly be characterized as a Thatcherite one— his interests ran more towards pointing out problems and contradictions than proposing policies to address them— but even so, it appears to be more than a coincidence that the first airing of the Hitchhiker’s radio program should have been March 8, 1978, five weeks after a massive nationwide strike by the four major public service unions and a scant eight weeks before the British people threw the Labour Party out of office following seventeen ruinous years of post-war dominance. It seems logical to conclude that the conservative wave which swept Britain and brought Margaret Thatcher to power also helped in establishing Douglas Adams as a worldwide literary star.

Certainly, Britain’s new Prime Minister must have approved of his take on trade unions. The concept of a philosopher’s union is humorous enough in itself, but Adams’ adept description of how unions use the government’s legal muscle to reinforce their position to stifle technological advancement teaches more in a paragraph than most elite economics courses can manage in a semester in describing how corrupt power politics are used to inhibit entrepeneurship and economic growth.

It is unfortunate that Douglas Adams is now seen primarily as an amusing writer of science fiction. He was much more than that. The five books of the Hitchhiker’s trilogy are, in their own unique manner, every bit as serious and as provokingly philosophical as Voltaire’s “Candide” or Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”. Douglas Adams may not have been a Libertarian, but his works deserve to be categorized among the most powerfully libertarian literature to have ever seen print.

But the anti-government theme of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy can best be summarized in Adams’ own words, which leave little doubt as to the author’s deep skepticism with regards to the rational nature and reasonable intentions of those who seek to rule over their fellow man.

The major problem— one of the major problems, for there are several— one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. To summarize: it is a well known fact, that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

The Dichotomous Subversive Part I of II