Books are always very enlightening. No matter what they are about they seem to suggest a new view point, someone else’s view point that you may not have considered before. In a sense, every book you read changes you. Sometimes in a big way, sometimes in a small way. Freedom is becoming one of those books for me.
It’s by Jonathan Franzen, the author of the Corrections, but unlike that it seems to be attacking so much more. It seems like Franzen was interested in painting a family picture in the Corrections, of how the modern world and the American way of life is in this century. It seems deeply personal where as Freedom almost seems like an explosion of opinions, of rants and rejections. It’s a perfect novel if you want to feel disillusioned about pretty much anything.
One of the principle things it attacks, and something which caught my attention, is how capitalism depends on continual, infinite growth. If no one is aware, the world is filled with finite resources and suddenly you reach a paradox. Freedom shows just how crazy our obsession with growth has become. It talks about the damaging effects that this is having on planet and quotes some pretty scary figures. The number of people been born, the number of barrels of oil burnt, the number of acres of land in America been “urbanised.” I won’t ruin the surprise, be shocked and scared in the original context like I was.
Its perhaps comes more problematic when you start to realise that our obsession with growth is a bad thing. Where do we go from here? After all, it’s the entire basis of free-market economics and pretty much all government policies are built on it. Look at the debates that happen, their all about how best to get back to growth and stay in growth. It’s a strange scenario when you consider just how damaging it seems to be.
So where do we go from here? If we no longer support growth then what happens to social mobility? It seems like the only way to make sure social mobility happens is to continue to create wealth. What happens to people’s freedom? There’s one country in the world where they’ve tried to limit population growth and it’s had disastrous effects. So where do we go?
This might sound like a rambling review that springs in every direction but that just what Freedom feels like to me. Just like the Corrections attempted to be a panoramic view of the American way of life in the 21st Century, Freedom attempts to be a panoramic view of some very serious problems. I’ll admit though, think about it too much and it gets very depressing.