Thursday, January 30, 2014
Book Review: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
I have yet to consume any Ayn Rand but I would imagine that Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has got to go up there with Rand in terms of solid Libertarian manifestos.
"I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do."
"I beg of you — do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."
These are just two of the numerous quotes from the novel that truly resonate with me and I would think with many of the libertarians and Silicon Valley inhabitants among us.
The novel itself is, in theory, science fiction, as it takes place primarily on the Moon and in the future (such as it was imagined when Heinlein wrote the work in the mid '60s). Heinlein, like a proper great sci-fi author has a wonderfully imagined world of a penal colony on the Moon where the Earth sends many of its undesirables (not just pure criminals) to work as a compulsory labor force producing food for the starving masses back on the homeworld. You have underground "warrens" where people live, a shortage of women driving all sorts of varied family structures, a mish mash of racial and religious backgrounds, a "self aware" computer, rock throwing rail guns, a global Lunar Authority, etc. The novel is a futurist's thesis writ large.
Which isn't to say that this world is perfect--the participants are still tied to physical lines of communication--land lines for goodness sake! But Heinlein can be forgiven for smaller items like this. His overall call to arms for a rational anarchist revolution is an idea that grows with value each day. A society with no laws or rules besides ones own morals may be a libertarian fantasy but that's not to say its not something to strive for.
While the main character of the novel is Manuel Garcia O'Kelly-Davis who speaks to the reader in a Russian like patois it is Professor Bernardo de la Paz who gives the novel its motion and inspiration. la Paz is the theoretician and rational anarchist behind the Moon's revolution against Earth and it is he who drives the ideas Heinlein is directing to the reader. While I'm certainly not one to subscribe to all the ideas herein (and as this is a novel made to both entertain and to challenge it is NOT a political diatribe) the book does present a persuasive argument for revolution against authoritarian regimes as well as the subversive methods by which one might begin such an enterprise. As with the best sci-fi novels, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is both an excellent critique of our modern world and an entertaining supposition on where we might be heading. Well worth the read, it should really get your hamster spinning.