Jerry Brown's Rail and Tom Sawyer's Elaborate Escape Plan for Jim
By David Henderson
I try to reread 3 books ever 10 years or so: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lucky Jim, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This summer, the second book I read (I’ve posted about the first one here, here, and here) was Huck Finn.
I enjoyed it as always and my two favorite passages are (1) where runaway slave Jim expresses his sorrow to Huck about punishing his daughter because he didn’t know her failure to react was due to her being deaf, and (2) spoiler ahead: where Huck figures out that Jim is human.
But each time I read it, Tom Sawyer grates on me. For those who don’t know (spoiler ahead), Tom recruits Huck to set up an elaborate scheme to help Jim escape, a scheme in which each detail adds to complexity and reduces the probability that the escape will work.
Don Boudreaux posted the other day about a fantastic John Oliver episode in which Oliver took on multi-millionaire televangelists who persuade people to give up their hard-earned money so that they can buy private jets and mansions. This reminded Don of politicians who promise prosperity to people who will vote for them and send them donations.
I had a similar ah-hah moment, although a more specific one, when I was reading of Tom Sawyer’s elaborate schemes. I thought of Jerry Brown and his persistence, in spite of large state budget deficits, in funding high speed rail in central California, aka, the railroad from nowhere to nowhere. It’s an elaborate high-cost scheme for moving people within California when there are so many better options including buses, cars, and airplanes.