Depression or Bust

by Mack Reynolds
Reviewed date: 2009 Jul 30
Rating: 2
157 pages
cover art

Our dear socialist strikes again, with another tiresome satire. We get it. Politicians are scum.

What causes a depression? If you're to believe Depression or Bust, it's a lack of easy credit. This particular depression is sparked when one family returns a brand new freezer. The shopkeeper sees a trend, and cancels an order from the factory. The effect snowballs. Soon businesses are closing up shop, people find themselves unemployed, and industry grinds to a halt.

The President tries to undo the damage by a huge public works program, but that backfires when he succeeds in improving the highway system so much that the trucking companies can deliver products faster--thereby enabling them to lay off drivers. Oops.

Next they turn to marketing. The government's crack marketing team starts a Joan of Arc craze, hoping that a new fad will spur spending. Instead, it ends up empowering women and leading to a revolution against a wasteful, consumerist lifestyle. The economy tanks and the system is besieged by mobs of angry women wielding swords. Double oops.

The Depression is solved by locating the first cause--the family who returned the freezer--and giving them a wad of cash and strict instructions to spend it on big-ticket items. They do. It jumpstarts the economy and everything goes back to normal.

On the Soviet side of the fence, the supreme leader Andrei Zorin appoints an efficiency expert to streamline the Soviet economy. The expert notices that it's always politicians who get in the way, so he spends his time sowing seeds of revolution among the people, who eventually turn on their government and their political leaders.

Overall, I found the book interesting but not half so clever as Reynolds was reaching for. His morbid sense of humor is present, as always.

"So," the President said, intrigued, "what is it that this special committee of the munitions industry has come up with?"

"Well, Mr. President, the committee is of the opinion that the present laws pertaining to homicide are too, ah, stringent."

Horace Adams blinked. "Stringent?"

General Fallout was shaking his head. "Much too stringent. The committee suggests that each citizen be allowed two homicides. The solving of the population explosion would be a side effect, but most beneficial. But the boom in pistols, rifles, submachine guns, armored vests, ammunition, and so forth, would put the country's industry back into high gear." The general's eyes were flashing inspiration.

Weigand Patrick said gently, "General Fallout, I am afraid you are a dreamer before your time."

The the President was looking thoughtfully at his right-hand man. "I don't know, son. Let's not be too hasty about this." He tapped the side of his nose with a forefinger.

Weigand dropped his voice to a murmur. "Chief, if every citizen of the United States was allowed two homicides, or even one, do you think you'd live the week out?"

The President coughed then said, "I am afraid the scheme is impractical, general."

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