Economics in Science Fiction: The Specter of Overproduction (from Pohl and Huxley to Heinlein)

By William H. Stoddard

Science fiction has mainly been based on the natural sciences, from astronomy to biology; economics and the other social sciences come on stage less often.

Certainly, social science fiction was one of Isaac Asimov’s three categories of science fiction (along with gadget stories and adventure stories—as TV Tropes puts it, “Man invents car” can be followed by “lectures on how it works,” “gets into car chase,” or “gets stuck in traffic”).

But the premise for social science fiction was commonly a discovery or invention in the natural sciences, whose social and economic consequences are explored. It’s not so common for science fiction to be inspired by an economic theory.

Nonetheless, some theories have been the basis for science fiction stories. Economic issues are a major concern for libertarians; how science fiction deals with such issues is worth exploring.

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Lord of the Rings: Economist uses Prometheus Hall of Fame classic to expose false complaints about capitalism – and about Tolkien’s underappreciated Eagles

Why didn’t the Eagles fly the ring to Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings?

Even if you haven’t heard fans argue over the alleged “eagle plot hole” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Prometheus-winning trilogy, you should find economist Bryan Caplan’s recent blog post illuminating – as well as Ilya Somin’s Reason posting about it.

An economics professor at George Mason University and a New York Times bestselling author, Caplan finds many parallels – and similar flaws – between such fan criticisms of Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy and socialist criticisms of free markets.

Thanks to Reason magazine, which published constitutional lawyer Ilya Somin’s column highlighting Caplan’s intriguing arguments (and some of his own) on Reason’s Volokh Conspiracy legal blog.

Continue reading Lord of the Rings: Economist uses Prometheus Hall of Fame classic to expose false complaints about capitalism – and about Tolkien’s underappreciated Eagles

A great and logical heterotopia, with libertarian insights into optimization: Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite, the 2016 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

Here is the Prometheus Blog Appreciation of Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite, the 2016 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By William H. Stoddard

As an opening epigraph in Glory Road, Robert Heinlein quotes some lines by Bernard Shaw that include the sentence “He is a barbarian, and thinks the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.” One of the things science fiction can do for its readers is to jar us out of such complacency, by portraying worlds with customs other than ours – not utopias or dystopias, but heterotopias, “other places.” Donald M. Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite is one of the great heterotopias.

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Review: The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

By Tom Jackson

Book CoverWith The Handmaid’s Tale, science fiction readers who inclined toward feminism got to see what the tools of science fiction would look like in the hands of a skilled mainstream writer, Margaret Atwood.

Libertarian science fiction fans who have wondered what an equally skilled mainstream writer could do by taking a stab at science fiction now have their novel, too: The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver.

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