In a dream d’Anvers, the fictional editor, found himself in a pleasant and fruitful island where a happy and prosperous people lived in freedom.  The countryside abounded with produce and the cities were rich in skilled artisans and honest traders.  The island’s government was stable and free.  “The constitution of her government was so happily mixed and balanced that it was the mutual interest of the Prince and the people to support it.”  Liberty and plenty filled the happy Commonwealth.  But suddenly, a tree shot up, and grew so high that its head was lost in the clouds and its branches darkened the land.

I saw it put forth a vast quantity of beautiful Fruit which glittered like burnished gold, and hung in large clusters on every bough.  I now perceived to be the Tree of Corruption, which bears a very near resemblance to the Tree of Knowledge, in the Garden of Eden, for whoever tasted the fruit of it, lost his integrity and fell, like Adam, from the state of innocence.

The fruits bore inscriptions such as “East India,” “Bank contracts,” “South Sea,” “Differentials,” “Patents,” “Credit,” “Stocks” and other terms characteristic of the new order.  Perched in the middle of the tree was a fat man who plucked down golden apples and tossed them to the crowd below.  The tree and its fruit poisoned everything in sight.  As the blight spread and covered the entire land, the farms would not produce, the artisan went hungry, the merchant laid up his ships, and “a general scene of poverty discovered itself amongst all ranks of the people, and nothing was to be heard through the whole land but piercing lamentations and agonies of despair”–nothing, that is, but the gluttonous laughter of those scampering in and around the tree and eating of its financial fruits. ~Isaac Kramnick, Bolingbroke & His Circle

In an updated version, the fruits might read “Enron,” “K Street Project,” “Wal-Mart,” “Offshoring,” “National Debt,” “Creative Destruction,” and so forth.