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Reflections on Walt Disney World

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My wife, young son, and I just returned from a visit to Walt Disney World.

Regardless of what you think of DisneyWorld, no adult who spends any time there can fail to appreciate Disney’s incredible efficiency and attention to the minutest detail. It works. It works spectacularly well.

Strolling down Main Street USA [2] – which leads to Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom – and reflecting on just how remarkably well DisneyWorld works, I was struck by the many ways that DisneyWorld resembles the ideal world of left-liberals. Not in every way, of course, does DisneyWorld look like the left-liberal ideal, but it does so in a surprisingly large number of ways. Consider:

DisneyWorld is successfully centrally planned. It is the result of human action and of human design.

One result of this detailed central planning is successful zoning and land-use restrictions. No unsightly factory will ever appear on Main Street USA; no porn shops will ever offer wares there; no ugly golden arches will ever soil the scenery; no Safeway, no Home Depot, and no Wal-Mart will ever destroy or change this downtown.

The spotless, picture-perfect Victorian-era architecture will always be there, intact and unchanged. The apothecary shop, the candy store, the movie theater with its old-fashioned marquee – all will remain unaltered, just as they are and just as they exist in the minds of every American who imagines the simpler, happier, now-lost good old days of small-town America.

It is never clogged with automobiles. Smiling families, young couples hand-in-hand, and police officers without guns stroll the streets and sidewalks unmolested by loud-mouths hawking fake Rolex watches. No billboards obliterate the scenery. No multiplexes draw people from the Norman Rockwell sidewalks into a vast, dispersed concrete-smothered suburban sprawl. Ticky-tacky, cookie-cutter houses are nowhere to be seen.

All transportation within DisneyWorld is public. People commute between the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney/MGM, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom mostly on clean and on-time buses, on clean and on-time ferries, or on a clean and on-time monorail. Within each of these four DisneyWorld parks, as mentioned earlier, automobiles are prohibited. To get from one part of the Magic Kingdom to any other part of the Magic Kingdom, you must walk or take a clean and on-time choo-choo train.

Also, every DisneyWorld employee is employed by the great and good overseer of this utopia – Disney. No heartless, destructive competition ever erupts between the store selling cameras on Main Street USA and the store selling cameras a short walk away in Tomorrowland. Each worker toils for the common good of Disney.

And smoking is nearly prohibited. Not only can smokers not puff away indoors; they can’t smoke outdoors. Only in very few and very out-of-the-way special locations can anyone enjoy tobacco.

The irony, of course, is that DisneyWorld generally is despised by left-liberals. It is fake, hokey, insincere. To amuse the masses and to swell the coffers of Disney, Inc., DisneyWorld presents a false picture of reality.

…..

The DisneyWorld image – most notably that projected by Main Street USA – is indeed fake. People pay large sums of money to visit DisneyWorld precisely because they want to pretend, for a little while, that the world is orderly and without surprises – that Main Street USA always looks like it does in their imaginations; that store clerks always smile; that the man playing the accordion on the street corner is no pathetic bum pathetically seeking pathetic hand-outs from an indifferent and harried public, but, rather, a steadily employed and appreciated employee of the town; that people are always happy; that life is magical.

While DisneyWorld is not my personally favorite place to visit, I don’t begrudge people this enjoyment. I understand its appeal. I applaud Disney for providing it.

But the real world is not a DisneyWorld. It cannot be. Change – unplanned and unpredictable change – is inevitable. In successful societies, the change is progress. Local hardware stores are replaced by Home Depot and Lowe’s – and, eventually, Home Depot and Lowe’s will be replaced by some other means of retailing that remain to be discovered. Where once the local hardware store thrived, now a spa or internet café thrives – and these, too, will one day be replaced by other merchants.

In unsuccessful societies, change is regressive. Entrepreneurship and enterprise wither, prosperity fades; local hardware stores might last a bit longer than they do in successful economies, providing ever-worsening service and wares, or these stores might simply die, replaced by nothing, boarded up.

The stores on Disney’s Main Street USA will always be what they are today and what they were yesterday, gleaming and fake. They’ll never change. This unchangingness is their appeal to the masses who visit the Magic Kingdom. A similar, although impossible-to-attain, unchangingness seems to be what many statists seek through their insistence on strict zoning, through their hostility to big-box retailers, shopping malls, and McMansions.

The real world is not and can never be frozen. To attempt to freeze it is to try to turn all of reality into one gigantic Magic Kingdom – but, unlike in DisneyWorld, such attempts are doomed to fail.

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