While your humble blogger was wending his way back from Paris to the States, everyone and their mother emailed, Facebooked or tweeted me the following campaign video from geek god Joss Whedon:
Now, as much as I've dissected both candidates' foreign policies and foreign policy statements, I hadn't really thought about which one of them would be more likely to trigger the zombie apocalypse.
masks reveals a flaw in Theories of International Politics and Zombies. In that book, I argued that any measures by governments to prevent the creation of zombies were likely to fail. The problem was that the origins of zombies are so multifaceted -- biological, radiological, supernatural -- that it was foolish to deevote resources to trying. Furthermore, the very nature of "normal accidents" could mean that preventive measures could actually increase the probability of flesh-eating ghouls.
But Whedon is onto something different and altogether more interesting in his video. Are there domestic policies that would increase the likelihood of a true zombie apocalypse? He lists serious cuts in health care and social services, as well as Romney's commitment to "ungoverned corporate privilege" that would foment the undead apocalypse.
Now I give Whedon points for acknowledging that we don't know which kind of undead are coming -- "no one knows for sure if they'll be the superfast 28 Days Later zombies or the old school shambling kind." But is Whedon's hypothesis actually true? One could posit that he's got it backwards. After all, the key to preventing the spread of the zombie apocalypse is to slow down the infection rate and spread of the undead contagoion. Cuts to public services might actually discourage the 47% from congregating in public places, thereby making it that much harder for the initial cluster of the undead to be able to spread their pestilence and hunger for human flesh to others. Similarly, it is likely true that giving corporations a freer hand might incentivize one of them to take the Umbrella path to global domination, Romney's tough stands on immigration will likely restrict the H1-B visas necessary to hire the Eurotrash that always seems to be a the top of the corporate ladder when Things Go Wrong.
Stepping back, if you think about it, the relationship between economic inequality and the zombie apocalypse is kinda complicated. On the one hand, consistent with Acemoglu and Robinson, more politically and economically egalitarian societies are likely to invest in the public goods necessary to mitigate the spread of the deadites. On the other hand, unequal societies are likely to have elites invest in worst-case scenarios -- mountaintop redoubts, vast underground laboratories, panic rooms, evil volcano lairs -- that guarantee a minmax outcome in which the human species will continue to exist in some form. Of course, on the third, undead, dismembered, delicious hand, those last redoubt solutions never seem to work out as planned.
Still, as I contemplate a
revised revived edition of Theories of International Politics and Zombies, I thank Whedon for bringing this important issue to the fore -- just as the massive zombiestorm prepares to strike the Northeast Corridor.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to stock up on canned goods and imagine the dialogue that a movie treatment of Night of the Living Dead meets Atlas Shrugged would inspire.
Readers are warmly encouraged to proffer their suggestions for policies that would trigger/foment the zombie apocalypse in the comments.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.