Murray Rothbard

Blade Runner

Blade Runner

There are many elements of science fiction that find their way into stories that are not science fiction. Many times, enthusiasts of the genre will try to claim these works as part of the family. Atlas Shrugged and 1984 are examples. The same thing happens, only more frequently, with noir. Sometimes, the mere presence of a morally ambiguous protagonist is enough for a piece to be so labeled.

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, however, is a rare work — quite possibly unique — that may fit both bills. While perhaps not classically noir, there is no denying a strong noir presence, and its science fiction credentials are beyond question, what with the flying cars and androids, called replicants, and off-world colonies. As a devotee of both genres, I quite naturally am a fan of the director’s third film, but watching it is an experience both frustrating and pleasant. It is a good movie, but not the great one it could have been.

Alien, Scott’s second feature, is a masterpiece whose best form made it to the silver screen. One simply cannot imagine a better version. Blade Runner, however, is a movie whose perfect version was never realized, whose potential was never reached. That mirage of the ideal Blade Runner intrudes on my thoughts every so often, and I find myself reaching for the DVD, thinking that perhaps this will be the viewing where I get it, where I notice that missing part or make that important connection.

It never works out that way. As usually happens in life, experience trumps hope. The movie simply is not as good as it ought to have been, and the reason is the plot. This is all the more tragic given that Philip K. Dick, in the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, had already provided a first-rate plot that was later diluted over multiple drafts of the screeenplay.

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is probably Philip K. Dick’s most famous work, given that it was turned into one of the most respected science fiction films of all time. I do not hold to the absolutist opinion that the book is always better than the movie, but after one read of the book and many viewings of the movie, I am inclined to say that, in this instance, the book is at least as good and in some respects is better.

Rick Deckard, along with numerous other unfortunate souls, has been left behind on Earth, an unhealthy wasteland from which anyone of means has migrated. He is the number two man assigned to retire rogue androids who try to pass themselves off as human. The androids, however, prefer to remain alive.

Deckard makes a modest living, but when the number one guy is nearly killed by an android, he assumes the responsibility to retire a group of six of them, seeing in the job an opportunity to make some much-needed cash. Insert canned line about things not going as planned. Insert second canned line about the job being more than he bargained for.

As I expected, the clownish dialogue and behavior, unnecessarily detailed descriptions and lengthy back stories injected into scenes immediately after a character’s introduction — the slipshod method by which so many authors introduce and develop their characters — is absent. Instead, we meet people who feel and act real, and we come to know them as we would anyone else: by how they act, what they say, and what is said about them. They move about in an exotic land but act in accordance with their human goals and abilities.

What I found surprising was how good the plot was. There is a satisfying quantity and variety of dramatic interactions, various obstacles to overcome, a sufficiently grand and tense third act… everything an eager reader could hope for. I did not expect a poorly wrought narrative, but given some of the difficulties I found in The Man in the High Castle, I thought that maybe character and setting were Dick’s strengths, not plot. The movie, as good as it is, strikes one as underplotted, and I assumed this was due to a deficiency on the book’s part.

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Robert Anson Heinlein (1907–1988)

Robert Anson Heinlein (1907–1988)

In this episode of the Libertarian Tradition podcast series, part of the Mises Institute’s online media library, Jeff Riggenbach discusses the life of Robert Anson Heinlein (1907–1988), author of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and many other wonderful novels and short stories, and addresses the question of whether Heinlein was a libertarian.

You can also read the transcript below:

When Robert Anson Heinlein died 22 years ago this month, in Carmel, California, at the age of 80, the wonder of it all was that he had managed to live as long as he did. Heinlein, who was born in 1907 in Butler, Missouri, a small town about 65 miles south of Kansas City, had been in poor health for most of his adult life.

His family had connections with the powerful Pendergast political machine, the outfit that later put Harry Truman in the US Senate, but Heinlein still had to spend his freshman year in a two-year Kansas City “junior college” — what today we would call a “community college” — before the Pendergast machine was finally able to wrangle him an appointment to Annapolis. After graduating from the naval academy in 1929 with a degree in mechanical engineering, Heinlein went to sea as an officer. But in his fourth year of active duty, he contracted tuberculosis and was honorably discharged — retired, really, with a small pension — after a lengthy hospitalization at Navy expense.

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NEWS | Reason.tv Interviews David Brin Thumbnail

David Brin is the author of science fiction novels The Postman, the Uplift series beginning with Sundiver, and others as well as the ever-popular nonfiction work, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?. He recently sat down with Reason.tv’s Tim Cavanaugh to discuss his recent criticisms of “dogmatic libertarians,” his hobbyhorse of government transparency, and the subject of uplifting dolphins.

I have much to say about Brin’s attacks on “dogmatic libertarians,” by which he means followers of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand who worship property too much, but watch the video first and then continue on below for my commentary.1

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  1. It’s heartening to see that the video on YouTube has more dislikes than likes at the moment. 

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Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker
Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is the publisher and executive editor of . He is the author, most recently, of Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo (2010) and It’s a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes (2011). The former editorial vice president of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, he is an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research fellow with the Acton Institute, and a faculty member of Acton University.

Allen Mendenhall: Jeff, this interview is exciting for me. It’s something of a reversal of the interview that we did together in January 2011. This time, I’m interviewing you. I’d like to start off by asking about your two recent books, Bourbon for Breakfast and It’s a Jetsons World. Tell the readers of this site a little about both books.

Jeffrey Tucker: Both books cover the unconventional side of private life as governed by the market and human volition. I guess you could say that this is my beat. I’m interested in the myriad ways in which the government’s central plan — and there is such a thing — has distorted and changed our lives, and also interested in the ways we can get around this plan and still live fulfilling lives. I take it as a given that everything that government does is either useless or destructive or both. The government does a tremendous number of things, so this is a huge area. Bourbon is more focused on the rottenness of the state and its harm, while Jetsons is more the marvelous things that markets do for us. Neither subject gets the attention they deserve.

AM: These books are available for free online in PDF and EPUB formats. Explain why you’ve chosen to make your work freely and widely available.

JT: Every writer wants to be read, so it only makes sense for all writers to post their material. Of course publishers tend to intervene here with promises of royalties in exchange for which you become their slave for the rest of your life plus 70 years (that’s when they dance on your grave). This is the essence of copyright. It is a bad deal for writers. Those who go along with it these days nearly always regret it later. If they actually earn royalties — and very few actually do — it is likely they would have earned more had the material not been withheld pending payment. The bestselling books of 2012 — the Hunger Games series — are posted by pirates everywhere, even against publisher wishes. But, you know, this is starting to change. Publishers are gradually seeing the point to posting material online. Sadly, they aren’t budging on the copyright issue, which is really pathetic. No libertarian should ever publish anything with any institution that is not willing to embrace a very liberal policy on reprints, and one that is likely enforceable such as Creative Commons — Attribution. Meanwhile, the government is using copyright, a phony form of property rights, to step up its despotic control over the digital age. The situation is extremely dangerous. One hundred years from now, they will be laughing at our times and poking fun at how the anachronistic state tried its best to thwart progress.

AM: You strike me as an optimist. Is that true?

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MOVIE REVIEW | In Time Thumbnail

In Time

Before I studied Austrian Economics and profited from the clarity it brings to phenomena that otherwise seem chaotic and unfathomable, I read an article by Dave Barry that made me laugh. In it, he parodied the stock market, saying something to the effect of, “The DOW Jones plunged today when scientists discovered that Saturn had seven moons, and not six as previously thought.” That sentence encapsulated the mystifying and capricious vicissitudes of an economy I did not understand, much like airports stupefied the Cargo Cults. After watching In Time, it is obvious to me that writer/director/producer Andrew Niccol is mired in the same blithering ignorance that Mises and Rothbard pulled me out of.

Justin Timberlake plays Will Salas, a blue-collar man living day-to-day in a world where no one ages past 25 and time is the economy’s currency. The time you have left is measured on your forearm, and you can give and receive it either by placing your wrist over a scanner, for machine/human interactions, or gripping forearms with someone, for person-to-person transactions. The world is divided into time zones and people live in the one that pertains to their occupation and income level. As long as you have time on your forearm, you can live forever, but if you go broke, you die.

One night Will Salas saves a rich man who has wandered into Dayton, the poor time zone where Salas lives, from being robbed by so-called Minutemen, petty gangsters who steal people’s time. This man, Henry Hamilton, is 105 years old and weary of being alive. He bequeaths his century of time to Will and “times out,” but due to a surveillance camera that catches only part of the action, it looks to later observers that Will has murdered Henry. Meanwhile, on the very day her son becomes a rich man, Rachel Salas (Olivia Wilde) is caught in the middle of nowhere at night with, after making a loan payment, only ninety minutes left to live. The bus fare back home has been increased to two hours and the driver will not allow her on the bus without paying the full fare up front. None of the other passengers step forward to give her a small loan, so she is left to die. A grieving Will swears revenge on the system that killed his mother.

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BOOK REVIEW | The Unincorporated Man by Dani and Eytan Kollin Thumbnail

Justin Cord, protagonist of The Unincorporated Man (2010 Prometheus Award winner for Best Libertarian Novel) once quips that, “You often learn more about a situation from the questions than the answers.”

My highest praise for the book is for the questions it raises in the best tradition of social science fiction, questions that get us thinking about economic, legal, and even financial institutions in new ways. The book portrays a future society with a minimalist limited government, strong corporations, and a universal system of “personal incorporation.”

Each person is owned by a shifting combination of self and others through a joint stock arrangement set up at birth. Making corporations personal serves to amplify and universalize the conventional image of corporate titans maneuvering against each other for power and position. Everyone plays the “corporate game” and plays it with their whole lives, not just their jobs. Into this mix awakens one man from 300 years of suspended animation. Can he remain wholly self-owned? Will his ancient ideas of autonomy infect others and upset the new social order?

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