Thursday, March 04, 2004

Free as in "free beer" or free as in "The Moon"?

I read The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. I bought a few Nebula and Hugo award winners the other day, but I bought Moon specifically as part of my current push to find well-reasoned reading that promotes views I don't necessarily agree with. Moon, you see, is often touted as an excellent proponent of libertarian government (take the Amazon reviews for example).

I disagree. Heinlen is saying Libertarianism is very hard to pull of. While trying to stick to laws of reality and human nature, Heinlein invents a Moon that is the best possible breeding ground for a libertarian revolution and still insists his revolutionaries only have, at best, a one in seven chance of success (about 14%), and worse as the novel progresses. He has gives his culture a believably home-grown common law system that promotes independence and self-reliance, and yet at the end of the book no one can stop their new government from devolving towards an unwieldy control-accumulating bickering parliament, with all the power-grabbing and infighting of a stereotypical unicameral representative democracy. Don't get me wrong: from what I know of history the power-grabbing and infighting in communist states and under authoritarian monarchies are far, far worse, but my point is that as hard as he tries, Heinlein concedes that even the ideals he loves cannot hold. He can't make himself a realistic happy ending. There is none. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

Bottom line: I recommend the book. If nothing else, it's a good read. I don't understand why anyone bothers recommending Ayn Rand when there's stuff like this around. The folks at Jerkcity (the "t" stands for "tell") said it better than I would have.

More Friday (or tomorrow, time permitting) on cultural institutions and personal responsibility and whether I actually agree with Heinlein. Either that, or Neil Gaiman.

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