Thursday, December 6

And Peter again:
On Nov 30, 2007, at 2:54 AM, Peter wrote:

I think I'm starting to get a good grip on where most of your writing comes from, so unfortunately my questions are starting to dry up into questions about suggested readings and such.

I'm still a bit curious about the caste system you used to create your future earth. It's been called dystopian, and Duncan suggests it's not libertarian, at least in the traditional sense. Yet it's based around business and exploitation, which are founded in libertarian principles as far as I can tell. The whole 'Leisureman' caste is about as libertarian as possible, and the implication of the fact that it's relatively small despite proof that advancement through the castes is possible seems to suggest that advancement is very difficult.

Some other things I've noticed about your system are that as you advance you gain the ability to simply use your power more freely (without concern for soapie intervention), and you also gain access to increasing amount of potential systematic safeguards based around your actual income. Basically, as you get higher up you can afford better protection and you automatically have implied power. As a connoiseur of political systems, I'm curious about where your system came from. I like its flavor in some ways, but in others it seems curiously and unnecessarily restrictive. Obviously you made it that way, but why?


This is a complex question. The caste system was created originally around the necessities of the novel's premise (i.e. what sort of society would have this Reality-TV-From-Hell as its #1 form of mass entertainment?), combined with a speculative extrapolation from the realities of American society -- You Are What You Do, and increased power (whether from celebrity, political connection, or simple wealth) brings with it proportionally greater immunity from legal jeopardy. Fundamentally, it is an expression of real free-market economics. In reality, there is NO SUCH THING as a "free market" -- because every privileged class organizes government (and hence, social economics) to protect its own privileges. What makes the caste system stable is that it preserves the mythology of the American Experiment: that hard work and determination enable one to rise above one's birth or social status. This is the ultimate incentive for the less-privileged classes to support the system; the dream that someday they (or their descendants) might join the ranks of the Privileged . . . so long as nobody makes waves. The caste system also arises from what I see as the innate tribalism of human nature; each caste carries its own mythology of exceptionalism (demonstrated graphically by Kollberg's disquisition on the superior virtues of Administration in HEROES DIE). The essence of Libertarian principle is freedom from government intervention. The caste system is the opposite of Libertarianism; it depends on rigorous regulation of all forms of social and economic interaction. It's a substantial mistake to characterize me as a Libertarian; I'm not. Even remotely. Duncan is (in spirit, anyway), Hari isn't. Heinlein was, more or less . . . and his Libertarian manifesto, THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, is specifically referenced in HEROES DIE, with Pallas Ril taking on Heinlein's Scarlet Pimpernel persona of Simon Jester -- which leads her to cause more death and destruction than Caine could ever dream of . . .

I could go into a great deal more detail here, but the simple answer on the caste system is: I made it up.

In fact, when I originally conceived the caste system (back in the 80s), it seemed a great deal more outlandishly dystopian than it does today; now it largely appears to be a direct allegory for the emerging character of American society under Bushism: hands off the privileged, and fist-fuck everybody else.

Feel free to inquire further, if this doesn't answer your question.

Matthew Woodring Stover
numquam desisto

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