Toughtcrime Thursdays: “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and Ideological Revolution

Hello, hello and welcome back for the third installment of Thoughtcrime Thursdays, the weekly column where we explore the world of fictional dystopia as a critique on our current society! As mentioned in yesterday’s content, I have decided not to compare the Vault 7 Wikileaks to Orwell’s 1984 because the internet is currently awash with the topic.

So, instead, we will be taking a look at Heinlein’s classic novel of libertarian revolution: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Heinlein’s 1966 novel chronicles the ideologically-driven rebellion of the Lunar Penal Colony, which is loosely governed from Earth by the Lunar Authority. Despite this governance, the lunar colony is semi-anarchic, with economic monopolies on certain infrastructure like water.

There is a virtual cornucopia of topics to discuss in regard to Heinlein’s Lunar society–far too much to talk about here. What I wanted to key into are the parallels between Heinlein’s revolution and the American Revolution.

Like the American Revolution, the movement for a free Luna is deeply ideologically rooted. While Luna’s rebellion is centralized in a hierarchical conspiracy consisting of hundreds of cells of three members (with a supercomputer at the top). The American Revolution was more decentralized, and without an singular driving force. Both however propagated their ideas through the distribution of pamphlets.

In his seminal work, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bernard Bailyn discusses the rampant pamphleteering that drove the rebellion. At the time, pamphlets were easy to make, flexible in format, and easy to distribute. The content ranged from vulgar jokes to serialized arguments between enlightened community figures and politicians. Similarly, in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the movement for a free Luna is driven by graffiti, pamphlets, and word of mouth.

The ideology of the American Revolution imbibed local governance in a way that is actually more complex than one learns in decaying public schools. Those that supported the American Revolution wanted more than just representation in Parliament (because they were represented), they wanted local representation.

At the time, even British citizens in Britain didn’t have local representatives, and were spoken for in Parliament at large. The colonists’ wanted to be represented by Americans–someone who was raised and had lived among those he represented.

The Movement for a Free Luna is more radical, but similarly rooted in a general principle that embodies anarchic rhetoric. To explain, I quote the book:

Under what circumstances is it moral for a group to do that which is not moral for a member of that group to do alone?

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 effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.

In terms of morals, there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts.

This rhetoric sounds like the foundation of the Non-aggression Principle that lays the foundation for voluntaryist ethics. It blew my mind to read this sentiment in a benign 1966 novel from the same author as Starship Troopers. It makes me wonder if Heinlein new of Murray Rothbard.

All in all, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress should be on your essential libertarian reading list. It is filled with wit and awesome sci-fi action. In fact, I would put it ahead of any works by Ayn Rand. But, that is just me. More on that next week, when I will tackle Ayn Rand’s influence on RUSH–the greatest progressive rock band of all time.

A closing note on the American Revolution: a significant thrust of the movement was motivated upon a conspiracy theory that the ruling elite in the Colonies were working with the British aristocracy to deny colonists the same rights that were afforded to free Englishmen. The belief in this conspiracy theory planted seeds of liberty in the minds of men across the colonies.

Thanks for stopping by for another installment of Thoughtcrime Thursdays if you want to pick up a copy of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, please do so through my Amazon Associates links below. Help out a poor law student at no additional cost to you!

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Have a great rest of your week.


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