Volume 013, Number 1, Winter, 1995

Orwell's Revenge: The 1984 Palimsest

By Peter Huber

(1994, 366 pages, $22.95)
Reviewed by Jim Powell
February 1995

In his internationally famous novel 1984, British author George Orwell portrayed a horrify future where tyrants secure their totalitarian power with technology.

Primary weapon: the telescreen which, installed in each citizen's house, could somehow see everything, hear everything, issue propaganda and commands.

Orwell coined scary phrases which entered the language—like Big Brother, Thought Police, Newspeak and Doublethink. His name became an adjective, Orwellian signifying a nightmarish vision of tyranny.

Now, of course, people around the world have telescreens—computers linked via telecommunications— in their homes and offices. Yet such technology has expanded human potential rather than suppressed it as orwell had feared.

Meanwhile, socialist regimes everywhere became corrupt, backward and brutal, and many collapsed. In his provocative new book, Peter Huber makes clear Orwell utterly misunderstood the extraordinary dynamic of markets and technology. He tells why Orwell mistakenly believed socialist regimes would be great innovators, and technology would reinforce tyranny.

Millions of people seem to share these ideas which have contributed to destructive anti-technology hysteria. Huber goes on to explain—better than anyone else I can think of—why the telescreen technology Orwell feared cannot, in fact, be centrally-controlled. Huber tells how such technology helps liberate people from tyranny.

Huber tells how the telescreen offers "the power of private choice, the power to control not only what you say and show, but also what you see and hear." Huber explains why the telescreen "will bring about the greatest liberation in the most important marketplace of all, the marketplace of ideas." Moreover, Huber offers you a treat: an inspiring sequel to 1984 which expresses the truth about markets and technology. He did a computerized analysis of Orwell's writings to write the sequel in Orwell's style.

His sequel tells how Big Brother's regime crumbles, how markets provide a heartening refuge for people and an irresistible stimulus for renewal. Then Huber tells how heroic computer hackers sabotage Big Brother's telescreen spying system and use it to liberate people.

Reprinted with permission from Laissez Faire Books. Special Laissez Faire Books price only $19.95.

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