The WSJ Mis-Characterizes Ray Bradbury’s Oeuvre

What was the Wall Street Journal thinking of? Announcing the sad news of his passing at the age of 91 on June 6th 2012, reporter Stephen Miller misreads completely the burden of Ray Bradbury’s contributions to the literature of science fiction. (No, despite what you and I may think, Bradbury was not a macroeconomist!) He instead offered a libertarian perspective on possible future worlds, much as Robert Heinlein did in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, first published in 1966 and reprinted many times since.

Mr. Bradbury was not someone who thought that technology was an enemy of humankind. While technology often did not hold center stage in his novels, it is ever-present. What surely is more important, as in Fahrenheit 451, which as Mr. Miller and other commentators have noted, is the temperature at which books burn, was that he was a friend of liberty and, hence, an opponent of governmental powers, such as those wielded by Adolph Hitler and his National Socialist supporters, who ordered the burning of books in order to prevent the dissemination of anti-regime ideas. Television – and movies – may be sucking our brains out, but no one unwillingly is obliged to watch. Government is much more invidious because it can force us to pay taxes and to comply with its regulatory mandates.

Fahrenheit 451 is an important book. The film version of it is even more noteworthy, if for no other reason than it starred, in a supporting role, a young and, in my opinion, a very “hot” Julie Christie.

Ray Bradbury deserved a much better and more informed remembrance.

William F. Shughart II is a Distinguished Research Advisor and Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the J. Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice at Utah State University, past President of the Public Choice Society as well as the Southern Economic Association, and editor of the Independent book, Taxing Choice.
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