Lorax Revisionism

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Jonathan Adler and Paul Feine offer a free-market interpretation of The Lorax.

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  1. Hey look, my childhood left me with a deep affection for many of the books by Dr. Seuss, but the fact is, he was a commie pinko turd, and works like The Lorax are nothing short of propaganda aimed at indoctrinating young minds.

    Of course it?s easy to dissect its failings, and revise its message, but try telling that to a four-year-old. Kids grow up listening to this crap for four years and it takes forty to undo the damage.

  2. Even as a young child I was uncomfortable with the preachiness of “The Lorax” and disputed the conclusions at which Seuss evidently intended his readers to arrive.

  3. I guess some of us are born libertarian.

  4. db,

    And some have libertarianism thrust upon ’em.

  5. I always thought the story was about scarcity. The scarcer the commodity the more expensive it becomes. The Once-ler as he cuts each tree down means the remaining ones were worth more. Just like in a housing subdivision when near completion during a housing bubble. I think the story should be updated with houses instead of trees.

  6. Warren, how is a parable which can be viewed in both free-market and resource-controlled perspectives a work of propaganda?

    Strong word for a story aimed at kids; maybe “Starship Troopers” shouldn’t have been available to me as a kid?

  7. You know, I never really thought about it before, but aren’t all the consumers in The Lorax – the people who are buying all the Thneeds – pretty much invisible? They’re happily buying everything the Once-ler makes, but whether Thneeds improve their life or anything (after all a Thneed is supposed to be something “everyone needs”) is left out. I guess the (subtle, perhaps even unintended) point is that consumer “needs” are unimportant or unreal.

  8. Rich,
    If you were reading “Starship Troopers” in elementary school, I salute you. Perhaps you skipped right over “The Lorax” and other Seuss titles. I can’t believe you’ve ever seen it, because I can’t believe anyone (even its boosters) would deny that it?s a Green policy primer. Only through exposition and revision can it be seen as supporting libertarian principals.

  9. Warren, my folks did a pretty decent job making sure that we had in the house everything Heinlein, Niven and and L. Neil Smith ever wrote (Asimov too, but that was a lost cause long before I was born).

    And I agree that Seuss’ intent was likely that it would suggest to kids that sharing is good; but my point is that handing your children “Green policy primer(s)” is only a problem if you aren’t sharing other things with them.

    Propaganda still seems a strong term for his work – “Horton Hears a Who!” seemed to me to be a lesson in the difficulty and reward of keeping one’s word, though many see parallels to the anti-abortion movement.

  10. …and there’s a stack of Seuss’ books on my daughter’s bookshelf – I could probably quote “The Lorax” and several more of his books word for word (and some other Gawdawful stuff too, if you’d like. 🙂

  11. Rich,
    As I said, Seuss had a profound impact on me as a child. I still hold much of his work dear, too many to list even. Stuff like Horton and Sneetches are moral parables that I approve of (even as I approve of the seditious message of Cat In The Hat). However, The Lorax and a few others (mostly stuff he wrote later that I didn’t read growing up) are just awful, and I think ?propaganda? is a fitting term. I agree with you that good parenting will more than make up poor influences (be they literature, television, or that bad crowd she hangs around with).

  12. Warren, it’s just curious to me that those Seuss books with which you disagree get labeled as propaganda, and others are moral parables.

    On the other hand, I probably use the same litmus test to label the books that she gets from some family members (most of which end each couple pages with “Amen.”), so I guess I’ll stop bitching.

  13. …and another postscript – we threw away the TV when she was born in the hopes that she’ll end up smoking dope with a crowd that reads Sartre.

  14. Read the following instead:
    M. Hammock, J.W. Mixon, Jr. and M. F. Patrono, “Lessons from The Lorax,” Journal of Private Enterprise, 16 (2000). Winner of Best Educational Note award.

  15. we threw away the TV when she was born in the hopes that she’ll end up smoking dope with a crowd that reads Sartre.

    That’s Awesome! Hope you got some Rand lying around too. Preferably in a corner on the top shelf or locked in a drawer with other ?dangerous? material. That way she’ll be sure to read it.

  16. I just went and checked out the Wikipedia article on Seuss – I had no idea that his rhyme schemes were that strict and sophisticated. Or that he wrote for Liberty – maybe it was something different than the current magazine by that name? One of my favorite Seuss books, and one I always thought was pretty free of subtext, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, is described as expressing “confidence that leaders–even non-elected leaders–will do the right thing.” I somehow failed to take that lesson away from it.

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