occurred me last weekend that children should not grow up without
a thorough exposure to the great cartoon from 1962, "The
Jetsons." Its celebration of technology and commerce, its
retro-style optimism, its hilarious dovetailing of bourgeois normalcy
with gizmo-crazed futurism, its complete absence of political
correctness (excluding, of course, the atrocious 1990 movie by
the same name) Ė all combine to make this one of the great cartoon
achievements of any time.
answer was simple: obtain a set of DVDs that have the complete
series, all 80 episodes made over time. What a dream! It turns
out, however, that such a thing doesnít exist. Well, thereís always
video, but it turns out that these are very hard to find. Where
to start? Amazon.com. Search. Nothing. Iím told that the Cartoon
Network runs them, but I donít have cable.
Hereís a private individual in the Midwest advertising on Amazon
who has one to sell. One click. Moments later, the owner sends
an email, telling me that he has two episodes on video,
@ $3 each, no shipping charges. I Paypal him $6, and the videos
arrive by UPS three days after it became clear that The Jetsons
were indispensable. I thank him, he thanks me, and everyone is
a world we live in, where such transactions can take place with
such ease! No slogging through downtown and looking through racks
of videos. No checks or cash or even credit cards. And itís all
private, just a slight peak into the magical wonderful world of
the market economy that allows me to obtain in minutes an obviously
rare copy of a cartoon made thirty years ago and show it to my
kids in my own private home.
who sent these videos isnít officially designated by the statistics
collectors as a retailer or producer. He probably didnít go to
business school or take marketing classes. Heís just a guy with
a good video collection; the service ethic he displays was something
taught to him by the dictates of the market economy itself and
its relentless insistence that the interests of the consumer come
please donít accuse me of "worshiping at the altar of the
market." Worship is something owed to transcendent beings.
In heralding the magic of the marketplace, I am simply recognizing
that there is nothing on this earth as wonderfully productive
and service-oriented as commercial society, and its glories are
never more obvious than when contrasted with the work of government.
Let government brag about its ability to raze whole countries;
the impossibly wonderful ability of the market to coordinate the
needs and desires of billions, while exceeding the expectations
of everyone, is far more inspiring.
say that market is merely delivering trivial junk like The Jetsons.
First, itís not trivial; itís fun. Second, by the same methods,
my family obtains DVDs that teach French and Latin, rare books
on ancient civilization and history, CDs featuring music from
the high renaissance, and clothing that is cheaper and of higher
quality than anything available locally. In addition to providing
entertainment, the market is serving humanity in all of its highest
any case, The Jetsons videos did not disappoint. In the first
episode, George is feeling a financial pinch because his son wants
to go to spaceball camp and his daughter needs a new gown for
the prom. Meanwhile, his wife is stepping up her usual spending
habits. George begins to moonlight as a taxidriver and is nearly
fired from his day job (again!) for doing so. Fortunately he wins
the Venus lottery (in currency units valued at 75 cents on the
dollar), but unfortunately his family then goes on a wild spending
spree even before the payoff arrives.
his company Spacely Sprockets is faced with a takeover attempt
by some corporate raiders from Venus, which is apparently enjoying
economic boom times. Mr. Spacely appeals to George to help him
buy more stock to keep the company from falling into Venusian
thickens in every which way until the devastating news arrives
that Venusís economy has collapsed and the currency has been devalued.
It is now worth a tenth of a penny on the dollar. The takeover
attempt is held back but George is now faced with a mountain of
debt. The whole story of the inflated Venusian currency sounds
like Argentina today!
the second episode, the main competition to Spacely Sprockets,
Cogswell Cogs, moves next door in an apparent attempt to spy.
Mr. Spacely hands George the plans for the property and demands
that George figure out a way to build a high wall. Georgeís son
Elroy notices that the Cogswell Cogs building is six inches over
the property line! Mr. Spacely celebrates the news and demands
that Cogswell move his building.
beaten Cogswell goes along until he notices that George had the
plans upsidedown, and that itís Spacely who is over the property
line! Now Cogswell demands that Spacely move. George is fired
(again) until one day, when poking around his old office space,
George notices a city zoning inspector measuring the Cogswell
building to find it six inches higher than regulations permit.
The zoning police declare that the Cogswell building be torn down!
George delivers the great news to Mr. Spacely, only to have Spacely
announce the news that instead of moving his building, he had
agreed to buy Cogswellís now-worthless property!
course both episodes feature the technologies that made The Jetsons
famous: the fold-up flying cars, the space boots that walk on
walls and ceilings, the floating and moving sidewalks, and every
manner of robot. There are also plenty of old-tech items, like
cigars, which are used as a prop to signify prosperity. The Jetsons
cartoons foresaw the day when huge numbers of workers would sit
at terminals with screens. Note too that while there is a massive
amounts of personal freedom in the world of The Jetsons, there
are also many government-caused annoyances like zoning regulations
and financial bubbles.
of the advanced technology in The Jetsons looks old-hat by todayís
standards. Janeís facsimile dress selector looks like a 1970s
movie projector that merely broadcasts an image. Nothing special
there. And Elroyís enviro-simulator is impressive but no more
so than todayís video games. The mail is fast, but it is physical!
episodes I recall from childhood that are apparently unavailable:
the contest between Astro the real dog and Lectronimo the robot
dog; the episodes featuring the menacing cat burglar; the one
where Jane gets fed up with public transportation and decides
to take driving lessons.
episode as detailed on the unofficial
Jetsons site sounds great:
Jetson: Private Jetson is drafted, as George is a family man
he gets a full two minutes to report for duty. They're all
given an aptitude test, and one not-so-bright recruit jams
a square peg into a round hole, whereupon the automated grading
program determines that his "original thinking shows leadership
potential" and makes him a general.
I canít yet obtain it. Someday perhaps. The free marketís work
is never done. In honor of this great show and the family-friendly
market it celebrates, listen to its exhilarating