Welcome to Washington, D.C.: Like The Hunger Games, But Without The Laughs


Glenn Reynolds' latest column in USA Today notes the striking (read: depressing) similarity between the fictional universe of The Hunger Games and today's landscape:

You know the story: While the provinces starve, the Capital City lives it up, its wheeler-dealer bigshots growing fat on the tribute extracted from the rest of the country.

We don't live in The Hunger Games yet, but I'm not the first to notice that Washington, D.C., is doing a lot better than the rest of the country. Even in upscale parts of L.A. or New York, you see boarded up storefronts and other signs that the economy isn't what it used to be. But not so much in the Washington area, where housing prices are going up, fancy restaurants advertise $92 Wagyu steaks, and the Tyson's Corner mall outshines—as I can attest from firsthand experience—even Beverly Hills' famed Rodeo Drive.

Reynolds links to a recent Ross Douthat col in the NYT that also has a Hunger Games theme, but the Instapundit emphasizes that the current concentration of wealth in the greater Washington, D.C. area is a predictable and fully lamentable result of first concentrating power in the region:

Things started go go downhill with the federal expansion under the New Deal, and then really took off after the "regulatory explosion" under President Nixon, who created such entities as the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

It's no coincidence that as the federal government morphed from an entity that did a few highly visible things well, to one that did a whole lot of not-so-visible things less well, respect for the federal government plummeted even as the political class' wealth climbed.

Reynolds' prescription for change? "Return to the Constitution." Which is, alas, easier said than done. Though state-based experiments in democracy are definitely taking hold in the wake of the 2012 elections. Whole thing here.

I trotted out The Hunger Games analogy back in July while being interviewed about my summer reading for C-SPAN; I was also reading John Barry's Roger Williams' biography, which is all about the origins and necessity of limited government. Reason has been charting the Washington wealth boom since at least early 2009, when Radley Balko noted that

America's wealthiest counties ring a city where the chief industry is government—and the entire region's only getting richer. That doesn't seem like a trend that bodes well for the health of a market-based economy.

On point here: In 2009, we interviewed the economic historian Robert Higgs, who had written an introduction to a new edition of Arthur A. Ekirch's great The Decline of American Liberalism, a bold classical liberal reading of U.S. history from colonial times through the 1950s. In Ekirch's telling, our national experiment had always been a struggle between forces of centralization and decentralization (of political power, wealth, geography, knowledge, you name it). It's a book that is as relevant today as The Hunger Games, and well worth reading. Higgs' explains why:

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  1. If they sent Jennifer Lawrence around to collect my taxes personally, I’d gladly pay them.

    1. Not me. I don’t get happy about violating my principles just for a pretty woman.

      1. Not even for a ‘happy ending’?

        1. Then it would be a simple payment for service. Nothing unlibertarian about that.

          1. True, but it’s my experience that pretty women don’t give happy endings to marionettes, only to firm-spined men.

            1. The kind of pretty women who work in the “happy ending” business really only care about if said man has the “20 dolla” or not.

              Jus’ sayin’

              1. And they usually ain’t much to look at either. Except in the movies.

                My wife (before she held that title) and I went to a topless bar/strip club place once just so she could see what these “girls” looked like. At least back then, they looked… Let’s just say I walked in with much better.

      2. We all violate our principles for pretty women PHOD. It’s just which specific principles in particular that changes.

        1. Does that include Nicole and Kristen?

          1. Yes, just not the Libertarian principles in those cases.

            But this is Teh Internetz. So there’s still a 50+% chance that either one of them is actually an evolved anonbot. Or possibly the FBI. Or Warty (the entity, not the adjective). Only banjos has been verified female to my knowledge.

            1. Unlike banjos is just an elaborate scam from sloopy so he can get wedding presents and sell fake baby naming rights.

        2. We all violate our principles for pretty women PHOD. It’s just which specific principles in particular that changes.

          I said I don’t get happy about it.

          I learned young letting pretty women control you just puts you on the wrong end of the fishing line. Then she plays catch and release.

  2. Also, I didn’t hear you complaining when Dallas and Orlando were doing so much better than the rest of the country, Nick!

    1. Were they getting their money by force?

      1. Yes, because people need oil for electricity and their cars, so they should give it away for free.

        Same with Disney. They advertise to make people’s kids want things, thus forcing them to go to Disney World.

        1. And soon they will be forcing the world to be watching (probably) shitty Star Wars sequels. Where’s T O N E H to spout some truth?

          1. Sockpuppets have to wait for the hand up the ass before spouting nonsense. Personally I’d like to see shreeek come by and lambaste us with accusations of Bush Apologia – without any citations, of course.

            1. “Personally I’d like to see shreeek come by and lambaste us with accusations of Bush Apologia – without any citations, of course.”

              In other words, you’d like to see him make his normal, daily comments?

              1. Ummm….yes? For the lulz…

        2. Frankly, their advertising makes me not want to go to Disney World.

  3. It’s a book that is as relevant today as The Hunger Games

    So you’re saying I don’t need to bother with it.

  4. JM Roberts mentions the fact all business of the Roman Empire had to be conducted in Rome (with the appropriate wheels greased) as a contributing factor to their downfall.

    Fortunately, we’ve progressed way beyond all that, what with the internet and the transparency this administration has brought…

  5. While the provinces starve, the Capital City lives it up, its wheeler-dealer bigshots growing fat on the tribute extracted from the rest of the country.

    Wait, what?

    I thought we were governed by an ascetic priesthood of selfless demigods who sleep on beds of nails and subsist on the gratitude of the dependent masses.

    1. I thought we were an autonomous collective.

      1. To me it feels more like the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx.

        1. +1

          IPAB’s disks full of EMR data shall fill the hallowed halls

      2. You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship.

    2. No, Obama fired that guy for not being complacent to his whims, and replaced him with someone more fitting to the opulent DC culture.

    3. Everyone in the government is grossly underpaid. I keep reading it in The Washington Post, so it must be true.

      1. They could go anywhere else in the country and make better money in the private sector. The same private sector that can’t pay people enough to make those places as prosperous as DC.

        1. Then, for their benefit, we ought to fire nearly all of them so they can prosper in the private sector.

  6. The Tyson’s Corner mall outshines — as I can attest from firsthand experience — even Beverly Hills’ famed Rodeo Drive.

    This is true. When I went to LA for the first, and so far only, time in August 2001, I made it a point to walk around Rodeo Drive, and was bitterly disappointed. Tyson’s Corner is much more posh. But then Tyson’s Corner is actually the mall for the hoi palloi in that area. Tysons Galleria (AKA Tysons II, across Route 123 from the original), is the super-posh mall with the Ritz-Carlton attached.

    1. Wonder if Tysons 2 is going to make good on starting that new rule that if you are under 16 you are not allow to enter without a parent.

    2. I stayed at the Ritz once for CPE and went to the Galleria for dinner.

      No McDonald’s or Auntie Anne’s to satisfy my hunger, I had to settle for PF Chang’s.

  7. …America’s wealthiest counties ring a city where the chief industry is government – and the entire region’s only getting richer.

    Class warfare finally comes to reason!!! (…back in 2009.) I suppose we are next going to push to tax those high earners.

    1. Eventually Rome fell, so will DC.

      1. So when do we start digging up people’s bones and scourging them? I know it took a few centuries last time, but things progress faster now, right?

        1. I suspect so. I’m just wondering where the barbarian hordes to sack the city will come from…so I can join the party!

          1. Oh beware ye Papermoney Sinners! In the Days of the Crunch, Holy Hyperinflation will bring the Rise of the Unpaid Ones! They will do the work of the Just, tearing down the Edifices of the Wicked City… Smashing the Idols of Marble!

            /Insane preacher voice.

          2. Not from elsewhere in Maryland and Virginia. Upstate Maryland and downstate Virginia depend too much on (wealth redistribution)^2.

    2. Liquidate Berkshire Hathaway, and scrub the hard drives of all data as to who owned any shares of what. Voil? — at least some inequality has been destroyed.

    3. Class warfare finally comes to reason!!!

      When that “class” lives off of the rest of us by using the state as the hegemonic “threat of the threat”, that is the threat of Lon Horiuchi putting bullets in the skulls of your family members if you don’t pay up….then fuck yeah. Praise Rand and pass the ammunition, for I never signed no stinkin’ N.A.P.

  8. She never looked that hungry to me.

    1. Because of all her poaching and black market trading. What, no teenie-boppers or preteens in the house?

      1. Not if I can help it.

        1. I have one left at home and she’s a voracious reader.

  9. OT: [Libyan] Extremists threaten mutilation and death for seized ‘homosexuals’

    Extremists say they will execute a dozen men they allege are homosexuals, whom they abducted last Thursday at a private party in Tripoli’s Ain Zara district.

    A body calling itself the ‘Private Deterrent Force’, which is believed to be part of the extremist Nawasi brigade, one of Tripoli’s largest militias, has posted images of the men on their Facebook page. One picture (above) shows them, heads covered, standing with their hands against a wall.

    At the time of writing, the picture had received 315 ‘likes’ and had received comments such as “flog them hard”, “lets see the bullets”, and “ride them like camels”.

    Accompanying text describes the men as “the third sex” and says that they are to be mutilated and executed.

    The fuck? “Flog them hard”? “Ride them like camels”? Did someone confuse that site with a Gay BDSM site?

    Whatever. ARAB SPRING!

    1. It’s Springtime for Morsi and Islamihood! Winter for women and gheys…

      C’mon, sing it everyone!

    2. But it is totally not gay if your Holy Book promises you the virgin anuses (that shine like pearls!) of little boys as your heavenly reward.

      1. Okay….they’re a little conflicted.

  10. Sometimes dude, you jsut have to roll with it man!

    1. Fuck you and your apathy anon-bot.

      1. After yesterday, he will henceforth be known as pedo-bot.

        1. Whoah. I hadn’t seen it but I knew what story to click on.

          You’re a sick fuck pedo-bot.

  11. I’m torn on the first picture. I mean, technically it’s got alt-text, but that’s pretty weak. On the other hand, I really like the way she looks.

  12. the current concentration of wealth in the greater Washington, D.C. area is a predictable and fully lamentable result of first concentrating power in the region:

    You mean,

    Money and power will always find each other?

    1. RC, you need to gif-memeify the Iron Laws so they can spread through the tubez.

      1. I might, if I had any idea what you are talking about.

        1. I think he’s saying he wants to get tons of reddit karma from your laws.

          1. OK, still not following. Is this one of those Tweeter things?

            1. Nope. Reddit is a website with a bunch of forums. Users can “upvote” or “downvote” threads and comments. Threads and comments with the most net upvotes get pushed to the top. Users who start threads or post comments have “karma” which is the net upvotes on all their submissions (but is actually pointless).

              Reddit users also really like memes, where instead of posting an actual comment, you post a link to a picture or gif, usually with text over the picture. Particular pictures have a set pattern of text. Examples are this or this. These types of posts can get a ton of upvotes.

    2. Yes. You’re still wrong about unintended consequences though.

  13. It’s a laugh riot that when Reynolds thinks of Big Government, he thinks of OSHA and the EPA. The Big Government wouldn’t have anything to do with…oh, I dunno…a massive military empire with millions of direct employees and millions more contractors?

    But hey, that’s Republican Small Government for you. Strain at a gnat, swallow a camel.

    1. Yeah, there have never been any articles on H&R about military spending like evar Shriek2…..


      1. He wasn’t criticizing H&R, he was criticizing Instapundit.

        1. Which is still incorrect because Reynolds himself has argued for across the board cuts.

          1. And, of course, the military is an actual Constitutionally-authorized function of the federal government, unlike most of the other things they do.

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