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The Economy in a Dystopian Society

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Popular culture as reflected in current movies and TV shows is obsessed with visions of a dystopian society following catastrophic events such as a plague ("The Walking Dead"), nuclear apocalypse ("The Book of Eli"), alien invasion ("District 9"), failed rebellion ("Hunger Games"), and overpopulation ("Elysium").

Not explicit but also obvious in these popular shows is the complete economic collapse where money becomes practically obsolete, slavery and robotics takes over production, and society allows extreme inequality between the rich and the poor. The best example of extreme economic inequality is in Elysium where the rich lives in a utopian society built in outer space while the great populace without the opulent economic wherewithal cannot become Elysium citizens and not allowed entry into Elysium’s economic blessings and plenty. No immigration allowed and social mobility quashed.

There is little mixed metaphors in these shows, the threat of economic collapse is real when extreme economic inequality is allowed to continue and reach critical mass. Society and the economic pie cannot be sustained if 1% of the population owns the entire pie and only a sliver left to the 99%. Something got to give.

In world history, civilizations come and go, some lasts for millennium and some only a few generations. While catastrophic events and wars can destroy civilizations, most large successful civilizations implodes when there is ideological or religious division within the social order. An often ignored crack in the social order is economic inequality and this division must be addressed. Abraham Lincoln said it best when he declared, ""A house divided against itself cannot stand".

One mixed metaphor in the portrayed dystopian societies is that there will also be a collapse in humanity. The survivors in The Walking Dead TV show not only slaughter the zombies, but fight among themselves. Take consolation in the fact that after a catastrophic event such as 9/11 and the Boston bombing, people coalesced and joined forces rather than reduced to chaos and anarchy. It is in preventing catastrophe to begin with that is the mission and extreme economic inequality is a definite threat to civilization.

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