Friday, February 29, 2008
Revisiting a couple of classics of Libertarian SF
In my spare time (hah!) I've been rereading a couple of classic pieces of Libertarian-oriented SF. The best science fiction not only tells a great story and introduces new concepts, but includes some sort of mediation on society and the human condition (although it has to be carefully hidden as entertainment).
Two of the best short novels that really seriously consider the idea of law and anarcho-capitalist society are both by Barry Longyear. [Longyear's most famous work is Enemy Mine, which was later made into a bad movie starring Louis Gossett Jr., but it has never been my favorite.]
Circus World is the better known, a collection of linked short stories assembled into a quirky novel, that centers on the planet Momus, that was accidentally settled by a spaceship filled with a circus troupe. Now, centuries later, circus tradition has resulted in an anarcho-capitalist society that only has one law: a law about how to make other laws in case they would ever be necessary. But they've never seen the necessity.
Unfortunately, Momus is positioned right between two warring powers, either of which is more than willing to invade and occupy the planet. How do they survive without changing themselves into the authoritarian society that they so despise?
Lesser known, but to my mind probably a tighter novel, is Infinity Hold, wherein the way a future government deals with incorrigible criminals is simply to drop them in the middle of the desert on a hell planet and let them fend for themselves. The novel follows one group that survives by developing not just a sense of community, but a book of laws. It's brutal and moving at the same time.
Both books take an unflinching look at human nature and the origins of civil society.
Recommended reading if you have difficulty imagining how a truly Libertarian society might function.
[The links will take you to Amazon, but a good Libertarian will go out and haunt used bookstores to find a good copy; there are plenty of good battered paperback editions around.]