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This was one of the best books I’ve ever read, and yet I’ve hesitated to write a review. It’s a difficult book to the describe, it’s a book that goes beyond being anti-Communist or anti-Capitalist to something much deeper.
States, whether capitalist or communist, want things that are orderly and commodifiable. They want to be able to count things, take those numbers, plug them into an equation and compute worker productivity, GDP, tax rates, or how many grains of food stuff can be grown on one acre of land. They want to know how much each acre of land is worth, each house, each tree, each plot of land, and each person.
This book is a fascinating study of how countries, communist, capitalist, and in the middle try to make things more easily countable–and how that results in famines, environmental destruction, and emotional misery.
It isn’t boring. The book is told with anecdotes of grand failures that result when planners, far away from their planning in both consequence and space really Fuck Things Up–whilst thinking they’re being very smart and scientific. It’s entertaining and troubling. It’s also actionable and can help us build better cities, help our farmers, foresters, and natural habitats.
It’s not exactly hopeful to realize your state sees you as a widget in a giant machine.
But society isn’t a machine and we’re not a widgets. Society is much more like an ecosystem, constantly evolving in response to the environment, and we’re the organisms within it, flowing through the ecosystem based on our needs and wants, and we’re smarter together as a collective than any central planner.
If you know your state wants to widgefy you, you can work with that knowledge, and fight plans that attempt to cement you into widget status and make you poorer, less healthy, and miserable.
I highly recommend this book. It will help you identify the “widgetification” of you, animals, and natural resources. You cannot fight something if you don’t know it is happening.
Other essential readings include: The Intelligence Trap, Free Speech – A History from Socrates to Social Media, and The True Believer