Unincorporated War

In April I reviewed the The Unincorporated Man, a sf novel that last week won the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus Award.  The novel is set several centuries hence, in a rich peaceful hi-tech society of forty billion folks, spread across the solar system. On the plus side, war, crime, death, and religion are very rare, and a minimal world government is funded only by a 5% income tax. On the minus side, virtual reality is an illegal sin, and parents help kids far less than now; parents own 20% of kids’ future income, and force kids to sell more income shares to pay for school, etc. Most kids end up owning less than 50% of their income, which reduces their ability to control their job, home, etc.

A cryonics patient from our time is revived, refuses to sign paperwork to pay his 5% income tax, and inspires a mass movement blaming corporations (not parents!) for the “slavery” of having to pay installment payments on voluntarily purchased and consumed school, etc. In April I complained:

[It] is widely praised for its thought-provoking premise. Yet I find no evidence that it provoked thought about its premise. … Among the 70+ reviews/comments on the book I’ve read, a few take a position on this idea (all against), but none engage the idea, i.e., offering arguments for or against it based on details of the book. … In the book’s 500 pages no one ever resents parents; it is all those conniving corporations. … Also, the book never even considers the possibility of non-voting [income shares].

The sequel, The Unincorporated War, is “action-packed”, and readers seem to like it, but alas it inspires even less thought. Spoilers below the fold.

The sequel begins with our anti-tax activist hero inspiring the creation of an “Outer Alliance,” of the solar system outside Mars, seeking geographic military autonomy.  They of course want our blast-from-the-past hero to be their absolute military ruler.  Since many out there accept the usual income shares system, the alliance has no official position on that issue. The war quickly becomes a total of attrition, with mass casualties, huge tax rates, and strong central management.

While the alliance has only 1/10 of the population, space folks make better space soldiers, and their generals are far more moral and clever, leading to a near stalemate for many deadly years. Religion, patriotism, and devoted submission to adored leaders all make huge comebacks, at least in the alliance.

Alliance leaders say they want total war because the central confederation has increased the rate of psych audits, a rarely used way to check someone’s sanity, and found a way to use audits to brainwash folks. But alliance leaders don’t make a public accusation about this until halfway through the book. Federation leaders say they want total war because they expect the outer solar system to economically dominate the distant future.

The books says little about why a public used to vast peace and wealth, having forgotten war and nationalism for centuries, would suddenly revel in a total war over geographic autonomy.  The book isn’t really very interested in such ordinary folks.  It seems to just be assumed that future folks are deep down very eager to return to twentieth-century ways.

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