The Corner

The Lorax and His Lies

More Seussiana, from a reader:

Regarding your comments on the Lorax, you are surely correct about the story’s intention to malign capitalism. I have, however, found an alternative (and far more palatable) interpretation that I use when reading the story to my son. I also use the example (courtesy one of the bloggers at the Volokh Conspiracy) when lecturing on the tragedy of the commons.

The Once-ler’s actions make total sense if it is impossible for him to acquire property rights to the Truffula Trees. Any moderation on his part in cutting them down merely leaves an opportunity for another Thneed-maker. Furthermore, the climactic reveal of the last Truffula seed reinforces this interpretation, as the protagonist is implicitly given those property rights (setting up the potential for responsible Truffula harvesting).

Please withhold my name … untenured professor in the academy, don’t you know.

UPDATE: Joe Coletti says the Lorax’s lessons aren’t confined to panicky environmentalism.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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