Mark Twain’s “Political Economy”

Mark Twain wrote his short story “Policital Economy” in 1870; however, the satire of the story could still be applicable to 2012.

Twain appears in the story as himself.  He’s writing an essay on, you guessed it, political economy.  He get’s a few lines into his essay, which is very cerebral and uses lots of big words, when he’s interrupted by a knock at his door and a man selling lightning rods.  Twain’s frustration with the interruption and his unwillingness to let the salesman know that he doesn’t know anything about lightning rods (he does let the reader know this piece of information) culminates in lightning rods on his roof, lightning rods on his fence, lightning rods on his barn – more lightning rods than one really needs, in addition to a bill for $900 which Twain appears to pay without blinking an eye.  I’m guessing that $900 in 1870 was a decent amount of money.  The story ends with, you guessed it again, a lightning storm – and the abundance of lightning rods doesn’t really do the job that one lightning rod might have done.

The “political economy” essay that Twain is writing never gets completed but it does become even more cerebral with more big words and references to the likes of Homer, Confucius, Cicero and Horace Greeley (an American newspaper man that founded the Liberal Republican Party[?] – I had to look that up).  All the while, Twain is unwittingly  becoming the politician about which he is writing.  Well, Twain as himself in the story is unwittingly becoming the politician.  I’m pretty sure the real Twain wasn’t doing anything unwittingly – he knew exactly what he was doing, he was writing the story.

While I’m on the topic of politics, I’d like to point out a post written by Julio at Daddy’s Timeout – it’s about the best thing I’ve read during this political “season”.

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2 responses to “Mark Twain’s “Political Economy”

  1. Thanks for the pingback! Also, I read this story just a few months ago and it’s a wicked little piece of commentary from one of our best satirists!

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