Freedom of Trade

Ben Frost

Ben Frost

 

Just over two months since my last short story, I’m posting a new one called Freedom of Trade and already in less than an hour it’s earned nearly two dozen mostly negative votes on Stories Online. But let’s be honest if I was expecting to get positive votes from a website whose readers are predominantly American redneck men who vocally support the more rabidly libertarian tendencies of the Republican Party (but not so much the Bible Belt tendency), I’d never post to the website and would most certainly not post Freedom of Trade.

However, it could be said that the exact target of this story is well chosen in this case as the story is a fairly brutal attack on exactly the most libertarian aspects of the American Dream. It basically posits the notion of what a world that is only a couple of steps away from the real world would be like if the libertarians did indeed have their way and capitalism was truly as free as the Rand Pauls, Ayn Rands, Alan Greenspans, Donald Trumps and the like seem to say they’d like it to be. Although they perhaps might support the open and free sale of guns and pornography, they might draw the line at hard drugs and indentured sex workers (which is just an obfuscation for sex slaves).

In a sense, this story could be seen as a companion piece to Thoroughly Modern Emancipation in the sense that it is a kind of satire on America’s worst traits and its woeful history with regards to the institution of slavery, but there are many differences and they definitely don’t belong to the same universe (to use a Stories Online concept).

Whereas Thoroughly Modern Emancipation is a kind of alternate history story where the slave trade never gets reformed, Freedom of Trade isn’t set in any specific place or time, and it isn’t really set in America. It could just as well be set in any English-speaking country in a kind of parallel present.

So, what’s the purpose of the story besides a way of annoying Stories Online readers in what they believe is a hermetically sealed environment where they can voice their peculiar opinions without fear of contradiction?

Well, inevitably there is the serious side which is to imagine just how untrammelled capitalism might work. The sex slave angle is more just a conceit to build a kind of story around something which is both rather horrible in practice (if you pause to think about it) and also titillating to those who in countless websites (and not just sex story sites) believe that this kind of thing is good fun rather than something nightmarish and squalid (as can be seen in the movie, Room).

And I wonder how much the negative votes the story’s attracted already is simply because this vision of libertarianism is disturbing to exactly those people who most avidly advocate it.

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President Donald Trump and Vice-President Sarah Palin

Apocalypse in New York

Apocalypse in New York

Let’s imagine that every nightmare you’ve ever had has come true and the United States of America votes for President Donald J Trump and Vice-President Sarah Palin.

Just how would this play out in reality?

In truth, Donald Trump is probably no worse than the other Republican hopefuls. Ted Cruz is, if anything, a worse candidate and the others are either downright scary or ridiculous to an extent that only the most stupid are unable to recognise. But he and, of course, Sarah Palin are way worse than David Cameron who has turned out to be the worst thing that has happened to the UK since Margaret Thatcher. In fact, while Cameron presents himself as some kind of Blue Liberal, his government makes Thatcher’s term in government seem remarkably moderate in comparison.

What would a Trump government do?

The hopes of all those who are not natural sympathisers of the Republican Party as we currently understand it (which probably includes the majority of Republican senators and presidents from before the 1980s) is that reality and pragmatism would determine the direction of policy rather than the nut-job ideas that masquerade as policies at the moment. Instead of being racist, sexist, anti-environmental, xenophobic, intolerant and hypocritical, a Trump presidency (like Nixon’s and Eisenhower’s) would temper all the nonsense that appeals to its base support (stupid white southerners) with the recognition that the world’s environment really is going to shit, that nuclear war isn’t worth the posturing, extremists don’t respect American rhetoric and the interests of the top 62 billionaires (whose wealth equals the wealth of the world’s bottom 50% ) doesn’t equate to the interests of humanity and the planet we live on.

However, people thought that in 1932 when Germany’s government changed, foolishly thought this was true of the Soviet Union, hoped might be true of Mao’s China and sometimes wish could be true of North Korea. But I fear that Trump may have more in common with the Salafist extremists whose malevolent influence now dominates Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Just as ISIS and the chess-hating Islamic clerics have taken advantage of the common desire for a simplistic interpretation of Islam, Trump and Palin have taken advantage of the stupidity of that sizeable minority of the first world’s most unequal society and the one that is also most obese, most likely to be shot and most likely to be burdened with phenomenal debt to pay for the medical care that is free in most of the rest of the world’s wealthy nations.

So, it is just about possible that America will be so disenchanted by Hillary Clinton (or that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is genuinely unelectable) and we see America ruled by the two most ridiculous and dangerous leaders ever known, able to pursue their appalling policies with the support of the already insane Republican politicians in the Senate and Congress.

And then, either the world doesn’t survive the first or (God forbid!) second term, or America squanders all the international good will it’s earned since having elected Obama as president and further sinks in international standing as it further fucks up its environment, arms itself to the teeth at the detriment to its already strained public sector, and sees its faith in the power of capital rewarded by its flight to tax havens and more politically stable nations.

There are those who might welcome this as the necessary pre-condition for world revolution, but the last time these conditions were in place (as a result of the First World War), the outcome was very unpleasant indeed.

I would much rather the risk wasn’t taken and even though Hillary Clinton is no Obama, no Mandela and no Kennedy, she may be preferable to any of the current Republican candidates.

But then, that honour could also be extended to a bucket of cold shit.