My book is not a utopia but the opposite: a dystopia. It is set in England in the 1980s – and is highly relevant, I believe, to America now.
In the middle of the 1980s Britain came very close to violent revolution. There were crippling strikes and race riots. Blood was spilt in the streets. The country was lucky to have a strong leader in Margaret Thatcher, who firmly restored order. And she did it without making government more authoritarian. In fact she actually increased the freedom of individuals by helping millions of them to become wealthier as stock and property owners.
In my book I explore what might have happened if she had not been strong. In my fiction, she falls from power. Those who want to end personal freedom take over, and a national catastrophe begins.
The voters elect a government with a collectivist ideology. It believes in redistributing wealth. Its ideal is to make everyone economically equal. I recognize the enormous temptation many people might feel to put themselves in the hands of government. How nice it would be, we may think, if the government took over the whole responsibility of feeding us, housing us, educating us, looking after our health, and even making our important decisions for us. But if once we fall for that temptation and deliver ourselves over to the state, give up self-reliance and self-determination – in a word give up our freedom – we will suffer all the horrors of serfdom. What government provides, government can take away, leaving you helpless. That’s what the people of Russia and Eastern Europe learnt in actual experience. My book describes those horrors graphically. Nothing happens in my story that didn’t happen somewhere in the world in the 20th century, the age of dictators.
But the story isn’t entirely dark. To keep the very dramatic events from being too emotionally harrowing I have written it in the form of a history. The fictitious historian relates the events with an academic’s cool objectivity, setting distance between the reader and the events. The book is also quietly satirical. It contains political jokes for those who have endured the opaque writings of Marxist ideologists. The dictator Louis Zander, known simply as L – a playwright, aesthete and political philosopher (modeled to a large extent on the Hungarian Communist oligarch Georg Lukaçs) writes nonsense that passes as profundity. The more a reader has struggled to make sense out of Marxist screeds – those obscure works that poured and still pour out of the universities on political science, philosophy, literary criticism, economics, history, liberation theology, law, and so on – and have found themselves helplessly losing the battle to understand them, the more they may enjoy my lampooning of them. Most of L’s theory is put in an Appendix, so those who don’t have a taste for it can skip it without missing anything of the story.
There’s a part of the narrative that is painfully funny though perfectly dreadful. The dictator L, in a very short time, reduces millions of people to a condition of visible shame. They creep about with their heads hanging, their hands clasped over their mouths, unwilling to meet each others’ eyes, mumbling rather than talking; a whole population abased. How does he do it? I hope you’ll read the book and find out.
As a playwright and theater producer, L choreographs rather than rules. He makes all England his stage, and everyone in it the performer of a tragic farce.
As to why I say that my book is relevant in America now, I have to give a highly partisan answer. The book is a warning. It was written to frighten the citizens of every free country. It demonstrates how dangerous certain political ideas are; how once implemented they bring a country to ruin and misery. Ideally it should be read by every voter in America, because it is about the big divide between the collectivist, redistributive ideals of a Barack Obama and the idea of individual liberty on which, and for which, the USA was founded by the great men who wrote the Constitution.