Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lost: a political-economic analysis

During the Thanksgiving holiday I managed to get hooked on episodes of the series Lost. Those who have never seen the series may want to skip this post. Here is my quasi-serious political-economic analysis of the show:
  • After finding themselves stranded on the island, survivors of the airplane crash basically form a libertarian society. While Jack serves as the nominal leader he holds no real power or the ability to enforce his will on anyone. The temptation to form a centrally-planned society where a central figure or committee decides who lives where, what is to be built and what tasks are to be assigned seems to have been averted.
  • Division of labor occurs pretty early. The South Korean guy takes up fishing. His wife starts a garden. Sawyer, who lets slip that he has never voted Democrat, scavenges through the wreckage and builds up a supply of goods. While constantly demonized for his perceived selfishness, Sawyer has ensured that a number of goods have survived and are put to good use. By specializing each cast member can increase their productivity and then trade with others for goods and services.
  • Socialism does rear its ugly head when John Lock, who arrives with an impressive knife collection and survivalist skills, is tasked with hunting wild boar -- a classic example of the Marxist dictum of "from those according to their ability to those according to their need." Lock, however, soon tires of this state of affairs and decides to fend for himself, instead devoting his energies to other pursuits. In addition the survivors have socialized medicine, with Jack freely dispensing medical assistance to whoever needs it. Perhaps not coincidentally, Jack seems to be growing increasingly frazzled.
  • Free trade is permitted between the encampments on the beach and one at the caves where a fresh water source exists. It seems to be implied that water is brought down to the beach and exchanged for food. Thankfully Ross Perot was not among the survivors to insist on the establishment of a tariff.
  • I suppose the alternative reading is that the island is actually one big commune, where everyone simply toils for the greater good.

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