Science Fiction

Vonnegut, Heinlein, Kipling, and Others Battle It Out for a Libertarian Award

Finalists for a libertarian literary prize

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The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced its finalists for this year's Hall of Fame award. This is one of two prizes the group gives out annually: The Prometheus Award honors the best libertarian-themed novel of the past year, while the Hall of Fame Award goes to libertarian fiction that first appeared at least half a decade ago. The focus is on science fiction—hence that word "Futurist"—but non-sf works are occasionally added to the mix. (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Fountainhead have both been nominated for the Hall of Fame in the past, and in 2000 that prize went to Hans Christian Anderson's "The Emperor's New Clothes.")

This year's nominees are unusual in that they're all short stories rather than novels. From the press release:

London Magazine

• "As Easy as A.B.C.," by Rudyard Kipling (first published 1912 in London Magazine), the second of his "airship utopia" stories, portrays a crisis in a twenty-first century society where an unpopular minority calls for the revival of democracy, and a largely hands-off world government is forced to step in and protect them.

• "Conquest by Default," by Vernor Vinge (first published 1968 in Analog) is his first exploration of the idea of anarchism, in which a stateless alien society visits an Earth recovering from nuclear war. The story combines a novel approach to the problem of avoiding the decay of anarchy into government with an evocation of the tragic impact of cultural change.

• "Coventry," by Robert A. Heinlein (first published 1940 in Astounding Science Fiction) envisions the Covenant, a social compact under which breaking the law, as such, cannot be punished unless actual harm to someone has been demonstrated. The story contrasts that society with a lawless "anarchy" into which those who break the covenant are sent.

• "Harrison Bergeron," by Kurt Vonnegut (first published [1961] in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), satirizes the idea of radical egalitarianism with a portrayal of a society where all talented people are compulsorily brought down to average—until one gifted youth rebels against the system.

• "Starfog," by Poul Anderson (first published 1967 in Analog) envisions a widespread interstellar society millennia after the fall of a Galactic Empire, unified by the Commonality, a mutual aid organization. The story explores methods of carrying out large-scale projects through voluntary cooperation and market incentives under conditions where central control is unworkable.

• "With Folded Hands…" by Jack Williamson (first published 1947 in Astounding Science Fiction), uses science fiction to satirize the modern "nanny state" and explore an ethical theme: the peril of unrestricted authority, even (or especially) when it is used totally altruistically to take care of those subjected to it.

The press release also mentions some nominees that didn't make this year's cut of finalists, including Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Philip K. Dick's "The Exit Door Leads In," among others. (They really should give the Dick story the prize sometime. It may be the most anti-authoritarian thing he ever wrote, and it has new resonance in the age of Snowden. Read it here.) Another also-ran is William Golding's Lord of the Flies, which I remember as being rather anti-libertarian, but I read it around 1981 so I might not argue if you tell me I'm wrong down in the comments.

For a list of past winners, go here.

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  1. I might not argue if you tell me I’m wrong down in the comments.

    Wait…Reason commenters criticize the articles here?!!!

    *faints*

    1. Wait, there are articles? When the hell did that happen?!

      1. Obama called it in 3 days before leaving office.

      2. I only read it for the centerfold.

  2. I was gonna suggest Eric Frank Russell’s The Great Explosion, but i see it already won the Hall of Fame award back in 1985.

    1. David Gerrold’s “War against the Chtorr” has a half-book homage to RAH.
      And his other aborted series “Jumping Off the Earth”, I think it’s called, is pretty libertarian.

  3. I hate Lord of the Flies. May not be anti-libertarian, but it portrays a view of human nature that isn’t very amenable to libertarianism.

    I quite like Vonnegut, but it always amazes me that the guy who wrote Harrison Bergeron called himself a socialist.

    1. Harrison Bergeron is awesome. Especially the movie version.

      1. Agreed. I’ve been fairly harsh on Vonnegut in these pages, but that story almost makes up for it. Almost.

        1. Really? I’ve never met a Vonnegut story I’ve liked. But I’ve never read this one. Hmmmmm…
          If I actually learn something in the comment section it may cause me to rethink my life.

          1. Ever read Breakfast of Champions?
            It’s as unlibertarian as most of his stuff, but has a very different flavor.

    2. Vonnegut as a writer is good, my exposures to him as a human being have been so uniformly awful that I cannot read his books untainted by the vast clouds of smug d-baggery and Luddite shit.

      1. Go on…

        1. Yeah Mike, expand on that.

          1. Worked security for an event where he spoke (and caught a few others online/tv), and just rubbed me the wrong way in all regards. Guy thinks computers are the end of writing, that we’ll be back sliding immediately into the stone age. Seemed to think he was better than everyone/thing around.

            This was back 2005-2006 I seem to recall a bit of partisan sniping. But the experience was one that soured me on his writing.

            1. Thx. I’d heard he was kind of a weird jerk. It seems that’s not a solitary opinion.

              1. Doing event security sours you on a lot of people if your’e considered well enough socialized to be near the talent.

                I now despise a few, Greenday are children, Madonna’s spoiled. I have opinions on others, but I stopped the gig in 2006 and it’s amazing how few pop stars are still relevant now.

                Lead singer from Anthrax (Scott Ian) is a good dude though. Saw my buddy sitting outside his dressing room, chatted with him, and had craft services bring him a water bottle.

                1. “Greenday are children, Madonna’s spoiled”

                  Can you imagine how much the National Enquirer would pay for an exclusive like that?

                  …just kidding around.

            2. I saw him at a book reading for “Timequake” in the late 1990s. he was a jerk to everyone. he seemed to think his attitude was supposed to be ‘cute’; which i suppose it would have been in the 1960-70s. Being ostentatiously misanthropic and grating may have been the hallmark of a “creative mind” in his heyday. By the late 1990s, his books were sort of dull and uninteresting next to say, Brett Easton Ellis or Thomas Pynchon. He had very little new to say, and he kept reminding people of this. He more than once asked, “Why are you people even here?” He would read bits of his book, then stop and go, “god that’s terrible”. Then he’d try and tell a story but it wouldn’t go anywhere. The audience was if anything desperate to worship the guy and excuse anything he might say, but it seemed like he’d been dealing with this attitude forever and no longer recognized what “normal people” might think. I brought along a teenager who was a big reader and thought it would be a fun experience for them. Not so much, really. The learning experience he had was, “Old people can be dicks”

    3. I’ve read takes that Harrison Bergeron was so wildly out of character for him, that it’s actually a jab at non-socialists, satirizing their (in his view) shallow and unrealistic fears of what socialism would entail.

      It’s like The Simpsons. Generally when they want to support some idea, they show that idea being enacted, and then the worst, most hyperbolic series of things “go wrong” with it. A superficial reading would say that it is justifying the fear people have of whatever the concept is, but in actuality it is satirizing that fear by showing it to be unrealistically extreme.

      1. But we all know that “unrealistically extreme” is always trumped (ahem) by reality. Like if someone wrote in the 1930s about the Holocaust.

      2. Harrison Bergeron was so wildly out of character for him

        Its actually very hard to say that.

        the book “Welcome to the Monkey House”, where HB appears, has a handful of stories that reveal similar ‘broadly libertarian’ thinking. The title story is about Govt-mandated “anti-sex-drugs” (to restrain population growth) and Govt-promoted “suicide parlors”. The Euphio Question is about technology providing ‘instant & effortless happiness’, which in turn would result in complete loss of social desires…. and suggests that ‘perfect solutions’ are generally bad for humankind, and that we’re better off struggling to achieve personal self-satisfaction rather than have it handed to us with the press of a button. And others.

        it may have been out of character with what became his later political posturing, which was more ‘incoherently very-liberal’… but i think in his very early books he was far more suspicious of government and any other establishment institutions which limited freedom.

        1. footnote =

          as i mention below – people often get confused about “Monkey House” being an ‘early book’ since it was published in the late 60s. Many of the stories in it were from far earlier in his career

        2. Vonnegut was very much a “if only the right people were in charge” type.

      3. I must be superficial because that’s the take I always get, whether from Bergeron or The Simpsons.

    4. It may not be expressly libertarian, but I read it as a repudiation of the progressive idea that mankind is innocent in its infancy and if reduced to a primitive state can be refashioned to form perfectly egalitarian collectives.

      1. I sort of read it as saying that people are inherent savages who need to be governed. I like to think people are better at cooperating under adverse conditions than that.

      2. the progressive idea that mankind is innocent in its infancy

        It’s not just progressives. They recycled that idea from Judeo-Christian writings. The Garden of Eden. The “Golden Age” of Ancient Greece. Basically it’s all prelapsarian aggrandizement – positing a mythical golden age where everything was oh-so-peachy. That also dovetails with the idea of original sin.

    5. You just don’t like Lord of the Flies cause libertarians are Piggy. The book does have a lot to say about the nature of power, corruption and violence of those who have political power over those who don’t, the illusion of power and debate, etc.

      1. I identified with Piggy. *has sad, then looks again at other characters…brightens back up

        1. Sucks to your asthmar!

          1. Squeal like a pig!

            Oh wait, that’s a different libertarian work of fiction.

    6. I quite like Vonnegut, but it always amazes me that the guy who wrote Harrison Bergeron called himself a socialist.

      I’ve read and enjoyed most of Vonnegut’s stuff.. but upon re-reading a lot of it later in life, his diehard socialist stuff definitely creeps in and seems more obvious to me.

    7. Lord of the Flies was a good book but it is not a terribly accurate representation of human nature. It might have captured accurately what would happen to a group of early teen boys who have never had a moments freedom in their lives in that situation but as a general rule it is not translatable to adults put into the same scenario.

      1. That’s pretty much my criticism of it. And too many people just assume that it is an accurate depiction of human nature absent the guiding hand of government.

        1. Except the worst savage in the story was one of the tribal leaders.

    8. Really? I thought that Lord of the Flies showed that power hungry people who make the rules are first to break them, first to act irrationally, and first to start the bloodletting when things don’t go their way.

    9. I quite like Vonnegut, but it always amazes me that the guy who wrote Harrison Bergeron called himself a socialist.

      It’s a parody of right-wing hysteria about socialism, so there’s that.

  4. The Handmaid’s Tale didn’t win? Color me shocked.

    1. I have it winning in the comedy category.

    2. To be fair, it does actually portray a pretty anti-libertarian society. The logic of how it got to that point and the other political points expressed are the problem.

      1. My comment was a jab at the anti-women agenda of many libertarians.

        1. Hey now, I don’t have an anti-women agenda, I love women. That’s why I want to keep them safe and protected in the Breeding Pits.

  5. Where’s Mien Kamph?

    Probably an unmentioned previous winner.

    As in “you know who else won a libertarian literary prize?”

    1. Bill Weld?

    2. Bob Barr?

    3. Where’s Mien Kamph?

      That looks like Vietnamese or Cambodian?

      1. I like it with the flat rice noodles.

      2. I prefer the beef mein kamph to the chicken.

    4. Further down the menu, in the noodle section.

  6. I nominate The Killing Star, because libertarians are all about cold Darwinian competition, earth-rape, and Star Trek.

    1. I read Peter Theil’s interview with Maureen Dowd recently, and I liked his observations on Star Trek – it appeals to progressives, because of the “save the universe” feeling to the show, but Star Wars is decidedly capitalist, as our first introduction to Han Solo shows him in debt and having to pay his bills.

      1. I think ST:TOS was pretty standard 60s liberal (i.e. not extreme left) optimism. It was TNG that went from fairly benign things are better, to full out socialist no money, everybody can sit in the park and write poetry and not have to worry about paying bills or eating or anything.

  7. I thought Harrison Bergeron was Vonnegut’s criticism of criticisms of socialism. He certainly didn’t have a great deal of respect for laissez-faire.

    1. Then he’s a terrible writer because it could hardly be a more accurate portrayal what’s actually going on.

  8. Lord of the Flies depicts human nature as naturally hierarchical with order breaking down once authority is overturned and man gives in to his baser instincts.

    So sure, it’s anti-libertarian in the sense that classical conservatism is anti-libertarian.

    1. But order didn’t break down in Lord of the Flies. The boys were rather quickly in establishing a government.

      1. And what is the underlying basis of government authority?

        1. The fact that we are biologically wired to follow a strong leader because we are pack animals.

          1. ….

            not the answer i was looking for. also = don’t think that’s even ‘metaphorically’ true. any group of humans that has had a single male try and covet all the wimmins has ended up with that male’s head on a stick. because we’re “biologically wired” (to use a recent, if iffy-expression) to mate in binary pairs.

            I was looking for “violence”. But you still get a gold star for class-participation.

            1. In primates, the pack leader does not control mating access to all the females, just the most fit females. Furthermore, the pack leader cannot rule alone, but must have allies. Read Chimpanzee Politics for a good explanation of this.

              1. the pack leader does not control mating access to all the females, just the most fit females.

                Bill Clinton disproves this theory

                1. Subjective theory of fitness.

        2. Watery tarts distributing swords.

          1. “Oh but if I went ’round sayin’ I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away.”

          2. Come and see the violence inherent in the system.

            1. HELP! I am being repressed!

      2. Yup. If anything, the book is anti-anarchism, as it points out even children will form a government.

        I, too, haven’t read it in a while, but it seems that a limited government that protects the rights of people from aggression would have been an excellent solution to the situation.

      3. They at first attempt to form some semblance of government with Ralph in charge because he finds the conch shell that summons the rest of the boys to the beach but this order gradually breaks down to due to their isolation from civilization and, being adolescent boys, inability to use reason to suppress their natural urges.

        The scene where Jack and the boys kill the pig is dripping with sexual imagery that underscores the primitive urges Golding thinks resides in all men. They start to worship the pig’s head and eventually this comes to a head when they brutally kill Piggy and smash the conch.

        1. They start to worship the pig’s head and eventually this comes to a head when they brutally kill Piggy and smash the conch.

          Talk about “dripping” with sexual imagery!

          1. Indeed I am going suggest to the Mrs that tonight I am going to kill piggy and “smash the conch” and she’s gonna like it! heh

    2. Didn’t Heinlein write Tunnel in the Sky as a response to Lord of the Flies?

      1. I do believe I read that somewhere before, so I’ll accept it now as fact.

        1. So there’s you, Milo and wherever you heard it before. That’s three sources. It’s now common knowledge!

      2. They are often compared and contrasted, but I’m not sure it is a direct response.

      3. “Didn’t Heinlein write Tunnel in the Sky as a response to Lord of the Flies?”

        It’s certainly the more realistic and optimistic story.

    3. The entirety of the book comes off as the boys establishing a society with structure and rules, or breaking off to form their own. Those in power exploiting and working their way to the top, only to turn on and attack weaker members and those who question their power.

      Lord of the Flies isn’t about humans in a state of anarchy, it’s about humans in the societies they form.

      1. Well said, John.

    4. To some extent, it also comes down to how you interpret the ending — as the re-imposition of desirable social order, or the recognition that international relations in the civilized world are no less feral and anarchic.

      1. I think Golding was ultimately saying that people need to be governed, even if unwisely. The island is depicted as an Eden that’s physically disfigured by the actions of the boys which is to suggest that man is incapable of living in such a natural state peacefully so the next best thing is a world of artificial rules.

        The fact that this leads to cities being wiped out by nuclear warfare is why I regard it as a very pessimistic novel.

  9. They really should give the Dick story the prize

    Is someone nominating SugarFree?

    and

    How are we not doing phrasing anymore?

  10. ? “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut

    there have been a number of arguments made where people have said that HB is a “Parody” of a libertarian argument, rather than a sincere one.

    iow, that’s its a fantastical exaggeration of the worst-fears of libertarians made manifest… intended to suggest that libertarians are tilting at windmills = the “enforced equality” they fear imagines themselves as super-beings being restrained by an impossibly-personalized government (rather than a more banal, generalizing one)

    I can’t paraphrase the whole thing. But there have been efforts by the left to reclaim Harrison Bergeron as an argument in support of their own ‘realist’ concepts of a proper nanny-state. and while i don’t know whether scholars agree or not, i can imagine most high-school teachers who assign that story probably run with the “updated” understanding of it.

    I’d find a link for you, but don’t have time at the moment.

    re: Lord of Flies…

    I don’t know if its pro-libertarian so much as it is a critique of the starry-eyed liberal notion that mankind is more-humane and just in a state-of-nature (like as children, or primitive indians – e.g. “things fall apart”)

    it would seem more Hobbesian than libertarian

    1. When I saw Vonnegut in the title I wondered why, (I forgot about Harrison Bergeron) most of his novels are chock full of socialist Utopian ideas. I just might buy the updated take on Harrison Bergeron.

      1. I just might buy the updated take on Harrison Bergeron.

        I don’t have very strong feelings either way.

        But – as i noted aboveWelcome to the Monkey House is unique among all of KV’s books for having the strongest “Libertarianish” themes.

        it was published as a book in the late 1960s, when he was pretty solidly left-wing…. but most of the stories in the book dated from the early 1950s to the early 1960s, when he was far less clear about his utopian-socialist-bent… which makes sense, given that he’d probably have been labeled a closet “Red” had he done so.

  11. What, no High Desert Barbecue??

    1. (now I want me some Rocklands. Haven’t been there in months)

  12. My local NPR station spent two months telling me how Vonnegut suggested the federal government have a “secretary of the future”– because no one, but NO one in politics ever ran on looking ahead.

    The station treated this suggestion like it was the most glorious insight into policy of the industrial age.

    1. Reminds me of Dennis Kucinich advocating for a “Department of Peace.” That’s the State Department, dude.

  13. Who would win in a fight between Vonnegut, Heinlein, and Kipling? I’m going with Kipling. Kurt’s a total puss and even though Heinlein is ex-military – he worked the radio on a boat.

    1. Wasn’t Vonnegut ex-military? Or do I misremember the story behind Slaughterhouse Five?

      1. I believe he was in Dresden during the bombing.

        1. Yes. He said that he was in in the novel as the soldier shitting himself to death in the POW camp latrine.

          1. He was a draftee sent with a very green unit to Europe. He ended up in the Ardennes and being one of the thousands of green troops who were surrounded and captured during the early days of the Battle of the Bulge. That is how he ended up in Dresden.

            1. IIRC, he was out of town on a road building crew and saw the the city burn, along with the camp with his buddies in it.

      2. Yeah. I don’t think he was a total puss. Just a misanthropic jerk.

    2. Heinlein, if you gave him enough time to load his cannon.

    3. LAH, he was also a gunnery officer and taught small arms.Have a look at William Patterson’s bio. Excellent work.

  14. Spoilers

    I like the idea of “Coventry” but I’m not sure what Heinlein was doing it was advocated the social compact idea. The anarchy of the Coventry penal colony is shown in an unflattering light and the protagonist eventually agrees to be psychologically adjusted in order to be accepted back into society.

    1. the protagonist eventually agrees to be psychologically adjusted in order to be accepted back into society.

      Is that like apologizing on Twitter?

      1. No, it is a hypnosis and drug based brainwashing to remove undesirable belief patterns, IIRC.

    2. I’ve always liked best the part where the protagonist goes before a court in Coventry and expects it to be like the courts on the outside. A good lesson on how certain societal values are not universal.

  15. OT, everything really is projection with Progressives. They call everyone else racist but in fact always turn out to be the most appalling ones themselves

    http://hotair.com/archives/201…..e-negroes/

    Oh my. Donald Trump and campaign tried to respond to attacks on its diversity by making that a priority, putting small businessman Bruce LeVell in charge of those efforts. LeVell has become part of the transition as well, reaching out to minority communities and bringing people together with the president-elect. No one seriously thought that this would impress people on the Left, but perhaps no one would have guessed that CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill would have called those who engage with the Trump team “mediocre Negroes,” either. Lamont Hill also explicitly aims that epithet directly at LeVell

    1. “Progs criticize Trump team for lack of diversity; insult all minorities who join.”

    2. Lamont Hill is naught but a driver, as are most of his like. Appointed by his masters to maintain order and discipline on the plantation.

    3. I still think the Harambe bullshit was the most racist thing I’ve seen in a long while. The left took a meme about a dead gorilla, imagined a black man, and then projected that on to non-leftists who they then called racist.

      Fucking racist idiots.

      1. Its like when they say everything is a “racist dog whistle”. You have to be a racist to understand the meaning of the dog whistle issue yet somehow they always hear the dog whistle. Funny that.

    4. “mediocre Negroes,”

      Now there’s a band name!

      1. Would make a good name for a Jazz fusion band.

    5. “mediocre Negroes,”

      The mediocre Negroes and the Renegade Jews should get together and form a band.

      1. America’s new ethnic super group, “Renegade Jew and the Mediocre Negros”.

  16. Can living authors be nominated?

    If yes, I’d nominate Alexander Rozov’s Deportation.

    (I believe there was another English translation somewhere but not sure if it’s any better)

  17. My take on LotF has always been that you’ve got Man in a state of nature and two conflicting views of human nature – the Hobbesian war of all against all where the strong eat the weak and you need a mean bastard to keep them in line and the more Lockeian view of men rationally cooperating to mutual benefit where the smart are seen as the best leaders. The pig is the Great Unknown and we can choose to approach it as something to be studied to glean useful knowledge from or a fearful terror we must cast wards against lest it destroy us. And we maybe should be suspicious of the ones cautioning the wards and spells protections when they’re in the business of selling wards and spells. Don’t look behind the curtain, there’s some scary stuff back there only we know how to deal with.

    And which side does Golding come down on? At the end of the book, as the Hobbes are chasing the Lockes down the beach preparing to brutally slay them to prove once and for all that the strong rule the smart, a nearly literal deus ex machina appears in the form of a ship’s captain to rescue the reader from the dilemma. Now was Golding cleverly leaving it to the reader to decide for himself whether man is more beast than god, was he putting in a word for the idea that we need some sort of god to rescue us from our existential duality, or was he just a lazy bastard who couldn’t decide how the book should end and just threw some shit together?

  18. Wow. The Libertarian Futurist Society overlooked both Snow Crash and Steel Beach to give The Prometheus to James P. Hogan in 1993. Derp.

  19. ? “Starfog,” by Poul Anderson

    I’m on a major Anderson read right now, and of course they pick the story I haven’t gotten to yet.
    He got the award already for Trader to the Stars, but I’d have given it for Mirkheim, where his aged merchant-prince goes on a tirade as he sees that barbarity and darkness are descending, and no one can stop them:

    “Instead, authority takes over. Slogans substitute for thinking, beginning with the intellectuals but soon percolating down to the ordinary working man. Politicians appoint themselves magicians, who by passing laws and jacking up taxes and conjuring money out of thin air can guarantee everybody a soft ride through life. The favored businesses and institutions divide up the territory and strangle out anybody what might have something new. For every shipwreck what government brings about, the cure is more government. Power grows till its appetite is too great for filling on a single planet. Also, maybe troubles at home can be exported on bayonet points. But somehow, the real barbarians is never those that is fought, until too late . . . .

  20. I always thought of LotF as the “worst case scenario”. Not realism, but also an antidote to the idea that mankind is inherently “good”.

    Mankind isn’t inherently good or evil. People choose good or evil. And LotF could turn out very differently if the right children are there. But isn’t that really the problem? Just keep rolling the dice for the right TOP MEN?

    Also, of all the authors listed, only Heinlein (one of my all time favorites), Vinge (whose stories I personally don’t care for) and maybe Poul Anderson (though he is a committed “left-libertarian”) should be called “libertarian” in any way.

    And why have none of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s work won the Hall of Fame?

    1. Separately or together? Mote in gods eye is. Dry different from ringworld.

  21. 2009 J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

    Huh?

    1. You got that right. Love the book, but in no way is it Libertarian.

    2. THE RING IS THE STATE APPARATUS

      1. The preciousssss?

    3. Shire is pretty minarchist, and final chapters are about reclaiming it from an oppressive regime?

      1. But the rest of it is a glorification monarchy in that authoritarian rule is awesome if you have “the right king.”

        1. But in the end, it is a rejection of both power and top men. Monarchy isn’t that awesome. If it were, the solution would be to use the ring and kick Sarum’s ass rather than destroy it. And for all of the fighting and heroics of the top men, they are ultimately unnecessary to the plot or at most a distraction. Think about it, even if the Orc’s had overrun helm’s deep or Sarum had managed to take Mineas Tirith, Frodo and Sam still would have dropped the ring into Mount Doom destroying Sarum and with him all of his creations. The world ends up being saved by the two most modest creatures in middle earth and the furthest from the top men running Rohan and Mineas Tirith.

          1. Sarum? The medieval name for Salisbury?

            1. You know who I mean. Pardon my lack of Nerd creed to have mastered the spelling of Middle Earth.

              1. Do you mean Saruman or Sauron? They’re different dudes.

                1. Sauron. Saruman wasn’t destroyed when the ring was destroyed and never attacked Mineas Tirith. The context explains which one I mean.

                  1. I know, i’m just busting your chops.

                    1. It is a dark secret I rarely let show Zeb.

        2. Sarum ends up being destroyed because it never occurred to him that anyone would want to destroy the ring or ever trust it in the hands of anything but a top man. So, he never looks for the midgets sneaking into Mordor the back way and destroying the ring and him with it.

          1. I agree it is in a lot of ways an anti-authoritarian work, I just don’t think it has much to do with libertarianism/small government per se.

            1. That is true. I don’t think he thought in those terms. He was thinking about the temptations of power and evil not the workings of government.

              1. I think he was way more interested in writing a bunch of vanity projects and binding them together in a convenient allegory.

        3. *shrug*

          Blame Saxons and/or Norse, whose worldview inspired LotR. Although “authoritarian” is not quite a right term to use for a king who is open-handed, listens to his nobles, ensures peasants are well-treated, has earned his crown defending his people on a field of battle in a war for their literal existence, and faces his death with stoicism and dignity.
          And again, book opens and closes in Shire. Hobbits who saw a kind of king that rises once in a millennia like, admire and respect him, and never occurs to them for a second that Kings Are The Answer.

          But I agree, if you have an Award For Political Outlook, LotR doesn’t go there.

          1. But it never occurred to them that Aragon should rule the Shire either.

            1. Ah, yes, that too.
              I mean, the most educated ones might shrug and accept “Sure, technically he’s king of Arnor as well, and he might consider himself our ruler, but so what does that have to do with our lives?”

        4. Tolkien was more like those weirdo anarchist/monarchist people than anything, I think.

          1. And the divine beings, other than the Elves, who are just magical but flawed versions of human beings, never assert themselves, except for the evil ones. The good ones just hang around and try to cheer lead men and elves into doing the right thing. Think about it, other than a few magic tricks with fireworks and lighting the way through the Mines of Morea, what the hell does Gandolf actually do? Gets in a death match with the Balrog, which is another divine creature and that is about it. Otherwise he just rides around and tries to talk the various elves and men into doing the right thing. He never actually uses his magic against men or elves or really even Orcs, who are just mutated and fucked up elves. It is always the evil side that is using magic to create super orcs and control people’s minds. The good guys never do. So the message is that free will is good and divine power and control over human actions is evil.

            1. I think Gandalf didn’t use his power much because power corrupts.

              1. Yes. And I think that is the entire point and why Tolkien can be called pro liberty.

                1. Ok, you guys really make me think. I like it. *squeaky wheel sound from cranium

                2. Didn’t he represent Jesus? So is Tolkien saying that even deities can be corrupted? Why do I feel like Judge Nap all of the sudden?

                  1. People say that Bacon but that is because he died and was sent back to complete his task. I don’t see it as a very good analogy. Gandolf doesn’t redeem anyone much less the world. And his death doesn’t destroy or save the world in anyway. It doesn’t even destroy the ring.

                  2. Nope, no Jesus on Middle Earth (or rather, if you accept the ‘this is ancient history of our world’, Jesus comes around later).

                    Gandalf is your basic angel, one of five sent as messengers and agents. Their job was to advise and guide, but not directly interfere, in opposing the plans of Sauron, one of the fallen angels.
                    Sounds like “good is dumb”, but given what happened the few times higher angels (Gandalf’s bosses) got involved, probably best for the inhabitants.

                    There’s only one deity in Middle Earth, and he’s, by definition, incorruptible. Everyone else, starting from the Head Archangel and going downward, is.

                  3. That was arguably one of the reasons Tolkein wanted to avoid LOTR being seen as allegory. He was a devout Catholic, and while I don’t think that you could claim him as being ‘pro-liberty’ in terms we would frame it, he was a social traditionalist and saw England as a cultural model to be appreciated and celebrated. Very much the Little-Englander.

                    Hence, kings are not necessarily bad, but unfettered power should be shunned. The innate nobility of the peasantry, the power of and veneration of tradition, the unsleeping menace of evil. The virtues of loyalty, self-sacrifice, a strict ‘western’ honor code etc., contrasted with the untermenschen driven to war by an implacable, unambiguous evil.

                    While evil in LOTR had a clear hierarchy of Morgoth->Sauron->Saruman->etc, it’s Darth Vaders all the way down, and except for their hit points and THAC0, they’re pretty much interchangeable.

                    Having his work reduced to ‘mere allegory’ with Sauron as Satan, being cast out by God/The Ainu, and left to corrupt earth/Middle Earth would have been something I think his academic vanity would have wanted to avoid.

              2. Doesn’the Gandalf also take on Saruman and save the good guys in the battle of Rohan? That seems like quite a bit of meddling. I don’t think your thesis holds water. Tom Bombadil, there’s a non-meddler.

                1. No. He went and got reinforcements and showed up and routed the Saruman’s army after they had spent days trying to take Helm’s deep and were largely depleted.

            2. The ultimate downfall of LotR is, IMHO, that all the orcs are genetically evil. He should have written in a good orc that helps the Hobbits out in Mordor.

              1. Chipper,

                I don’t think that it was that they are genetically evil. It is that they are not sentient beings. Orcs are elves who Morgoth captured and enslaved taking away their free will. He basically turned them into animals. Orcs don’t consider being anything other than evil and doing as they are told for the same reason polar bears don’t consider why they eat seals. It is just what they do.

                Orcs are not so much evil as enslaved victims of Morgoth and later Saurum. And they are the fate that awaits man if the ring is not destroyed.

                1. Is this your interpretation, or has it been established that the orcs are not sentient? I have not heard that before, but it certainly is an interesting interpretation. Would Sauron take much pleasure, though, in ruling unconscious automata, I wonder?

                  1. Orcs were Morgoth’s pale imitation of the elves, inferior and warped versions in all respects.

                    A fallen angel is only capable of flawed creation.

                  2. This is totally pulled out of my ass. So, others might disagree. But it explains in the Silmarillion how Sauron came to be corrupted by Morgoth. Basically, he was a get things done and get it done now kind of Valar and was frustrated by the free will of elves and men fucking up his grand plans. Morgoth then corrupted him by offering him power to control and enslave them.

                    So, I guess not sentient is probably too strong a term. Orcs are lack free will and morality. They are enslaved and unable to decide things for themselves or ever question their existence or actions.

          2. Tolkien said,

            My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) ? or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people. If people were in the habit of referring to ‘King George’s council, Winston and his gang’, it would go a long way to clearing thought, and reducing the frightful landslide into Theyocracy.

            1. Winston’s mom should be referred to as “Her Royal Holeness”.

              1. And her holes should be referred to as the nine Nazgul.

    4. Tolkien, in his later years, described himself as basically an anarchist.

      The Lord of the Rings isn’t particularly pro-liberty, though.

      1. Why isn’t it? I see it as a fantasy English version of Jefferson.

        1. Jefferson’s goal was never the enthronement of a divinely ordained benevolent despot, though.

          1. Neither was Tolkien’s. Aragon ends up being King of Gondor, not the world. And Gondor is not Tolkien’s ideal place, the Shire is. And what is the Shire if not a society of yeoman self governing farmers?

          2. I don’t know that you could say that it was Tolkien’s goal either. It’s just what happened in his stories.

            In his universe, the gods literally exist in the world and elves (basically angels) are still hanging around. So different rules apply than in the real world.

            1. Elves weren’t angels. That role was filled by the Valar (including lesser Valar such as the Maiar, which include wizards and balrogs). Though they were, of course, immortal.

              1. Yeah, that’s true. The direct analogy to Christian theology doesn’t exactly work anyway. The Valar are like Angels to Iluvatar, but also like pagan gods.

              2. Elves are more like what Adam would have been if he picked the other tree.

        2. Well the Shire is an idealized version of the English country before industrialization changed it. Note that Saruman industrialized the shit out of Isengard and cut down the trees of Fangorn forest, which leads to his downfall when nature strikes back.

          So basically Tolkien was a traditionalist strongly opposed to industry and urbanization, probably a product of his childhood in South Africa and surviving the industrialized warfare of World War I.

          It’s certainly anti-totalitarian but not really pro-liberty in the sense of welcoming change to exist social and aesthetic norms.

          1. By that Standard, Jefferson was not pro Liberty. Jefferson was very suspicious of industry and especially cities. He wanted an agrarian society similar to the Shire, though the place hadn’t been dreamed up yet.

            1. The Shire is a sort of Chestertonian quasi-anarchy, where government consists of a post office and a few part-time watchmen. Whether or not he wrote it with libertarian ideas in mind, it’s not surprising that it would appeal to libertarian readers.

              1. And agrarian…totally libertarian.

      2. Tolkien also asserted, repeatedly, and with a certain amount of disdain, that LoTR was not, and never was an allegory for anything. And he even went on to say that he didn’t like allegory and detested it when he sensed its stench.

        1. He did. But he clearly borrowed themes from religion and made larger points even if he didn’t intend to.

          1. The man was a genius in his ability to create a universe so well fleshed out and utterly complete. As a piece of entertainment, it’s one of the greatest fantasy series novels ever written. It’s a medieval society, so I think getting ones hackles up over monarchies and authoritarianism is just a waste of time.

            1. I agree and view the books as among the best of the 20th century. Though I think he was objecting to the idea of his works being primarily allegory–the books certainly have their fair share. Might be resistance to getting lumped in with Lewis there, too.

              1. I dunno… he was pretty forceful:

                “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history ? true or feigned? with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.” ? J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

                At best, he’s saying, “If you think it’s allegory, sure, but I didn’t intend it to be.”

                1. Oh, no doubt he was. But allegory is hard to avoid.

  22. “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut (first published [1961] in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), satirizes the idea of radical egalitarianism with a portrayal of a society where all talented people are compulsorily brought down to average?until one gifted youth rebels against the system.”

    The story sets the society you’re talking about here up as a straw man mockery of the libertarian argument.

    As soon as the hero breaks free of his constraints, what does he do? He shouts, “I am your EMPEROR” and starts abusing everyone around him with impunity–because that’s what we’d do if we were free.

    The central message of that story is that as bad as it is that the government constrains our individual freedom in the name of egalitarianism, if they didn’t do so, we’d all be victimized by people who are better than us.

    Libertarians are the butt of the joke, and that story should not be considered for a libertarian award of any kind.

    1. As soon as the hero breaks free of his constraints, what does he do? He shouts, “I am your EMPEROR” and starts abusing everyone around him with impunity–because that’s what we’d do if we were free.

      You know I read this story as a kid, but I don’t remember that part.

      If that’s the case, then yeah, that makes me agree with the straw man take on the story. Also makes you wonder who the emperor was who was enforcing this equality.

    2. Ah, I’d forgotten the ending. It conflates libertarians with Nietzsche-type ubermenschen.

      1. Right wing elitism– you rise to the top so you deserve to rule. Sort of like Nick Gillespie’s jacket.

      2. The movie is very different. Really, forget the short story and watch the movie.

  23. Some stripper I know has a tramp stamp that sez What don’t kill me make me stranger ~ Fred Nietzche complete with misquote and bad spelling done in Gothic script so that sounds pretty libbertarian to me especially when she’s waggin’ her azz high and shaking it.

    1. Pics or GTFO.

      1. 2nded. *holds $$$ in hand

    2. So she misquoted a paraphrased quote and then attributed it wrongly?

      Life winner.

      1. Even better stripper tramp stamp: “What doesn’t kill my strange makes it stronger.”

        And yes, I know most strippers don’t hook.

    3. Sounds like a quote from The Joker that became an urban legend.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utEEe97Ir4o

      1. I saw that movie but didn’t put the two together!

  24. My vote for most Libertarian scifi/fantasy writer goes to Phillip K. Dick. There was a guy who understood the evils of government and bureaucracy. My second vote would go to Kafka.

    1. Good arguments for both. I’d probably pick The Castle (or The Penal Colony) over any single thing by Dick but i haven’t read lots of his stuff, just collections of stories and 2-3 novels.

      1. Through the Scanner Darkly is like all his stuff pretty grim and surreal and a very dark view of technology, government and the future.

        1. Scanner Darkly was kind of autobiographical– or at least heavily borrowed from his experiences living in a drug house. Which was a pretty grim time for him.

          1. I liked the movie, but they sort of whiffed on the ending.

            1. they sort of whiffed on the ending.

              I didn’t read the book, but only saw the movie. How so?

              1. Instead of him finding the flower and tucking it away, he is so brain-fried that he doesn’t even realize he is farming Substance D. The rehab clinics, the addicts and the police are one big economic cycle that will continue. And he makes it more explicit that most Substance D dealers are police.

          2. He was way out there. He claimed to have a mystical experience where he communicated with God and turned his life around. That sounds like your typical former druggie bullshit except this is Phillip K. Dick. And thanks to that experience he suddenly knew all kinds of shit, like exactly how his agent and accountants were ripping him off, he had no way of knowing yet did.

            There is a great passage in the New Testament describing the Apostles following Jesus to Jerusalem “amazed and afraid”. It is a great passage because it puts lie to the bullshit hippy Jesus who just loved everyone. No, whatever you think of his divinity, this guy was something else and awe inspiring.

            Phillip K. Dick is one of the few mortals that I can see being amazed and afraid to be around.

  25. I’m sort of disappointed that a libertarian sci fi thread is still shy of 150 comments over an hour after posting.

    1. We are still up in arms about Reason employing lying writers who lie and are liars.

      1. We are? Shit!

        1. Yes, we are, and I’ll be damned if my beloved Reason is sullied by liars.

    2. It’s still work hours. Give it time.

      1. Work hours are the most productive for comments. You ever been here on a weekend?

        1. Yeah but the 1000-comment monsters always seem to grow fastest during evening hours.

          1. Not everyone lives East of the Hudson, Leona Helmsley. PM links come in right after lunch for Everyone Else in America(tm).

  26. Anthem is a very good short story, or novella, or whatever it is.

    1. ^Tulpa.

  27. In the “truth is stranger than science fiction” category, I nominate this: Anthropologists and other scholars plan read-in of Michel Foucault to mark inauguration of Donald Trump.

    1. Michael Foucault is a critical theory bullshit artist. Fuck those pinkos. They are all losing their shit over Trump and it is beautiful to behold.

      I heard a blurb on the radio earlier that CNN lost their shit over Trump talking about cutting the budget by 10% and the federal workforce by 20%. Thats right, the fourth estate, watchdog for the people, is freaking out because Trump plans on reducing the power of the very government that they are ostensibly supposed to be protecting the people from. How long has it been since they even pretended to be doing their jobs?

      1. , is freaking out because Trump plans on reducing the power of the very government that they are ostensibly supposed to be protecting the people from.

        Dude, freaking out about that is like screaming into the void. That ‘ostensible’ relationship between press and The State went clean out the window years ago. I used to think it went out shortly after Reagan, but a little age and historical perspective made me realize it was years (decades?) before that, but Reagan was a Republican so my perceptions were somewhat limited.

        Watch All the President’s Men some time, and you’ll notice a portrait of John F. Kennedy above Benjamin Bradlee’s (Jason Robards) desk.

    2. I read Foucault in grad school. It affected me so profoundly that I still refuse to assign it to my students on the basis that it’s cruel and unusual punishment.

  28. LOTF is not necessarily “anti libertarian” but certainly reflects a Hobbseian/Hamiltonian state of nature. It also reflects a distinctly English worldview, which is why that one Americanized remake was so awful.

  29. The “is Harrison Berger on satire?” debaterages on!

  30. A lot of hate on Vonnegut’s politics, I confess to not really have even noticed much politics in his writing. The most important message I get from his writing is “Life is meaningless, so don’t take it so seriously.” The entire meaning of human existence is revealed at the end of The Sirens of Titan, and I was giggling about it for weeks.

  31. I love that the Libertarian Futurist Society’s website hasn’t had a redesign in this century.

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