Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Looking For Hugh

One of the best thing about having a blog that gets a fairly high amount of traffic is that I quite often get asked to review the odd book, and, as luck would have it, I always seem to get asked to do this just before I hop onto a plane for an evil carbon-producing flight to Spain - and no, I don't offset.

More often than not, the books I get asked to read are dry political ones. Factual tracts about this or that aspect of current affairs. Don't get me wrong, I like that sort of book, but sometimes you do need a bit of escapism, and its even better if you get a bit of escapism with an important purpose like I did this time around.

The book in question is written by a gentleman called Leon Weinstein, a man born in St Petersburg in 1949 who escaped the Soviet Union in 1974. The book is an adventure tale (for both adults and teenagers) about two teenagers visiting a number of fictional islands which each have different social and political systems and its end game is to show how capitalism, for all it's supposed ills, produces the results where other systems fail - the book is called "Looking for Hugh: The Capitalist Guidebook".

By all accounts the book has caused some reaction in the US from quarters of the Left, no doubt because some of the political andsocial systems of the fictional islands hit a little close to home with the point they make. The book itself has a feel about it that reminded me of how I felt as Orwell introduced Winston Smith to me through the pages of 1984. This may seem like exceptionally high praise and comparison, but the accesibility of the ideas the book brought forward had a really Orwellian style to them.

Whether it was the Island of Peace - where pacifists lived convinced they could talk and negotiate with anyone - or the People's Island of Justice and Equality where I imagine our Euqalities Minister, Harriet Harman would feel right at home, it highlighted the absurdity of much of the Left's desire to mould and engineer society in their utopian vision, whilst simulatneously showing why such things fail.

There is little doubt in my mind that this book will make the Left angry - be they on the extreme or the centre - because it takes an individualist view of the world and human nature. It does not say that they is no such thing as society, but rather says that the very best societies are those that acknowledge that not everyone will have an equal outome in life, but everyone will have the equal opportunity to acheive whatever outcome they desire.

It is, too say the least subtle, but the book has as its target the self-loathing of the American Left, and the kneejerk anti-American tendencies of the non-American Left. Written by a man born under Stalin, who grew up under Khrushchev and escaped under Brezhnev its preface and message is a simple play on Marx and Engel's calling....


The book can be purchased here and there is an short introduction to why the book was written by the author on YouTube here. You can also read some short excerpt here.

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