I reviewed the Barnes and Noble Nook reader earlier this month. One of the first things I did (rather, made my husband do) was go to Baen’s free library website, and pull a couple of their books for the nook. One of those was Michael Z. Williamson’s Freehold.
The book starts on Earth at some time in the possibly distant, possibly not so distant future. Earth is now run by the UN. Needless to say, the entire world is an inner city nightmare, and all the
citizens subjects accept that!!! They also accept crimes that most decent people would not, like rape, mugging, and theft.
Not surprising, I suppose. Guns had been criminalized, so only the criminals had guns.
Our heroine (tough girl) is in the UN’s military, and starts the book by deserting ahead of some bogus charges. She runs to the embassy for the planet Freehold, and they manage to get her offworld and to their little libertarian paradise.
And it really is, too—she goes from a world where it’s too dangerous for a soldier to walk around off-base in uniform (certainty of mugging, assault, and/or rape—and none of it prosecuted); too dangerous for a woman to wear certain styles of clothing, or walk around in certain places, or after dark at all; and too dangerous for children to play outside, to a world where everyone is armed, polite, and the world is nearly crime-free. She can’t quite comprehend it, at first, and freaks out about the local styles (nearly nude during the long, hot summers), the children playing unattended in the parks, and the way nobody locks their doors.
Another thing that Freehold has going for it is that there is no central government. Few laws. No laws governing behavior that only impacts the individual—recreational pharmaceuticals are sold openly in the park bazaars, right next to the tables selling guns and any kind of ammo you would ever want to have. No social safety nets—no social security, no welfare, no food stamps, no free education. No payroll taxes—you pay fees voluntarily, or get hideously fined if you come up before a resident’s court (i.e., a witness in a case of actual crime, or if you helped out during an accident and they needed statements).
Yet, despite the whole lack of social safety nets, few starved—capitalism was totally unrestrained, and needed no licenses to sell goods and/or services (and what services! Prostitution was legal and unregulated, especially since blood-borne illnesses were screened for before anyone was allowed on planet). Despite the lack of gun control laws, there was no blood in the streets—until the UN tried something against a free world. Not only was there no blood in the streets, but very little crime, and almost none of it committed with guns (there was a lovely illustration about what happened when that was tried—punk from Earth picked up a gun and ammo from a dealer in the park, tried to steal the gun by shooting the dealer, and got ventilated by at least one bystander who then proceeded to check on the vendor [who had been wearing a vest against accidents] while the punk bled out).
One of the more interesting things I noted was that Williamson described the Occupy Whatever movement—and the behavior and general personality features of the occupidiots—to a fare-thee-well, at least seven years before the
riots demonstrations began.
Seriously, I want to live on Freehold. We had that, once—not in my lifetime, nor in that of anyone I know, but we had it. Sad that we gave up freedom for the illusion of safety.