Fiction fans know The Hunger Games as a trilogy of novels and a recent movie about a decadent imperial capital that levies tribute on its impoverished provinces.
Quite a few people are making the connection between this fictional world and contemporary Washington. The latest is conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds, who asks in USA Today “Are we living in the Hunger Games?”:
I’m not the first to notice that Washington, D.C., is doing a lot better than the rest of the country. Even in upscale parts of L.A. or New York, you see boarded up storefronts and other signs that the economy isn’t what it used to be. But not so much in the Washington area, where housing prices are going up, fancy restaurants advertise $92 Wagyu steaks, and the Tyson’s Corner mall outshines — as I can attest from firsthand experience — even Beverly Hills’ famed Rodeo Drive.
As P.J. O’Rourke famously observed: “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” But it’s not just bags-of-cash style corruption. Most of the D.C. boom is from lobbyists and PR people, and others who are retained to influence what the government does. It’s a cold calculation: You’re likely to get a much better return from an investment of $1 million on lobbying than on a similar investment in, say, a new factory or better worker training.
Ross Douthat also drew the analogy in the New York Times a couple of months ago, too, adding:
There aren’t tributes from Michigan and New Mexico fighting to the death in Dupont Circle just yet. But it doesn’t seem like a sign of national health that America’s political capital is suddenly richer than our capitals of manufacturing and technology and finance, or that our leaders are more insulated than ever from the trends buffeting the people they’re supposed to serve.
It’s no coincidence that as the federal government morphed from an entity that did a few highly visible things well, to one that did a whole lot of not-so-visible things less well, respect for the federal government plummeted even as the political class’ wealth climbed.
That’s where we are now, with a capital city that looks more and more like that of an imperial power where courtiers and influence-peddlers abound. Want to do something about it? Don’t secede. Return to the Constitution.
And for a broader (and sobering) examination of the evolution of Washington into the influence-peddling capital of the world, see my Ending ‘Big SIS’ (The Special Interest State) and Renewing the American Republic.