September 06, 2004
To be or wot

I am still ploughing through more tons of mostly pointless paper, chucking most of it out, combining a mid life crisis with spring cleaning (in the autumn). And while doing some more of this today, I came across this bit of paper.

I made it in the mid-eighties. I had done some pieces for the IEA's journal, Economic Affairs, and had been on the receiving end of the editorial attentions of the IEA's Editorial Director Arthur Seldon. I hugely admire Seldon, and for as long as I was the Editorial Director of the Libertarian Alliance he was a role model.

But I was pissed off. So I typed out To Be Or Not To Be, and then said, right I'm Arthur Seldon. What happens? About five minutes later, there it was.


The IEA didn't use this in the form you see, as I had originally done it. They re-scribbled it. Amazing. Even when being sent up, they couldn't resist behaving in the manner being lampooned.

Whatever. This probably says more about me than it does about Seldon, and it will not amaze you to learn that I have never made much money writing for … well, money. But I think this bit of paper speaks for every hack writer who ever had his stuff yanked around by an interventionist editor, regardless of the mere merits of the matter. Anyway, enjoy. I tried to get it so you could click to get it bigger, but I couldn't get this to work. Hope you can read it as is.

By the way, the title I have given to this posting is a combination of two things. First, "To be or what" is a send up version of Sylvester Stallone doing Hamlet wittily invented by the actress Betty Thomas, who was once upon a time one of the cops in Hill Street Blues. I love that she actually had Stallone shortening the original, which you would have thought wasn't possible. And I have changed "what" to "wot" in deference to Seldon, who really did use this word. It expressed his overwhelming desire that matters be made clear, and the IEA was all the better for it under his editorial leadership.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:05 PM
Category: Literature