Some Thoughts on Libertarianism

First: Apocalypsereview is a very bad blogger. Sorry about that. 😦


There was cause to discuss things like the Probability Broach and other comics that have been featured on Big Head Press’s website. Most notably I have read the “Escape from Terra” and “Quantum Vibe” arcs; I couldn’t really get into the others.

Anyway, some common themes leap out at me:

1. The stories are set in a far enough future to allow the characters to be space explorers within the solar system; the author clearly has a fascination with space exploration, and likes to show his work.
2. The stories, while they have engaging plotlines in their own right, are largely showcases for the author’s Libertarian political views.

Because of #2, this is where implausibilities rapidly start to mount up.

To begin with, all the major conflicts in the comic series are always initiated by an obviously caricatured Big Worldwide Earth Government and/or subsidiaries thereof. It is supremely ironic, as well, that the author blithely features corporate-backed governments without in the least recognizing how nongovernmental forms of coercive power also emanate from large monopolistic corporations dominating the economies of places in the solar system.

Flowing from this, how do the Libertarian “belter” settlements get the things they don’t have, but they need them to survive? They have to trade, don’t they? Yet I don’t see any evidence of a wide trade between Earth and the outer settlements, which would surely have had to spring up if only because the asteroid belt could specialize in, say, mineral extraction and water extraction, while Earth, having the pre-existing manufacturing base, could supply necessary final goods like books, food, machinery and what-have-you.

The stories try to handwave the relative economic isolation of the settlements by insisting that settlements use gold as their currency, while the Evil World Government uses “Continentals” (haw, haw! GEDDIT? Continentals! – the sheer hamfistedness of this reference to a worthless currency would be absurd if it wasn’t so matter-of-fact in these comics), and happily prints money as they need or want to obscure pressing economic problems.

As a result the exchange rate obviously fluctuates wildly and so trade flows are understandably restricted.

Just to really hammer the omgevilgovernment thing home, in one of the comics the Moon’s government is run by a bunch of people who are barely smarter than morons, and they have intrusive security screening at immigration, plus overly complex exchange controls. And then to put the cherry on top, the omgevilgovernment tries tilting the deck against the main character by having her arrested on trumped-up charges and throw into jail. The deus ex machina of a sympathetic judge and a wealthy patron of the main character leap in to save the day.

Which reminds me, everybody’s rich in this series, naturally. Or has a buddy who’s rich. Like in some cases, fabulously fucking rich who can command absurd access to resources with no conception of where the materials would come from or how long it would take to get them built (although there is a kind of effective immortality through the “rejuv” process…), and there is never a case where a rich person could ever possibly use their economic and financial power to coerce anything from anyone.

Unless of course it’s an EVIL rich person in which the author again unthinkingly brings up all the kinds of abuses rich people could undertake and blithely handwaves the lack of a government to be a countervailing agency in a dispute involving a rich person and a poor person. But then to put the cherry on top of that sundae, characters in a comic even admit that a wealthy person could hijack an arbitration process and get a verdict in their favor.

It’s like the author can consider issues like economic coercive power, or regulatory/corporate capture of a government, etc, but only in isolation and without reference to an analysis of a deeper and more fundamental problem underlying the stories he’s trying to tell: that in order to ‘sell’ Libertarianism as a viable doctrine, he has to create caricatures of governments, turning up their bad aspects to eleven, while presenting an idealized frontier society as the basis for “real true Libertarianism”.