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.
I just finished reading the first book "The Unincorporated Man". I understand the "catch" now. Having shares in oneself owned by others is not the same as taxation, because the "share holders" can mandate your career/job decisions. In other words, unless you have achieved "majority" (this is where you own roughly 60% or more of yourself) you cannot choose to become a starving artist or do the "lonely planet" thing of hanging out on the beaches of S.E. Asia. So, the system really is tantamount to slavery or, at least, indentured servitude.
There are other issues as well. In theory, this concept of personal incorporation should be beneficial to all parties because your "share holders" have a rational self-interest in helping you have the best and most lucrative career possible. In reality, investors do not always act in their rational self-interest. Also, speculators will manipulate the share prices of people either for short-term speculative gain or to prevent oneself from buying back their shares in order to keep them from reaching majority. These actions are analogous to those of Wall Street speculators, only that in the novel they have a direct limiting effect on your personal freedom.
A third problem that is not prominently featured in the novel is that people tend to engage in "bureaucratic" behaviors. That is, company managers like to build personal empires with lots of people underneath them simply because they like the feeling of being in charge of others, even if it does not represent optimal profitability. The system of personal incorporation described in the novel would be completely vulnerable to this kind of abuse.
It is entirely understandable why the "hero" of the novel wants to end this system, even though it has been clearly successful for a vast majority of people for nearly three centuries.
I have not read the second book and, therefor, cannot comment on it.
Overall, the book makes for good, entertaining SF.
I'll bite. I just ordered it from Amazon. I'm sure it will be an entertaining read.
Anyways, let me get this straight. Parents get 20% of their kids future income and the government a further 5%. That's like a 25% income tax rate. Education and other job enhancement stuff pushes this over 50%.
Maybe I'm not following this correctly (I'll find out when I read the novel), but this would be analogous to Western Europe which also have income tax rates greater than 50%. So, what's the difference here? Another issue is that the parents and educational institutions you attend would have a vested interest in ensuring that you have the best possible careers so as to maximize your earnings. I fail to see why this is a problem.
If there's a "catch", no one has mentioned it in this blog or the reviews on Amazon.
Perhaps the "shareholders" in you do not act in their rational self-interest and force you to do stupid things that sabotage your career and earning capability. This is certainly possible. However, I have not seen it mentioned in the reviews to the book.
Perhaps I should just read the book and comment on it when I am done.
There doesn't need to be. It's just plain, boring old market failure.
Given that there's supposed to be minimal government in the book's universe, and student loans wouldn't exist at all in ours without government support, I don't imagine they'd have anything even approaching reasonable terms.
Are you able to dictate the terms of your rent or house purchase price? You can bargain for some better price, but not by much. Would you say there is a conspiracy on the part of real estate owners to force their own terms on consumers?
I read the first book's plot as a cautionary tale, aimed at the far future, about the dangers of cryo-revival. :P
Also, I accept that hundreds of years may be a different story, but Europe had several peaceful eras in recent history that lasted a generation, only to return to warfare each time: the Age of Metternich and the Belle Epoque, to name two.
Well I certainly don't take the Democrats and the Republicans seriously....clowns every last one of them...
You may not be able to dictate terms, but you can refuse to accept it.
Also, the system would allow colleges to better compare their outcomes. They could quote the average increase in the total value of each student's company.
If the college course tends to add $100k to a student's net value, then spending $10k on it seems reasonable.
IMO, this increased transparency would reduce the cost of education rather than increase it.
The flat 20% for parents seems questionable. Presumably, that only applies if they are actually the ones who care for the child, or is it purely an incentive for them to bother?
Also, presumably parents can saddle children with debt for education that they received when they were children?
Does anyone take libertarians seriously? If they do... they shouldn't.
Only "twentieth century" ways?
Were you able to dictate terms on your student loans? Why would you presume people in the book's society would be able to, if we can't?