The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966), by Robert A. Heinlein
This is an engaging science fiction work, one of Heinlein’s more popular books. Along with Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein was acclaimed one of the “Big Three” of science fiction. A “loonie,” (one born on the moon) computer programmer-maintenance man, named Manual, tells the story. He is often referred to as “Man” by “Mike,” the computer that controls everything. Mike talks, has apparent feelings and a conscience, and tells jokes—and the two of them are critically involved in an eventual “declaration of independence” of their polygamous penal colony from “Terra.” This, of course, results in a rock-throwing war using moon-based catapults slamming into the earth. To make things more interesting, there is also an attractive and liberated woman Wyoming Knott, a “slot-machine sheila”—just don’t say “Why Not.” And there is a distinguished “rational anarchist” professor, Bernardo de la Paz, who organizes the revolution.
The year is 2075. Libertarian politics threads its way throughout the book, mostly through the professor’s philosophical rhetoric. All very interesting when one considers the size of government now compared to when this book was published—1966:
“The authority must go. It is ridiculous…that we should be ruled by an irresponsible dictator in all our essential economy! It strikes at the most basic human right, the right to bargain in a free marketplace….”
“Revolutions succeeded when—only when—governments had gone rotten soft…”
“Control of anything essential to life should be decentralized….”
“Function controls design….So it is with revolution. Organization must be no larger than necessary—never recruit anyone merely because he wants to join. Nor seek to persuade for the pleasure of having another share your views….”
“A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame…as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world…aware that his best effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.”
“My point is that one person is responsible. Always. If H-bombs exist—and they do— some man controls them. In terms of morals there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts.”
An interesting exchange between Wyoming Knott and the professor:
W. “I just want to you to state what rules you think are necessary to insure equal freedom for all.”
P. “Dear lady, I’ll happily accept your rules.”
W. “But you don’t seem to want any rules.”
P. “True. But I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. 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.”
W. “You would not abide by a law that the majority felt was necessary?”
P. “Tell me what law, dear lady, and I will tell you whether I will obey it.”
Manual speaking: “In this life you have to bet….almost everything is unfair. What can’t be cured—must be endured.”
“…while we are staking our lives, we are old enough to know it. For that, one should have an emotional grasp of death. Children are seldom able to realize that death will come to them personally. One might define adulthood as the age at which a person learns that he must die…and accepts his sentence undismayed.”
Transtaafl—”There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
Narrator: (Prof was a pacifist. Like his vegetarianism, he did not let it keep him from being “rational.” Would have made a terrific theologian.) I smiled at that one.
“But our biggest headaches were self-appointed statesmen.”
“…bored by yammer not their own.”
Manual speaking: “I never liked North America…they care about skin color—by making point of how they don’t care. First trip there I was always too light or too dark, and somehow blamed either way, or was always being expected to take stand on things I have no opinions on….”
In defense of polygamy on the moon: “Line marriage is the strongest possible device for conserving capital and insuring the welfare of children—the two basic societal functions for marriage everywhere—in an environment in which there is no security, neither for capital nor for children, other than that devised by individuals.”
And on the moon, they bury their dead to become fertilizer for “roses and daffodils.”
Speaking about Terra: “Since they can inflict their will on us, our only chance lies in weakening their will.”
The Prof on the creation of a new government: “ Comrade Members, like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have freedom—if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant…Distrust the obvious, suspect the traditional…for in the past mankind has not done well when saddling itself with governments…In past history popularly elected governments have been no better and sometimes far worse than overt tyrannies…I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent—the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws…Accentuate the negative. Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do. No conscript armies…no interference however slight with freedom of press, or speech, or travel, or assembly, or of religion, or of instruction, or communication, or occupation…no involuntary taxation….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.”
On the subject of taxation, the Prof suggested that congress dip into their own pockets if they were so committed to doing something. Upon a challenge of how to pay for things, he said, “You have put your finger on the dilemma of all government—and the reason I am an anarchist. The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys. I was not joking when I told them to dip into their own pouches. It may not be possible to do away with government—sometimes I think government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive—and can you think of a better way than be requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby?”
And the best two paragraphs of all, near the end:
“But Prof underrated yammerheads. They never adopted any of his ideas. Seems to be a deep instinct in human beings for making everything compulsory that isn’t forbidden…Are food riots too high a price to pay to let people be? I don’t know.
“Don’t know any answers.”
I highly recommend this book—sobering yet entertaining.