Dave Killion — August 22, 2012
I used to enjoy science fiction a great deal, but it’s difficult to become libertarian without learning a fair bit about economics, and once you learn a fair bit about economics, most science fiction becomes too implausible to enjoy (Star Trek, I’m looking at you). However, there is some great libertarian sci-fi, and if you like that sort of thing, you will enjoy Eric Frank Russell’s “And Then There Were None”. Four hundred years after faster-than-light drive has enabled Earthlings to populate the galaxy, a spaceship sets out to visit some of the populated planets with en eye towards unifying the galaxy under a new empire. Attempts to subjugate the population of the final planet prove challenging in ways they could hardly have anticipated. Here’s a taste –
“Edging ponderously around on his stool, Jeff reached to the wall, removed a small, shiny plaque from its hook and passed it across the counter.
‘You may keep it,’ he said. ‘And much good may it do you.’
Gleed examined it, turning it over and over between his fingers. It was nothing more than an oblong strip of substance resembling ivory. One side was polished and bare. The other bore three letters deeply engraved in bold style:
Glancing up at Baines, his features puzzled, he said, ‘You call this a weapon?’
‘Then I don’t get it.’ He passed the plaque to Harrison. ‘Do you?’
‘No.’ Harrison examined it with care. ‘What does this F.—I.W. mean?’
‘Initial-slang,’ informed Baines. ‘Made correct by common usage. It has become a worldwide motto. You’ll see it all over the place if you haven’t noticed it already.’
‘I have seen it here and there but attached no importance to it and thought nothing more about it. I remember now that it was inscribed in several places including Seth’s and the fire depot.’
‘It was on the sides of that bus we couldn’t empty,’ put in Gleed. ‘It didn’t mean anything to me.’
It means plenty,’ said Jeff, ‘Freedom-I won’t!’
‘That kills me,’ Gleed responded. ‘I’m stone dead already. I’ve dropped in my tracks.’ He watched Harrison thoughtfully pocketing the plaque. ‘A piece of abracadabra. What a weapon!’
‘Ignorance is bliss,’ asserted Baines, strangely sure of himself. ‘Especially when you don’t know that what you’re playing with is the safety catch of something that goes bang.’
‘All right ’challenged Gleed, taking him up on that. ‘Tell us how it works.’
‘I won’t.’ Baines’ grin reappeared. He seemed to be highly satisfied about something.
‘That’s a fat lot of help.’ Gleed felt let down, especially over that momentary hoped-for reward. ‘You brag and boast about a one-way weapon, toss across a slip of stuff with three letters on it and then go dumb. Any folly will do for braggarts and any braggart can talk through the seat of his pants. How about backing up your talk?’
‘I won’t,’ repeated Baines, his grin broader than ever. He gave the onlooking Harrison a fat, significant wink.
It made something spark vividly within Harrison’s mind. His jaw dropped, he dragged the plaque from his pocket and stared at it as if seeing it for the first time.
‘Give it me back,’ requested Baines, watching him.
Replacing it in his pocket, Harrison said very firmly. ‘I won’t.’
Baines chuckled.’ some people catch on quicker than others.’
Resenting that, Gleed held his hand out to Harrison. ‘Let me have another look at that thing.’
‘I won’t,’ said Harrison, meeting him eye to eye.
‘Hey, don’t start being awkard with me. That’s not the way—’ Gleed’s protesting voice petered out. He stood there a moment, his optics slightly glassy, while his brain performed several loops. Then in hushed tones he said, ‘Good grief!’
‘Precisely,’ approved Baines. ‘Grief and plenty of it.’ “
You can finish the whole thing in less than half an hour, starting right here.
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