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Hunger for Liberty and Property
“May the odds be ever in your favor” (Collins). Ironically, this is not the case for citizens residing in the districts of Panem in Suzanne Collin’s dystopian novel, The Hunger Games. In the book, the districts endure unfair, harsh treatment and are kept on a tight leash by the Capitol. Under their strict totalitarian style government, people are given little freedom just like the members of the Proletariat in Ludwig von Mises’s Liberty and Property. Even though these writings were written in completely different eras, they share similar ideas that all citizens are entitled to freedom and that the power should be in the hands of the majority.
Both these two pieces of literature argue that freedom should not be a “privilege of the minority [ruling class], to be withheld from the majority” (von Mises). During the rule of the Bourgeoisie, they abused and persecuted the Proletariat, treating them like slaves in order to remain in control or in power. The Bourgeoisie mindset was that since they were the owners of capital that they could manipulate the lower class in whatever way they wanted to. However, Karl Marx revealed in the Communist Manifesto that the Bourgeoisie ultimately was “its own grave-digger” because degrading the Proletariat only provoked them to unite together and overthrow the Bourgeoisie (Marx). This revolution was unlike any other type of previous rebellion throughout history because it consisted of a new majority class of suffering workers who all identified with the one another overthrowing a minority ruling class. Von Mises explains in his writings how the Bourgeoisie who used repressive tactics to exploit the lower class of the Proletariats failed because it did not meet the demand of the majority. Von Mises reveals how this rebellion supported the arise of capitalism. He believes capitalism is the final answer to all of the problems because it puts the power in the hands of the consumer making the “consumer king” (von Mises). The key significance of capitalism is that it gives people the opportunity to own private property which represents freedom; freedom to choose what to invest in, what to buy, etc.
In The Hunger Games, the citizens of Panem are stripped of their freedom and independence because the “citizens are in every regard subject to orders of the government… and the government forces everybody to behave according [to its] unique plan”(von Mises). In the book the Capitol attempts to maintain control over the districts by forcing them to attend the annual “Reaping” where two tributes are selected from each district to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. This act by the government to display their power over the citizens is similar to the actions of the Bourgeoisie who tried to instill fear into the lives of the Proletariat. Though “the fact remains that government is repression and not freedom… Freedom is to be found in the sphere in which government does not interfere,” this foreshadowes the demise of the Bourgeoise and the Capitol (von Mises). The Hunger Games and Liberty and Property depict how a government cannot treat the majority like slaves people and basically strip them of their natural rights including freedom.
There are many symbolic moments in the Hunger Games which represent how in the end the majority will prevail. For example when citizens of district twelve hold three fingers up as a sign of respect when Katniss volunteers for her sister, Prim Everdeen, this illustrates the unity and support Katniss has from her district symbolizing how they are all in this together and will fight with her against the Capitol. Another symbolic moment is when Katniss acquires the nickname “the girl on fire” after her grand entrance on the chariot. This represents the sparks Katniss is setting off to begin the rebellion; the fire signifies the fire burning within her conveying her anger and hatred for Capitol. There is also one scene in the book where Peeta confides to Katniss the night before the Hunger games, “I just keep wishing I could think of a way to show them that they don’t own me. If I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me… I just don’t want to be another piece in their game” (Collins). Near the end of the book Peeta succumbs to the power of the Capitol and declares to Katniss, “They have to have their victor” but Katniss proclaims “No. They don’t. Why should they?” displaying how they should not let the government kill them just because they want to flaunt their power (Collins). At this point in the novel Katniss makes a stand like the Proletariat did; she rebels refusing to let the government have total control over her. It is through Katniss’s display of defiance towards the Capitol in the Hunger Games that the other citizens finally acknowledge and realize this unfair, unjust treatment by the Capitol. They like the poor workers of the Proletariat become united in the second book, Catching Fire, and start the rebellion to overthrow the government.
In the third and final book of the series, Mockingjay, the symbol for the rebellion is the Mockingjay. The mockingjay pin, the one thing that Katniss has been able to keep throughout her entire journey since the first Hunger Games, represents property which in turn represents her freedom. Katniss’s mockingjay pin is a symbol of hope because it is the one thing that she has that is truly hers and not owned by the government. Katniss has the freedom to do whatever she wants with the pin. This displays why capital and therefore capitalism is so important to a society. The citizens are not harshly restricted by the government and have the opportunity to make their own choices, invest in whatever they want to invest in, etc. This ultimately is the best form of government because it always favors the majority because with capitalism the “consumer is king” so therefore the government or owners of capital must respond to the demands of the people otherwise they will not be able to sell anything and would lose their power then.
Even though these two different pieces of literature agree on the same ideas, there was one interesting difference between them which might possibly be have been an effect from the time period they were written in. In the Hunger Games which has a post-apocalyptic setting, the government attempts to hide or cover up their cruelty by distracting people with the flare and entertainment of the Hunger Games. This is especially more prevalent in the second novel, Catching Fire, when Katniss is told by President Snow to flaunt her relationship with Peeta on their victory tour that way it will make people forget about the real issues currently going on. This is the government’s sly or “clever” way of making themself seem harmless, to make them appear like they aren’t really using events like the Hunger Games to stay power. While in von Mises’s Liberty and Property, he describes the exact opposite situation. The government does not try to hide that they are torturing the lower class to stay in power. In fact they make Proletariat’s conditions worse and worse under the impression that they will eventually wear them down so much that they would not even consider rebelling. Clearly, both of these power manipulative government tactics fail and in the end capitalism takes over.
Overall the rebellions in The Hunger Games and Liberty and Property illustrate how the government or owners of capitol do not control society unless they meet the demands of the majority of people. These two pieces of literature demonstrates how the idea capitalism arose and why it is the best political and economic system for a society. Capitalism is unique because it provides citizens with freedom; they have the ability to earn or obtain property or capital. After they have property or capital, the consumer is ultimately king and has the freedom to decide what to do with it. This reveals how everyone has the opportunity to benefit from capitalism.
Collins, Suzanne, and Phil Falco. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008. Print.
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Games Trilogy Fansite.” The Hunger Games Trilogy Fansite The Seal of The Capitol Is
Now Complete on The Hunger Games Viral Site Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.