Sunday, December 08, 2013

For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs

This was Heinlein's first book, yet it was not published until after his death. It is nominally a science fiction book. However, in reality it is a platform for the Heinlein's political beliefs. It starts with a guy driving in the summer of 1938. He gets in a crash and suddenly finds himself rescued in the winter of 2068. The protagonist gets to know his rescuer and his new world. That's about it for the plot.

The new world is a Heinlein libertarian utopia. Europe has been pretty much destroyed by wars and their aftermath. The US has an isolationist policy with a new "economy". (Bankers are evil.) There was a war against south america that killed off most bankers and led to the better government. People can do what they want. The government prints money. People get a regular subsidy and can work whenever they want to. (and not work when they don't want to.) Family relationships and clothing are optional. Public and private life are separated.

The book contains long treatises on the economics and other points of view. This seems like an academic paper that was then transformed into a novel. Alas, there are huge flaws in the "world" he envisions, but it is always nice to dream. Exploring the world in a novel is much more interesting than writing a dry economic paper. Perhaps the best way to criticize it would be to write a novel where a society attempted to implement the Heinlein utopia with disastrous results.

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