Friday, February 29, 2008

Classics of Conservatism - Part XXIII - The Secret of the League

Click here for previous Classics of Conservatism.

This month's classic is The Secret of the League, by Earnest Bramah. Secret celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2007.

1907 (1995 edition)

Secret of the League is one of three old novels that I refer to as "Ayn Rand relics." Together with The Driver (1922) and Calumet K (1904), Secret provides clues as to the origins of Ayn Rand's later novels.

Secret of the League takes place between 1915 and 1918. Being written in 1907, the book has nothing to do with World War I. Instead, Bramah writes of the takeover of the English parliament by socialists, who immediately pass extreme socialist legislation.

(click to enlarge)

Secret dramatizes the creative solution adopted by Salt, the main character, and his friends. The solution is unique and is not beyond the reach of ordinary individuals.

I first read this book in 2004 just before I began blogging (the main character's name and the year of publication inspired my screen name). I describe Secret here because it begins to appear that we may need some unique alternative (and I don't mean a third party candidate) as a result of this year's election. The candidates for President in 2008 appear poised to expand the already unsustainable entitlement programs, increase taxes and choose judges that have no inclination to recognize the government's true constitutional limitations. Our thinking will have to be creative as we face a long era of darkness at the hands of an increasingly socialist government.

The book is far more than a "how to" manual. Secret provides a humorous look at socialist government, pandering politicians, union political pressure and other such plagues. We read with amusement as leftist government officials find themselves helpless as their spending programs leave their government destitute and powerless.

Regardless of whether we implement Salt's ideas, the fate of the government in Secret may well be the fate of our own government. Our own government may collapse under the weight of unsustainable entitlement programs. The only question is "when?" In Secret of the League, Salt and his allies merely found a way to make sure that a large faction of the country was ready to pick up the pieces when the collapse arrived and to remove from office those who were responsible for the debacle. If we do nothing, we will be helpless when social security, medicare, (reparations ??) et cetera drive government and the financial markets to ruin.

I do not reveal specifics of Salt's actions so as not to spoil the plot. For those that have read Atlas Shrugged, Salt took a different course than Galt. Salt's plan required less technology, less cooperation from powerful individuals and less disruption of the lives of his allies. But Salt's plan clearly foreshadowed Ayn Rand's theme in Atlas. Ayn Rand made the plot better and more comprehensive, added her own ideas and provided more thorough philosophical justification for the actions of the heroes [although Bramah provides a fair amount of philosophical justification as well]. There is no dialogue or language from Secret that was repeated in Atlas. Salt's plot in Secret is enjoyable in its own right and also because the reader will recognize the seed of Ayn Rand's story from a half century later.

The few technological aspects of the book provide for additional enjoyment, as the reader will recognize a crude precursor to modern day faxes and e-mails. Bramah also anticipates the ease and availability of modern air travel, but in a different form. Air travel was in its infancy when Bramah wrote Secret of the League.

If nothing else, Secret of the League will help the reader understand that socialism is not inevitable, invincible or irreversible. The book will further reinforce other writers that have opposed socialism and modern politicians that warn of the conseqences for ourselves if we allow the government to continue on its present course.

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