Gulliver and the Planners
OCTOBER 01, 1965 by HARRY L. SMITH
Mr. Smith recently has returned to the
United Nations officials, military men, and sundry world government advocates, have at times recommended an extraterrestrial police force. Such an international force, sanctified by good intentions, would circle the globe either on a man-made satellite or a military moon base, armed with the only atomic weapons available to mankind. With their infallibility guaranteed by national impartiality, these god-like astronauts would maintain a stern vigil over ambitious individuals, nations, or power groups which might seek to grasp more than their quota of worldly wealth or power. Once judged guilty of aggression, such troublemakers would be blown to smithereens. Thus would world peace, freedom, and prosperity be maintained forever.
Two hundred and fifty years ago, Jonathan Swift, the world’s greatest political satirist, devised a similar plan. His hero, Gulliver, on his third trip to strange lands, was cast up on the
The king, like all kings, was infallible and had divine rights. In case of insurrection on the part of any town or city in his domain of Balnibarbi, he had a number of recourses. He could station his flying island over the offending city, cutting it off from rain or sunshine to the detriment of crops and the economy. If the rebellion persisted, large rocks would be dropped on the inhabitants and their dwellings destroyed. As a final punishment, the king might order his island to plop down on the wayward metropolis, flattening it completely and killing all its inhabitants. This last extreme was seldom used, since the king’s ministers usually had property in each town, as did the king. Furthermore, there was some danger of destroying his floating home and vantage point.
In addition to maintaining law and order by this unique method, the king and his court controlled the economy of the main island through rule by expert.
Gulliver spent some time on the floating island and later descended to the main kingdom where he was befriended by a lord who was out of favor at court. This lord took him on a tour of the kingdom which was in a sad state of disorder brought about by hair-brained schemes of the government planners. However, this lord’s own lands were prosperous and well tended by using proven methods. His failure to adopt government procedures had caused his fall from favor. Gulliver describes the lord’s account of conditions as follows:
That about forty years ago certain persons went up to Laputa, either upon business or diversion, and after five months continuance, came back with a very little smattering in mathematics, but full of volatile spirits acquired in that airy region. That these persons upon their return began to dislike the management of everything below, and fell into schemes of putting all arts, sciences, languages, and mechanics upon a new foot. To this end they procured a royal patent for erecting an
By this last, Swift did not mean to imply that he was against true progress. As the giant king of Brobdingnag had said to Gulliver on an earlier voyage: "Whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together."
Finally, Gulliver admits to the reader rather sheepishly that at one time in his youth he, too, had been a planner. Anxious to visit the planning academies of Balnibarbi, he takes leave of his friend the lord which he relates as follows:
In a few days we came back to town, and his Excellency, considering the bad character he had in the Academy, would not go with me himself, but recommended me to a friend of his to bear me company thither. My lord was pleased to represent me as a great admirer of projects, and a person of much curiosity and easy belief; which indeed was not without truth, for I had myself been a sort of projector in my younger days.
Thus, we see that similar mentalities are still with us: that the mind which would rule the world with an international satellite-based police force, is the same mind which would plan our daily lives.
While it cannot be said that the United States has as yet lost out to the "projectors," much of our planet "lies miserably waste," with strangulated and languishing economies, as can be found in parts of Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America, all victims of state planning.