Joshua Shenk

Recent Articles

Hidden Kingdom: Disney's Political Blueprint

Walt Disney dubbed one of his attractions the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT), but the name might better describe his design for private government.

W illiam Sterner, mayor of Lake Buena Vista, Florida, says he's "like any small-town mayor." But Lake Buena Vista isn't quite like any small town. It has about 40 citizens, some 30 million visitors a year, and one business that owns virtually all its land. The big landowner is the Walt Disney World Company, the tourist attraction is Disney World, and Mayor Sterner, who is a computer-operations supervisor in Disney World's corporate offices, governs at the company's pleasure. Were he fired, he could be evicted from the trailer park where he lives; the same goes for the roughly 40 other employees who live there, all of whom are nonunion. Lake Buena Vista's council executes only one order of consequence each year: turning over control of roads, utilities, inspections, and licensing to an entity called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which in turn is a creature of the Disney Company. Is this any way to run a theme park? You bet. Disney World's structure enables the company to act...

The Myth of Lincoln, Reconstructed

A braham Lincoln was born poor on the rugged frontier. He was physically odd, ugly even, and prone to despair. But he educated himself, elevated himself, and struck the first fatal blows against slavery. While saving the union, he also made it "the last best hope of earth." While winning an awful war, he pledged "malice toward none." Then he was killed. If stories are our instruments, here is one that seems crafted by a master. It reaches back beyond language, into the primordial pool where myths do their work. Individuals tell themselves stories to live, and so do families, tribes, and nations. The Greeks had the gods of Olympus; the Elizabethans had Shakespeare's royalty. Americans have Lincoln--or, at least, we did. Thanks to the careful, thoughtful work of scholars, we can now apprehend the factual Lincoln better than ever. But the iconic Lincoln has a faded look, a hollow sound. In recent years, sociologist Barry Schwartz has shown, Lincoln's numbers have fallen sharply in...