Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Love Librivox

Librivox is one of my favorite pasttimes. They take public domain books and make audiobooks from them. First of all, I like audiobooks. When the body is too busy to read, listening to an audiobook is an excellent diversion.

Second, I like Librivox's unusual selection. There are classics that you may not have read, such as Murders in the Rue Morgue and Dracula. There are out of the way works by great authors, like Mark Twain's European travelogue, The Innocents Abroad.

And third is my own odd pleasure. I download books that I want to hear over and over and over until I can quote from them extensively, including The Prince, by Nicolo Machiavelli; The Art of War, by Sun Tzu; and Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville (I downloaded Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings from another site).

Lately, I have been listening to Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Economists have written about how the book can be interpreted as an economic and political allegory especially devoted to monetary policy at the turn of the century. Really! I am listening to the book to see if I missed any of the economic aspects of the book.

Dorothy follows a yellow brick road (the gold standard) wearing silver slippers (free silver movement of William Jennings Bryan). They go to visit a brilliant guy in the land of Oz (oz. is the abbreviation for ounce--as in, an ounce of gold). Oz is the emerald city--the color of greenbacks. But everyone is required to wear green glasses, so that the city looks green (that is, the value of paper money is an illusion that everyone participates in).

The wizard of the greenback illusion is an admitted fraud [they say "humbug"]. They demand that he give them a brain, heart, courage, and a trip to Kansas. He tells them he can't. They insist. He says that he can defraud them, so they agree. The gifts in the movie were different than in the book, but in any case, the gifts he gave were phony solutions. He says to himself, "How can I help being a humbug [fraud], . . . when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can't be done?" That is the politician's problem. The people demand that the government solve all their problems. The politician can solve hardly anything. So he gives the people phony solutions.

How does the wizard/politician leave the scene? He is carried away by an excess of hot air in his balloon.

So if you want some excellent free diversion with your iPod or your computer, I highly recommend

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