If Planet Key did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.
by Lyndon Hood
When I was last in France, I came across a manuscript hidden behind a panel in one of the quieter wings of the Louvre palace. (I try to vandalise a major monument whenever I visit in Paris.)
It turned out the single, closely-written sheet was apparently a previously unknown work by Voltaire, who if I remember right was the guy who invented electricity. So the discovery might be interesting for some.
Between my schoolboy French and Google Translate I managed to knock out an English version before customs confiscated the original under some stupid international treaty.
n the castle of the most noble Baron of Planetki, lived a Youth whom nature had endowed with a most amiable disposition. The old servants of the house suspected him to have been the production of a forbidden liaison between the Baron’s sister (a too-passionate conservative) and a liberal member of the local gentry who (the door and the window being secured) had, so the story went, got into her bedroom using the third way.
The Tutor to the children of the castle taught neo-incrimental-postideological-frogboiling-conservatism, and could demonstrate by assertion that Planetki was the best-governed of all possible estates and the Baron’s polices the most sensible of all possible policies (all of which were likely to achieve their claimed intention). For these skills he had been granted residency by the Baron, which was clearly an honour even if nobody quite knew what it meant.
The Tutor was the oracle of the family. The Youth in particular absorbed his precepts with all the simplicity natural to his age and disposition. The lessons were not onerous, for though the Tutor assigned a great many text books, he did not require his students to read them as long as they claimed they had read a newspaper article on the subject.
“Are we not all happy?” the Tutor said as he stood before his students on one of the estate’s many golf courses (and the Youth could not deny that he was happy, sitting next to the comely daughter of the Baron), “Observe, for instance,how everything here is conducive to growth. Though this potplant…” (here he brandished that item) “…may appear barren, its underlying conditions…” (indicating the presumptive roots) “… are sound. When Spring comes…” (the season was late Winter and had been for some time) “… it will blossom forth with unparalleled verdancy. And when it does so, all our practises will enhance its development.”
“Do we not, rather than using so-called ‘toilets’, relieve ourselves where-ever we are inclined? This enhances the fertility of our environment, contributing to the greenness for which Planetki’s land and rivers are justly famous. So you see, everything is arranged to maximise growth.”
Some time earlier the Tutor had demonstrated this by an experiment called ‘growing the pie’. The Youth had been duly impressed when, some weeks later, the pie in question was indeed larger – everyone’s share having increased in volume by the addition of a quantity of soft grey fuzz which the Youth took to have materialised through the principle of self-sufficiency.
But on this occasion the Baron’s son indelicately suggested the potplant might indeed be dead, and furthermore that it looked quite like it was just a stick poked in some dirt. (The Baron’s son had a somewhat oppositional nature.) “Oh no it isn’t,” the Tutor replied. The Youth was looking forward to seeing his preceptor rebut the objection point by point, but it happened that at that moment a beggar approached.
The master had inculcated in his students that to go about being poor, in such a well-governed and prosperous realm as Planetki, was a personal failing that demonstrated at the least ingratitude and at the worst criminality. So they had agreed between them to enforce a social contract under which anybody asking for food or shelter had rocks thrown at them. This was considered a win/win as it also provided the students with regular healthy exercise. In deference to objections from the Baron’s son – who accepted the need to incentivise non-begging but was concerned about extreme methods – the Tutor insisted they should try not to cause any permanent injury.
“Now, about that potplant…” said the Baron’s son once the excited students settled down.
“What potplant?” inquired the Tutor blithely (having earlier hurled it at the back of the fleeing beggar). He had an excellent memory for catchphrases but once he had forgotten an inconvenient fact he could not be persuaded to remember it. So they were obliged to resume their lessons on another topic.
ollowing the afternoon’s lesson the Youth walked with the Baron’s daughter to a secluded sand trap. There he declared his ambition (though he was a little vague one the details) for efficent delivery of a win/win outcome regarding her aspirational targets. The young lady for her part was open to innovative ideas, and the young couple were soon concealed against the sandy bank investigating ways to rebalance their opportunities.
The Youth was investigating the effect direct stimulus of his lady’s underlying conditions had on her wider economy (and she was drawing increasingly positive growth projections from his external influences) when a passing greenkeeper noted their compromising fiscal position. Realising there was an imminent risk of unrestrained quantitative easing, he raised the alarm.
The Baron arrived and by way of penalty first administered a sound kick to the Youth’s economic fundamentals then declared he would be exiled. The Youth desperately tried to explain about the tight fiscal conditions and the public/private delivery models of vital services. On hearing this, the Baron also expelled the Tutor as a bad influence, and would have charged them both with a crime if he could.
(Under Planetki’s criminal law, if the supreme court finds you were breaking the law you actually weren’t; if a statute of limitations had expired it was never illegal; if the police do not charge you no law was broken (except when it was); and as long as an inspector-general inquires into your actions and your minister expresses disappointment, you can get away with anything. The Tutor had once described this as “an ideal balance of justice and efficiency”. Planetki has no courts.)
As they fled, the Youth realised they might now be considered unemployed, and offered to protect his master from flying rocks. But the Tutor explained that they were in fact between contracts, or merely observing one of those many holidays enjoyed by the citizens of Planetki (especially those who work in manufacturing).
The roads in that region were well-paved and entirely empty so they made fast progress. Soon they had left Planetki entirely (or at least, arrived at that part of Planetki that had been sold to pay for the roads).
And so they went into the world, the Tutor commiserating with the distraught Youth over his troubles, and agreeing that it was all the fault of those damnable external influences, which one cannot be expected to control.
Which I guess would be just the start of their adventures, but here the body of the manuscript ends.
There are notes towards more. For example: a ship the pair are travelling in sinks in a storm. On the Tutor’s advice they stay afloat by clinging to a sinking coalition partner.
They land shortly before a devastating earthquake. The Tutor sees this as an excellent chance to propose various neo-incrimental-postideological-frogboiling-conservative methods that might otherwise have been unacceptable; a plan which is only arrested when the local citizens have the good sense to burn him at the stake.
Also just a note about “unruly natives”.
But it looks like at this point the author just gave up on the project, having decided the political philosophy in question was too obviously stupid and incoherent to justify a whole book.