Most serious people tend to have little use for children’s literature, at least once their own children cease to read it. It’s a shame, really, since so much of what gets ignored as children’s literature is quite serious stuff, like Malory or Gulliver’s journey to Lilliput or Robinson Crusoe. And let’s not forget Mother Goose; a person who doesn’t enjoy the sublime jauntiness of nursery rhymes has no appreciation for language whatsoever.

But it’s really a shame that serious people don’t pay more attention to children’s literature, because if they did, they might learn something about contemporary life. Take the economy, for instance. J. M. Barrie has this to say about it:

Mr. Darling used to boast to Wendy that her mother not only loved him but respected him. He was one of those deep ones who know about stocks and shares. Of course no one really knows, but he quite seemed to know, and he often said stocks were up and shares were down in a way that would have made any woman respect him.
Peter Pan (1911)

Barrie clearly pokes a little fun at the person who claims to understand the economy, because of course no one really knows. But still more ridiculous is the person who falls for the self-puffery of the trickster and invests money with him. As with much satire, what seems at first straightforward sinuously turns on us as readers and mocks our postcapitalistic distaste for sermonizing and love of cash money.

It’s really too bad that we’ve lost our taste for didactic literature, because there’s a genuine lesson to be learned here: the economy’s going to grow old and decrepit unless we give it a liberal* sprinkling of pixie dust.

*Or should that be republican? I have no idea. I may read Pocock and Skinner, but I’m no political economist.

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