An EconTalk Podcast Listening Guide

Christopher Hitchens on Orwell

Listen to the EconTalk podcast Christopher Hitchens on Orwell and consider these questions.

1. The conversation begins as Roberts notes Hitchens’ claim that George Orwell was right about the three big issues of the 20th century: imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. What are some examples of specific things he was right about?

2. According to Hitchens, what transformed Orwell from a distinguished figure into an immortal figure, and how?

3. What ideologies did Orwell embrace? How did these beliefs combine his love for the English people and his opinion of socialism?

4. Roberts comments on how unique the Spanish Civil War was in the direct involvement of intellectuals, like Orwell, taking personal risk in the military ranks. He also notes how rarely high profile people seem to take such risk today. Do you agree, and why do you believe this to be the case?

5. How did Orwell’s personal experiences of the social consequences of opposition to communism influence his book, 1984?

6. What does Hitchens mean by “the power of facing?”

7. Some claim 1984 and Animal Farm are pessimistic about the inevitable triumph of oppressive government. How does Hitchens counter this? How does this relate to the novels’ historical significance and continued political relevance?

8. How does Orwell’s view of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom compare to his concept of what an over-might state entails? How does Orwell balance competing ideologies?

9. What do you think of the claim that Orwell is not a hero? How is this related to Orwell’s enduring legacy?