It never ceases to amaze me how so-called “academics” can extrapolate so much from fictional material to the point where they are inferring meanings that the original author never intended. While the attempt to discover the “why behind the why” can be used as a good intellectual exercise, it would be foolish to regard one thought experiment as the ONLY TRUTH with which to serve as the base for an entire economic theory. In this regard, I think it is profoundly foolish for Greenbackers to claim that L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz definitively laid the blueprint for a debt-free, interest-free, fiat national currency.
Hugh Rockoff’s thesis (as printed in The Journal of Political Economy) is that one interpretation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz could be an allegorical tale of the Populist Era. Essentially, the Wicked Witch of the East represents the collective of financial special interests on the eastern seaboard, the Scarecrow is the western farmer, the Tin Woodman is the industrial worker, the Cowardly Lion is William Jennings Bryan, the yellow brick road and the Golden Cap are symbolic of the gold standard, the Emerald City is Washington DC (where the Congress retains the ability to print fiat Greenbacks from), and the cyclone is the free silver movement itself. Alongside other allegedly symbolic figures of the Populist Era, Rockoff admits that the struggle was not between the government and the banks colluding together against the people, but instead the Goldbugs versus the Greenbackers when he said, “Few students of money and banking or economic history will forget the battle between the advocates of free silver and the defenders of the gold standard when it is explained through the Wizard of Oz.”
There is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to the interpretation of fictional stories. In fact, there are already multiple political interpretations of The Wizard of Oz. Quentin Taylor thought that while the Scarecrow did represent farmers, the Tin Woodman was instead a metaphor for the steel industry’s inability to compete globally, and that the Cowardly Lion was in fact the dismal performance of the US military during the Spanish-American War. This is not at all unusual, for anyone who went to college (or even high school) knows that one of the major functions of scholarship in English literature is to compare and contrast the themes, motifs, and symbols that are presented in a work of fiction.
I postulate that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz actually defends the gold standard. Dorothy (the Everyman archetype representing the clueless mainline public) is swept up by the winds of the tornado (which is the chaos caused by the Establishment’s own malfeasance) that lifts her house (which is essentially tunnel vision) away from Kansas (which is the artificial construct of reality as propounded by the corporate mainstream media; put another way, Kansas is The Matrix) and deposits her in the land of Oz (which represents cognitive dissonance at its finest). Dorothy’s house inadvertently lands on the Wicked Witch of the East (who are collectively the illegal immigrants, or “undocumented workers,” if you prefer) and gains from her the Silver Shoes (which are actually pretty and distracting TV sets).
This bullshit explanation does not end there, for then Dorothy has to travel on the yellow brick road (that is, she reads lengthy treatises on the Austrian School of economics, many of which are available for free download from the Ludwig von Mises Institute) towards the Emerald City (the proverbial District of Criminals) in order to speak with the Wizard of Oz (which, of course, is the Federal Reserve Bank). Along the way, she picks up the Scarecrow (“militia” celebrity Mark Koernke), the Tin Woodman (naturally, Ron Paul), and the Cowardly Lion (who is none other than Alex Jones). Upon arriving in the Emerald City, the Wizard tells the troupe that they must defeat the Wicked Witch of the West (who collectively are the genuine political dissidents).
The “Wicked” Witch of the West eventually employs the winged monkeys (these are the genuine militia units) to halt the progress of this approaching carnival when she wears the Golden Cap (basically, the dissidents pay the militia units with precious metals). But the winged monkeys are defeated, and the western Witch herself is killed by Dorothy with a splash of water (that is, drowned in a sea of distractions). So, the victorious gaggle return to the Emerald City to inform the Wizard of the demise of the Witch, and then the carnival discovers they were manipulated by him the entire time. The Wizard is never punished for his deception, and manages to escape Oz in a balloon. Eventually, Glinda (representative of the good-natured Southern states) takes control of the Golden Cap and releases the winged monkeys from their duties (the militia are disbanded now that the South somehow controls or otherwise implements the gold standard); the Scarecrow is put in control of the Emerald City, the Tin Woodman has charge over the Witch’s former “slaves,” the Cowardly Lion becomes the King of the Beasts, and Dorothy returns to Kansas thanks to the Silver Shoes.
Ok, so perhaps my utterly ridiculous “interpretation” of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz does not necessarily “prove” the viability of the gold standard (if anything, it would seem to me to show how the so-called “Second American Revolution” could miserably and epically fail thanks to the Carnival of Distractions), but I think it accomplishes something much more important. It demonstrates that anyone can manipulate a work of fiction to suit their own ends, and that is exactly what the Greenbackers have done. Basing entire monetary reform proposals on a children’s story is ludicrous, but that is exactly what the Greenbackers are currently pushing (such as what Bill Still did with his documentary, “The Secret of Oz”). To top it all off, even Rockoff admits there there is no proof of what Baum himself actually intended to convey, if anything.
This would seem to indicate that the economic theoretical framework of the Greenbackers are so shaky that they have to misrepresent Baum’s story in order to appear credible. Yet, that is exactly what is happening. The Public Banking Institute hosted their first ever “Public Banking in America Conference” this past April of 2012, which is little more than a Greenbacker convention promoting a debt-free, interest-free, fiat national currency printed by the Congress and distributed via the Treasury Department and the eventually nationalized banking industry. In other words, the Greenbackers are little more than statists who despise the international bankers so much that they want to force Goldbugs and everybody else to accept their “debt-free United States Notes” as legal tender in payment of debts, instead of letting the remnants of the free market determine through voluntary trade what is most useful as money (one contender of which is Bitcoin).
If the Congress cannot even balance a budget, why for goodness’ sakes would you trust the same gaggle of crooks with directly handling the entire money supply?! Of course, the Greenbackers refuse to deal with this critical point (as well as the government’s own culpability with the international bankers) since they can’t illustrate the initiation of coercion within The Wonderful Wizard of Oz narrative. They pick and choose what they want from Baum’s story as if it were a Chinese food buffet and discard the rest whenever it becomes too inconvenient. They also insinuate that the Goldbugs are somehow secretly in bed with the international banking cartel absent any proof backing up that claim; talk about projecting your own behavior onto your intellectual opponents!
Hopefully by demonstrating the malleable nature of interpreting a fictional story, I have illustrated the silliness of anyone seriously proclaiming that their pet economic theories and monetary reform proposals were somehow definitively proved by a long-dead author who never publicly said what he intended, although in this particular case we actually do. Anyone who ever bothered to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz will see that Baum himself admitted in the introduction that, “… the story of ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.” So, was it Baum’s secret goal to implant socialistic predictive programming elements in his children’s novel? Perhaps, but not according to the man himself, or even alternate political interpretations; thus, considering the lack of positive proof, it is only rational to conclude that he only wanted to write a simple children’s novel that he could sell for profit and thus feed his growing family.