Cannonball Read IV: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I was having beers recently with an English friend of mine, and the topic turned to American politics. I was telling her about a conversation I'd had recently with a family member who has very strong libertarian leanings. This was a conversation about the necessity of government bodies like the Department of Education. It is really hard to argue against the libertarian mindset because deep down, everyone (including me) believes that they could do a way better job of everything if the government would just get the hell out of their lives and leave them alone. For me this all falls apart when I think about the time I had appendicitis. Obviously I would not do a way better job of operating on myself and I would prefer to pay taxes so that I have reliable healthcare for the next time something goes funky and has to be taken out with a scalpel.
So anyway, my English friend totally lit up when I said this about libertarianism and said, "It's all because of Little House on the Prairie!" I was skeptical but dammit if she wasn't right. Revisiting this book as an adult, it is all about being off the grid. Pa Ingalls moves his family from Wisconsin, where they have extended family and a social network, to the middle of freaking nowhere because Wisconsin is getting too crowded. They go off in a wagon and then Pa builds a freaking house out of logs BY HIMSELF. When they need to borrow nails from a neighbor to hold their roof on, Ma and Pa fret about being "beholden". The whole family gets malaria but luckily a traveling doctor stops by and finds them. Then at the end, it turns out the land wasn't open to settling after all, rendering the Ingalls' claim invalid. SO THEY LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND and get back in their wagon. Guess that house was just a dry run.
Little House on the Prairie is beautiful propaganda against government meddling. However, we are watching Deadwood right now, which is about a (literally) lawless town in South Dakota being settled during the gold rush, and it sure isn't all fiddle playing and sweeping the hearth. I'm pretty sure that in this comparison, Al Swearengen becomes Pa Ingalls. Yikes.
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