Review of “The Marching Morons” by Cyril M. Kornbluth

No matter how novel you think your idea is, it’s likely someone has come up with it before. You can find the short story – from 1951 – here.

The story takes place in the distant future. A man from the past was put into suspended animation. He is revived and he awakes to find a world that resembles the world of Idiocracy.

Here is the author’s description:

"Don’t pretend. I [the man from the past] can put two and two together. You’re the secret police. You and the rest of the aristocrats live in luxury on the sweat of these oppressed slaves. You’re afraid of me because you have to keep them ignorant." . . .

"The actual truth is that the millions of workers live in luxury on the sweat of the handful of aristocrats." [Said the physicist from the future]

. . .

"Very well. Mr. Barlow [i.e. the man from the past], I understand you and your lamented had no children."

"What of it?"

"This of it. You were a blind, selfish stupid ass to tolerate economic and social conditions which penalized childbearing by the prudent and foresighted. You made us what we are today, and I want you to know that we are far from satisfied. Damn-fool rockets! Damn-fool automobiles! Damn-fool cities with overhead ramps!"

"As far as I can see," said Barlow, "you’re running down the best features of your time. Are you crazy?"

"The rockets aren’t rockets. They’re turbojets-good turbojets, but the fancy shell around them makes for a bad drag. The automobiles have a top speed of one hundred kilometers per hour-a kilometer is, if I recall my paleolinguistics, three-fifths of a mile-and the speedometers are all rigged accordingly so the drivers will think they’re going two hundred and fifty. The cities are ridiculous, expensive, unsanitary, wasteful conglomerations of people who’d be better off and more productive if they were spread over the countryside.

"We need the rockets and trick speedometers and cities because, while you and your kind were being prudent and foresighted and not having children, the migrant workers, slum dwellers and tenant farmers were shiftlessly and shortsightedly having children-breeding, breeding. My God, how they bred!"

"Wait a minute," objected Barlow. "There were lots of people in our crowd who had two or three children."

"The attrition of accidents, illness, wars and such took care of that. Your intelligence was bred out. It is gone. Children that should have been born never were. The just-average,they’ll-get-along majority took over the population. The average IQ now is 45."

"But that’s far in the future-"

"So are you," grunted the hawk-faced man [i.e. the physicist] sourly.

"But who are you people?"

"Just people-real people. Some generations ago, the geneticists realized at last that nobody was going to pay any attention to what they said, so they abandoned words for deeds. Specifically, they formed and recruited for a closed corporation intended to maintain and improve the breed. We are their descendants, about three million of us. There are five billion of the others, so we are their slaves.

"During the past couple of years I’ve designed a skyscraper, kept Billings Memorial Hospital here in Chicago running, headed off war with Mexico and directed traffic at LaGuardia Field in New York."

"I don’t understand! Why don’t you let them go to hell in their own way?"

The man grimaced. "We tried it once for three months. We holed up at the South Pole and waited. They didn’t notice it. Some drafting room people were missing, some chief nurses didn’t show up, minor government people on the non-policy level couldn’t be located. It didn’t seem to matter.

"In a week there was hunger. In two weeks there were famine and plague, in three weeks war and anarchy. We called off the experiment; it took us most of the next generation to get things squared away again."

The tale ends on a cautionary note, but I don’t want to give too much away. If you want spoilers, go here.

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