Study Guide

The Corrections Politics

By Jonathan Franzen


"We have three or four elections a year. Elections are our biggest industry. We have the highest annual per capita output of elections of any country in the world. Higher than Italy, even." (2.866)

The Corrections portrays a world where the distinction between business and government has completely eroded. Nowhere is this more evident than in the satirical saga of Lithuania Inc.

"Russia went bankrupt in August," Gitanas said. "Maybe you heard? Unlike our elections, this was widely reported. This was economic news. This mattered to the investor." (2.874)

Again we see how economic and political concerns have become indistinguishable. In this new world, the only citizen that matters is the one with money.

"Your suburban bank then liquidates our bank's hard-currency reserves. Your bank doubles our country's commercial interest rates overnight—why? To cover heavy losses in its failed line of Dilbert affinity Mastercards. Ouch!" (2.882)

So things have gotten pretty crazy: An entire country's currency supply is owned by a small American bank. Plus, Dilbert credit cards… really? Everyone knows that Marmaduke is the king.

"Since they encouraged us to privatize, maybe they're interested in the fact that our privatized nation-state is now a zone of semi-anarchy, criminal warlords, and subsistence farming? Unfortunately, IMF is handling complaints of bankrupt client states in order of the size of their respective GDP." (2.887)

This is a classic catch-22: A country can only become developed when it has money, but it can't get money until it's developed. Is it any surprise, then, that Gitanas went over the law's head?

"The collective fungible assets of my country disappeared in yours without a ripple," Gitanas said. "A rich powerful country made the rules we Lithuanians are dying by. Why should we respect these rules?" (2.923)

Again we see how economic concerns drive the fate of a nation. People are dying—and for what? For Dilbert credit cards?

To publicize the plight of small debtor nations, Gitanas had created a satiric Web page offering DEMOCRACY FOR PROFIT: BUY A PIECE OF EUROPEAN HISTORY [...] "It was a nasty little joke," Gitanas said [...] "But who laughed? Nobody laughed. They just sent money." (2.1013-1014)

Gitanas may have started this as a joke, but it worked better than he ever imagined. It seems like there are plenty of business that would find value in owning a democracy.

Nick had taught Billy to love politics, and Billy had repaid him by taunting him with the epithet bourgeois liberal, bourgeois liberal. (5.8)

The political situation isn't much better back in the U.S. Although Nick's political beliefs were considered radical in his youth, they're nothing compared to the calculated insanity of Billy's agenda.

The lesson that Gitanas had learned and that Chip was now learning was that the more patently satirical the promises, the lustier the influx of American capital. (5.926)

Gitanas is an innovator—the guy invented Kickstarter before there was a Kickstarter. The only difference is that he's selling political power, not trying to fund his best friend's Buffy: The Vampire Slayer fan film.

Chip was struck by the broad similarities between black-market Lithuania and free-market America. In both countries, wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few; any meaningful distinction between private and public sectors had disappeared. (5.942)

Yikes—let's just hope that things manage to get better before we start auctioning off our infrastructure, too.

"It killed my dad when I was eleven [...] and everything made sense. There was always an enemy with a big red target on his back. There was big evil daddy U.S.S.R. that we could all hate, until the nineties." (5.951)

Gitanas grew up in a black-and-white political environment: The government that is actively oppressing his people is bad and the ones that are helping them are good. By the early 2000s, though, things are nowhere near as simple.