Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1964) is my favorite science fiction book.  In it Robert Heinlein portrays a society then a century into the future.  On the earth's moon exists a colony initially established as a penal colony.  While new prisoners are deported to the moon, most of the inhabitants are the descendants of former deportees.   Much like the exiles on the First Fleet, the criminals are as likely to be political prisoners as ordinary law breakers.   (Colleen McCollough portrays British justice and horror of the process in Morgan's Run.)

The language spoken by the "Loonies" is a dialect of English with Russian and other words mixed in.  I suspect that Heinlein, an Annapolis graduate,  spent time in Australia either while in the Navy or subsequently.  There is a sprinkling of Aussie in the Loonies' vocabulary; the speech patterns remind me of Sydney;  and many of the social mores are understandable in terms of Sydney's history.  I tried to reread the book when I was in Australia (1991-3), but found that the publisher had Anglicized the language, i.e., translated American English into British English.  For an hilarious introduction to Aussie English, read John O'Grady's book.

Libertarian Heinlein teaches a fundamental lesson: TANSTAAFL or "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."  This is a fundamental principle of economics and democracy, as the Revolutionary War proved to our Founding Fathers.

When I taught Economics 20 at St. Peters College (Jersey City), I would assign it as a reading.  The story allowed students to imagine an economy without the state.  The plot is great. Because it is science fiction, readers do not notice how seditious it is.

Buy it at Abe Books or on Amazon.

Beware: 2076 is coming fast!

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