January 22, 2012


Amitav Ghosh, River of Smoke: A Novel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) (" Indeed, Mr. Burnham?' It was Mr. King, speaking from the other end of the table. 'You are evidently greatly solicitous of human life, which is undoubtedly a most commendable thing. But may I ask why your concern does not extend to the lives you put in jeopardy with your consignments of opium? Are you not aware that with every shipment you are condemning hundreds, maybe thousands of people to death? Do you see nothing monstrous in your own actions?' " " 'No, sir,' answered Mr. Burnham coolly. 'Because it is not my hand that passes sentence upon those who choose the indulgence of opium. It is the work of another, invisible, omnipotent: it is the hand of freedom, of the market, of the spirit of liberty itself, which is none other than the breath of God.' " "At this Mr. King's voice rose in scorn: 'Oh shame on you, who call yourself a Christian! Do you not see that it is the grossest idolatry to speak of the market as though it were the rival of God?' " Id. at 431-432. In our twentieth century, think drugs, alcohol, addictive medicines, subprime mortgages, hedge funds, schools and universities which grant degrees but do not educate, sweatshops feeding our conspicuous consumption, etc. Opium takes many forms, and its market is neither a neutral nor just god.).