What’s up with Victor Brandt’s bonsai tree in Silver Circle?July 18th, 2013
Long before I was writing for this blog I was a fan of Silver Circle. And before any animation was released there was the web comic. It used to come out one page at a time. On page 26, Fed Chairman Victor Brandt attached this weird orange thing to this little tree in his office, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it was. It took up multiple panels, so it had to be important, but it was totally lost on me. Once it was translated to film it made a lot more sense, and it succeeded as a metaphor for Victor’s twisted personality.
Victor is training a bonsai tree, but not in the traditional way. Typically one wraps the branches with wire while the plant is young and pliable, so the young sapling naturally grows into the desired shape. In other words, it is nurtured into a healthy, beautiful tree. But not Victor. He takes mature plant, with rigid branches, and bends it with a vice. In other words, he breaks it into the desired shape. He gradually and meticulously tortures this little tree.
The great irony of this hobby of his is that right outside his window is a big forest that he cannot control.
The whole set up is of course an allusion to Keynesian economic planning. The tree represents Brandt’s economic plan, stylized and controlled according to his will. But it’s not as malleable as a young sapling. To shape the economy he was to break economic laws as rigid as tree branches, which of course slowly kills the economy. Meanwhile, the trees which are outside his control, subject to natural law and not his manipulation, are vibrant and flourishing independently.
This is a reference to what Friedrich Hayek called ‘The Fatal Conceit.’ Hayek demonstrates that civilization, what he calls “extended order,” evolves naturally when left free, while centrally planned economic theories are not only logically inconsistent, they always fail because they violate the very economic laws that make the prevailing order they exist in possible.
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