Lessons from Magrathea

04 Jul 2012

Magrathea Meteorite

Many men of course became extremely rich, but this was perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of because no one was really poor – at least no one worth speaking of. And for all the richest and most successful merchants life inevitably became rather dull and niggly, and they began to imagine that this was therefore the fault of the worlds they’d settled on – none of them was entirely satisfactory: either the climate wasn’t quite right in the later part of the afternoon, or the day was half an hour too long, or the sea was exactly the wrong shade of pink.

And thus were created the conditions for a staggering new form of specialist industry: custom-made luxury planet building. The home of this industry was the planet Magrathea, where hyperspatial engineers sucked matter through white holes in space to form it into dream planets – gold planets, platinum planets, soft rubber planets with lots of earthquakes – all lovingly made to meet the exacting standards that the Galaxy’s richest men naturally came to expect.

But so successful was this venture that Magrathea soon became the richest planet of all time and the rest of the Galaxy was reduced to abject poverty. And so the system broke down, the Empire collapsed, and a long sullen silence settled over a billion hungry worlds, disturbed only by the pen scratchings of scholars as they laboured into the night over smug little treatises on the value of a planned political economy.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, 1979

Posted by Jordan Kaplan at 11:00 PM