Volume 18, Number 4, December, 2000

Novels Promoting Liberty

By J. Neil Schulman

How about the top ten novels promoting liberty?

Here's my list (recusing my own books):

  1. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  2. 1984 by George Orwell
  3. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  4. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  6. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  8. One Day in Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
  9. Kings of the High Frontier by Victor Komam
  10. The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith

I am not rating these books according to how well-written they are. By that standard, Uncle Tom's Cabin and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich would be at the bottom of the list (if they made the list at all) and I would have had to put books on the list that are wonderfully written but completely obscure.

Uncle Tom's Cabin leads the list because I consider it the most influential anti-slavery novel in human history, and Huckleberry Finn a close second, drops to the number three slot only because the immensely influential 1984 edges it out.

I also need to point out that 1984 edged Animal Farm off the list only because I didn't think it proper to have two books on the list by one author, and of the two books, 1984 has been more influential than Animal Farm in shaping our view of totalitarianism and, in my opinions has more gravitas.

Brave New World makes the list because every time I see a TV commercial for Viagra or Trojan condoms, or a TV show where meaningless public sex is promoted and lifelong love trivialized, or single women having babies without bothering to have a father stick around, I realize that if we are living in any dystopia it's Huxley's.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is on the list because it was a major influence toward the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Three books make the list because they are specifically influential on the modern libertarian movement: Atlas Shrugged, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and The Probability Broach. Atlas Shrugged makes the best case for heroic entrepreneurialism ever made in a novel, and its influence on public policy extends from the Federal Reserve, which controls the growth of the American economy, into the top level of the current Russian regime. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress defines the intersection between libertarianism and science fiction—and that is important because eschatological futurism, if not utopianism, defines all world-shaking political movements throughout history. The Probability Broach makes the list as one of the first fruits of the marriage between Rand's romanticism and Heinlein's libertarian pragmatism—and I would have stuck one of my own novels in somewhere around here, if I hadn't recused myself.

Fahrenheit 451 is probably the most influential book ever written on book-burning and the necessity of freedom of the press.

Which leaves the book in the number 9 position. Victor Koman's Kings of the High Frontier. I probably should have recused this book simply because I was its first publisher. It also isn't popular outside that small intersection of libertarianism and science fiction. But this book makes the list because even more than Heinlein's "The Man Who Sold the Moon" or Heinlein's script for Destination Moon, both of which influenced it, Koman's novel makes the case for the right of the human race to emigrate off a planet which suffers from an epidemic of statism.

All trademarks and copyrights property of their owners.
Creative Commons License
Prometheus, the newsletter of the Libertarian Futurists Society, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.