The Bezzle

by Maria on March 6, 2024

I recently read Cory Doctorow’s new novel, The Bezzle. (FYI his publisher sent me a copy.) It’s the follow-up (and in the story’s own timeline, a prequel) to Cory’s excellent tech-themed thriller, Red Team Blues. The hero of Red Team Blues is Marty Hench, a forensic accountant who loves barbecuing, whiskey, and exposing elaborate financial scams, especially cryptocurrency ones. He’s in his early sixties and gets called in by a vastly wealthy friend to retrieve the crypto-key an international crime family is after. It’s a thrilling ride that got me back into reading the first time covid fried my brain. Red Team Blues is also fascinating on crypto and cyber-security, and its attention to cultural and sociological detail is lovingly rendered, line by snappy line. The Bezzle takes Marty back to the dot com boom. Same guy, very different novel. Utterly worth your time.

First, the title. ‘Bezzle’ was coined by JK Galbraith to describe the blissful and often long moment when an embezzlement has occurred but before it’s been discovered. The embezzler has his money. The victim still thinks he has his. It’s the gravity-defying interval when Wile E. Coyote is running on air and hasn’t begun to fall.
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by John Q on March 6, 2024

In a few days time, I’ll be lining up in the 65-69 category for the Mooloolaba Olympic triathlon (1500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run)[1]. People in this age category are commonly described as “aging”, “older”, “seniors”, “elders” and, worst of all, “elderly” (though this mostly kicks in at 70). The one thing we are never called is “old”. But this is the only term that makes any sense. Everyone is aging, one year at a time, and a toddler is older than a baby. Senior and elder are similarly relative terms. And “elderly” routinely implies “frail” (a lot of old people are frail, but many more are not.

What accounts for the near-universal squeamishness that surrounds the term “old”? Apart from the obvious fact that you are a bit closer to death, it’s not that bad being old. Even if not everyone can complete a triathlon, most people maintain (self-assessed) good health to age 85 and beyond, In most developed countries, old people can live a reasonably comfortable life without having to work. And on average, that’s reflected in measures of happiness.

Yet, at least in the Anglosphere, old people don’t seem to be happy in political terms. It’s voters over 65 who provide the core support for conservative parties and are most likely to welcome the drift to the far right represented by Trump and his imitators.

The pattern is particularly striking in the UK where the YouGov poll shows the right and far-right leading easily among voters over 65 (37% Tory + 28 % Reform), while gaining essentially no votes from those aged 20-24, where the Tories tie for 5th place with the SNP, behind Labor, Green, Reform and LibDems [2].Presumably that reflects Brexit, a particularly irresponsible piece of nostalgia politics inflicted mostly by the old on the young.

But it’s the same in the US, Canada, Australia and (though mainly among women) New Zealand. While there has always been a tendency for old people to support the political right, it’s more marked now than it has ever been. And as is particularly evident with MAGA, there’s nothing conservative about this kind of politics. Its primary mode is authoritarian Christian nationalism.

In part, I think this reflects the increasing dominance of culture war issues, where views that were dominant 50 or 60 years ago are now considered unacceptable. Old people whose views haven’t changed in many years are likely to support the right on these issues.

I’d be interested in any thoughts on this.

fn1. Not expecting to do well, thanks to the hottest and stickiest summer I can remember, but I plan to finish.
fn2. A poll last year had the Tories on 1 per cent among young voters.