1984 by George Orwell

General Description (from Amazon.com)
Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life–the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language–and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

This novel by George Orwell was published in 1949 as a warning about the menaces of totalitarianism. The novel is set in an imaginary future world that is dominated by three perpetually warring totalitarian police states. The book’s hero, Winston Smith, is a minor party functionary in one of these states. His longing for truth and decency leads him to secretly rebel against the government. Smith has a love affair with a like-minded woman, but they are both arrested by the Thought Police. The ensuing imprisonment, torture, and reeducation of Smith are intended not merely to break him physically or make him submit but to root out his independent mental existence and his spiritual dignity. Orwell’s warning of the dangers of totalitarianism made a deep impression on his contemporaries and upon subsequent readers, and the book’s title and many of its coinages, such as NEWSPEAK, became bywords for modern political abuses.

Why the President Should Read This Book
Sometimes we do not know what we are working towards until we see the end result. Ofttimes politicians do not foresee what they are creating even with the simplest legislation, hence the “law of unintended consequences”. Perhaps better than any book, 1984 shows a potential end result for a society where a federal government, due to technology, has more power over individual members of society than any government in history has had. The result is a dehumanization of people in general, with control leading to neither security, nor prosperity, nor much of any measure of happiness, other than for those people whose intellectual capabilities border on non-existent. The book is a warning of what might happen if a government tries to do too much for its citizens, and seems all too applicable today–certainly much more so for citizens of the United States than it was in 1984.

Personal Notes
I’ve often found it interesting that a book entitled “1984″ should remain relevant and popular well after that year, and well after the fall of the USSR, where the book’s scenario was played out more than anywhere else. I would also wager that in 1984, the idea that such a scenario was something US citizens would need to worry about becoming a reality in this country, was not widely held. I remember at the age of 15 or so, around 1990, hearing someone say that the greatest threat we faced was socialism, and I thought “What are they talking about? Didn’t that end with the USSR a year or two ago?” And yet today in 2010, the danger seems much more menacing than the USSR ever did.