Washington & The Emerald City
Gregory Maguire’s Wicked is an excellent read, and its sequels – Son of a Witch & A Lion Among Men – are as well. They should be on your to-read list, and not just for the prose, which is at once witty and ironical, lush and even at time frustratingly counter-intuitive – but because the works speak so clearly of the dangers of centralized power and a too-centralized economy.
In Maguire’s Oz, the Emerald City has eclipsed all the rest of the country. Its military is well funded and oppressive. It has plundered the emerald mines of the north to decorate its streets and houses. It has drained the southern swamps for their water. It has begun the disenfranchisement of the Animals (as opposed to animals, who cannot speak or dress or think like Humans.) And Munchkinland has been forced to secede from the union in order to protect its “bread-basket” from the greedy paws of first the Wizard, and then his successors who continue in his tradition of brutalizing the country-side (though they become more lenient in their enforcement of Animal discrimination laws. The Animals, after all, can contribute to the economy as laborers, etc.)
Suffice to say, this is fantasy that, while not exactly conservative, speaks to localism and decentralization and the dangers of unfettered power in ways that conservatives should better understand. The modern conservative is far more concerned with power and centralization than they should be. Such is the temptation of the game.
I won’t go into the novels in any great length. Suffice to say that should you read them, look for these themes. The Witch is a wonderful curmudgeonly crusader. The Cowardly Lion is a hapless sap, tossed about unwittingly and unwillingly through the center of events outside his control. Aside from the Emerald City, the real villains are apathy and loneliness. The sense that the world has been ripped apart leaving everyone spinning through it alone runs like a current through each book.
As we place more and more of our faith in Washington and national politics, we’d do well to recall the Emerald City. There is nothing more splendid about it than any other place in Oz, except that with the wealth it’s drained from the rest of the country it has been able to erect a lovely, shiny-green facade. And all the power, and the intellectual currency, and the might of that nation are drawn there like moths to flame.