Green Room

Living in The Hunger Games?

posted at 11:31 am on November 27, 2012 by

Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds notes some peculiar similarities between the teen novel/film The Hunger Games and the Amtrak ride between New York City and Washington DC:

We don’t live in The Hunger Games yet, but I’m not the first to notice that Washington, D.C., is doing a lot better than the rest of the country. Even in upscale parts of L.A. or New York, you see boarded up storefronts and other signs that the economy isn’t what it used to be. But not so much in the Washington area, where housing prices are going up, fancy restaurants advertise $92 Wagyu steaks, and the Tyson’s Corner mall outshines — as I can attest from firsthand experience — even Beverly Hills’ famed Rodeo Drive.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, the contrast is even starker. As Adam Davidson recently wrote in The New York Times, riding the Amtrak between New York and D.C. exposes stark contrasts between the “haves” of the capital and the have-nots outside the Beltway. And he correctly assigns this to the importance of power.

Washington is rich not because it makes valuable things, but because it is powerful. With virtually everything subject to regulation, it pays to spend money influencing the regulators. As P.J. O’Rourke famously observed: “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” But it’s not just bags-of-cash style corruption. Most of the D.C. boom is from lobbyists and PR people, and others who are retained to influence what the government does. It’s a cold calculation: You’re likely to get a much better return from an investment of $1 million on lobbying than on a similar investment in, say, a new factory or better worker training.

So Washington gets fat, and it does so on money taken from the rest of the country: Either directly, in the form of taxes, or indirectly in the form of money that otherwise would have gone to that factory or training program.

Well, I didn’t like the movie anyway, so perhaps I’m not one to comment on this.  However, I would note that this phenomenon seems to be growing in a time characterized by both “compassionate conservatism” and outright redistributionism.  Regardless of the similarities and differences between the two, it shows the dangers of centralized control as opposed to distributed power through federalism.  We might tend to see the same thing in state capitals in the latter system, but at least voters are better situation to prevent and reverse it.

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Or, put another way “if you want to take the money out of politics, take the politics out of money.”

Mohonri on November 27, 2012 at 11:53 AM

If Jennifer Lawrence is here, I volunteer as tribute.

dernst2 on November 27, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Finally, someone who gets the THG analogy correct.

Libs have grabbed hold of this thing to decry the evils of capitalism/rich people/greed, etc. What they utterly fail to grasp is that in the books, it’s the corrupt government that has impoverished its citizens to benefit a select few – who just happen to live in the physical capital of the country.

mrsknightley on November 27, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Did anyone else get a Weimer Republic vibe from The Hunger Games? All that ‘glitz and glamor ‘ but nothing beyond the veneer?

EnglishRogue on November 27, 2012 at 11:57 AM

It’s eerie how similar it is. DC is the capital and the 50(or 57) states are the 12 districts. The only thing missing is the wasteland of what once was District 13 where the rebels are plotting their attacks.

Doughboy on November 27, 2012 at 12:10 PM

I would say a much better comparison is (of course), Atlas Shrugged. I’ve never read the book, just review… and the movies really brought it home! My real moment of shock was watching the movie where her brother is suggesting there’s more money to be made in lobbying the government than actually delivering the service! That’s where we are now…

dominigan on November 27, 2012 at 12:12 PM

dominigan on November 27, 2012 at 12:12 PM

If that fascinates you, you really should read the book (and The Fountainhead). It is staggering the subtle ways, and not so subtle ways, to destroy a free society.

Flange on November 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Everything said about Washington DC being immune to America’s terrible economic woes rings true except the Hunger Games analogy is over the top. Corrupt cronyism benefiting the political elites? Like what happens in Socialist and Communist countries? Hell yeah. Gladiator games for their amusement? Pfft.

fwiw, I too dislike the movie – saw it a few days ago with my 18 year old son. We both found it extremely tedious and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Buy Danish on November 27, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Much the same phenominon happened in Madison between 2003 and 2010.

Steve Eggleston on November 27, 2012 at 12:33 PM

I liked The Hunger Games immensely.
Katniss Everdeen has become a cultural icon.

I thought it would be another teen romance melodrama, like Twilight, but was pleasantly surprised.

It illustrated what happens when liberals become the permanent ruling elite:
Androgynous, vulgar, self-justifying, imperious, cruel.

MichaelGabriel on November 27, 2012 at 12:48 PM

crony capitalism alive and well.

beware the new “fiscal cliff bill” It will be jammed pack full of little/big payoffs to the consultants and donors from the past election. It will reward companies that give a lot to both parties. IMO the only reason the GOPe is caving on taxes is to be abler to get abill passed that rewards their “friends” who bought them. It is kind of sickening the very last principle the GOPe had left was no tax hikes. they gave up on the social issues, they gave up on a strong military years ago by voting for Obama’s salt treay and the budget deal with automatic cuts to the military. They gave up on the working poor consigning them to the “caring arms” of government during Bush. they gave up on the idea of federalism when they passed medicare part D and no child left behind, they gav eup on the free market when they pushed TARP. they had one principle left no new taxes. Now they want to throw that over board. The GOPe is truly a party without a platform and since they believe in nothing they fall for everything.

the federal government with the GOPe in tow have already gave us bread is it too far from the imagination aka the hunger games that they will soon give us the circus also?

unseen on November 27, 2012 at 12:55 PM

We both found it extremely tedious and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Buy Danish on November 27, 2012 at 12:20 PM

you can bring a horse to water…..

unseen on November 27, 2012 at 12:58 PM

If that fascinates you, you really should read the book (and The Fountainhead). It is staggering the subtle ways, and not so subtle ways, to destroy a free society.

Flange on November 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Just bring your hip waders, your mosquito netting, and your machete, because there are some spots where the book is a really hard slog to keep reading.

We both found it extremely tedious and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Buy Danish on November 27, 2012 at 12:20 PM

It might have been more interesting if she could have brought a hive of those wasp thingies back for the awards ceremony. I wouldn’t mind an infestation of those in DC and every blue county in America. (I might be misremembering things, I was only half watching the movie in the other room when I saw it.)

GWB on November 27, 2012 at 1:12 PM

I like to give the Hunger Games trilogy to friends with teens (both male & female teens enjoy it). It sets the stage for many later subtle conservative/libertarian discussions

krome on November 27, 2012 at 2:43 PM

Obama and the Democrats in Congress eat steak and lobster while we “eat our peas.” Serfdom anyone?

kemojr on November 27, 2012 at 5:12 PM