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A political time warp appeared in my world a few days ago. I was out of commission for a couple of days for one of those standard older-person medical tests. (Yes, that one. And everything is fine.) A book offered a way to fill the time. We went to Barnes and Noble. My wife browsed, girl style. I shopped guy style — quickly, that is.
The book — a physical book with paper and words produced with ink — was Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress,” a Baby Boomer science fiction classic first published in 1966. The new copy was from the 23rd printing of an edition that first appeared in 1997.
The time warp announced itself on the cover. “His (Heinlein’s) classic Hugo Award-winning novel of libertarian revolution,” it said. I thought “Libertarian” (with the capital “L”) was a current conversation, one led by former Gov. Gary Johnson. Maybe some of those Baby Boomers who read books such as this one managed to avoid being buried by sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and brought the ideas forward as they turned into gray-haired, paunchy Tea Partiers and Libertarians.
As we are just past the Fourth of July, a quick review of ideas from Mistress seems worthwhile.
In the book, it is 2076. The moon, called “Luna,” has been populated by convicts, just as with Australia. Such governance as exists comes from police. An informal society has evolved without written rules. Citizens shove bad guys out air locks. Harsh, indeed. Pre-revolt, the average citizen’s interest is, in this order, “beer, betting, women and work.” Men outnumber women two-to-one. Women are idealized.
Two key questions are: “Under what circumstances may the State justly place its welfare above that of a citizen?” And, “Under what circumstances is it moral for a group to do what is not moral for a member of that group to do alone?”
In these days of IRS shenanigans against conservatives and National Security Agency data sweeps, the questions are worth some pondering.
One answer is that “concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ exist only as physically exemplified in the acts of self responsible individuals … In terms of morals, there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts.”
Very early the mantra is the unfortunate Descartes-Rousseau slogan of “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!” that fueled the slaughter of the French revolution and the Paris-dominant state of today.
Then the thinking moves to markets and “the most basic human right, the right to bargain in a free marketplace.”
A market means people exchanging one thing, which they do well, for another, which someone else does well. Markets provide for healthcare, libraries, roads, education, pensions, and jury trials. Families tend to the elderly. Marriage licenses and other similar regulation doesn’t exist. “Official records” and official record keepers such as county clerks don’t exist either. Families keep their own records.
Luna’s complex marriage system is “the strongest possible device for conserving capital and insuring the welfare of children — the two basic societal functions for marriage everywhere.”
Once the revolution is successful, Luna needs a governance structure. The design is to accomplish little. “What I fear most are affirmative actions of sober and well intentioned men, granting to government powers to do something that appears to need doing. The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys.”
Our government these days successfully follows the Heinlein mantra of little accomplishment. However, today, some things need doing. But Republicans continue to lie about immigration and Democrats continue to lie about entitlements.
The recent revolt on the “agriculture” (i.e. food stamp) bill offers a small positive ray.