Jennifer Government

jennifer government

Jennifer Government is a 2003 novel written by Max Barry, set in a dystopian alternate reality in which most nations (now controlled by the United States) are dominated by for-profit corporate entities while the government’s political power is extremely limited. Some readers consider it similar in satiric intent to Orwell’s ‘1984,’ but of a world with too little political power as opposed to too much.

Consequently, some readers see the novel as a criticism of libertarianism. Many readers also see it as a criticism of globalization, although Barry claims he is not an anti-globalizationist.

In the story, most large corporations are now allied into one of two massive customer loyalty programs, US Alliance and Team Advantage, fiercely in competition with each other. US Alliance members include Nike, IBM, Pepsi, McDonald’s, and the NRA. Team Advantage members include the Police, ExxonMobil, Burger King, and Apple Computer. People take the surnames of the corporations they work for, and a person with two jobs hyphenates their name (e.g. Julia Nike-McDonalds). Charity workers can also use their charity’s name in a hyphenated surname. Schools are now sponsored and controlled by corporations, such as McDonald’s and Mattel. Though little is said of the education given at them, it is hinted that much of it is corporate propaganda. Children who attend school are given the corporate sponsor’s name as a surname, but are parenthesized with their parents’ employers in school directories, such as ‘Kate Mattel (Government).’

The story takes place over several years (what year exactly is never mentioned) the United States has taken over the entire Western Hemisphere (except for Cuba), South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland, India, Japan, Oceania, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar, and (most recently) Australia. Russia is said to be affiliated with the US, but not fully absorbed; whether or not Russia actually belongs to the US is not explained. With so much land under the US’s control, international trade is no longer necessary, and thus the US cuts itself off from countries that it has not yet taken over. Among these other countries is the European Union, which is called ‘socialist,’ though the extent to which it is actually socialist is debatable.

The language of all US lands is now ‘American,’ the language formerly known as English (only American English is spoken now; British English and the British accent no longer exist). Either before or after this takeover, taxation is abolished, which eventually leads to the U.S. adopting what is referred to as ‘capitalizm’ (similar to anarcho-capitalism with a few differences). In this new state, the Government is privatized, having to do work only within its budget. This makes the Government unable to write new laws or even hold elections, leaving it with its only job being the prevention of crime. Crimes can also be solved, but the Governments’ budget only covers retaliatory investigations if the Government can be paid by the victim or the victim’s family.

Outside of the Government there are two other military organizations of power: the Police and the NRA. The Police have since become privatized, having been reduced to a combination of law enforcement and mercenary agencies, and is only involved when contracted by interested parties. Meanwhile, the NRA has become a complete mercenary-for-hire organization able to deploy a fully equipped military force. Other notable aspects of US society include pre-payment before ambulances can be dispatched, the abolition of welfare, total deregulation of weapons, legalized drugs sold in supermarkets, and privately owned roads with charged access.

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