We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Children of the night

President of the Adam Smith Institute Madsen Pirie is recruiting them even younger than Brian suggests in his previous post — in a way. He has written children’s books. I recently read Children of the Night.

My older son is only three, but I am keen to fill the house with books that he might like to discover when he feels like it. Whenever I read novels I worry about how the author’s worldview infects the fictitious world he has created. With Madsen Pirie I can relax, confident that his fictional universe will have sensible laws of economics and will not subconsciously implant socialism into my children’s heads.

Not only that, it is a very good adventure story. In genre it is a kind of steampunk — it has an outward appearance of fantasy but is really science fiction, which is the best kind of fantasy because it leads to an internally consistent and believable world. This leads to consistent and believable politics, which are never spelled out in exposition but form the backdrop to the action. And it is nearly all action, as makes sense for a children’s book, but there are many lessons.

On the origins of political power:

Shocking though the violence was, he was used to it. That was the way the world seemed to work. Those on high bullied and terrorised those below them.

On class and ambition:

“I do know this,” Quicksilver thought back, “that a wagoner’s son is destined to become a wagoner, and a nobleman’s son is destined to become a nobleman. But those with special talents can break free of this destiny and achieve things their parents could not dream of. Extraordinary things.”

In fact the protagonists are a poor orphan, a nobleman’s daughter who would rather be a pilot than a nobleman’s daughter, and an engineer dwarf, who all end up friends because of their differences.

On the intersection of economics and politics:

“It’s partly the cost,” Calvin replied. “There aren’t many places where people need to go up a mountain, and it would cost too much to lay miles of track and cable across open country.” He shrugged before adding, “And of course the Church limits the number of dwarf machines allowed into the Realm. They don’t want anything to upset the social order. That’s fine by us. We make the machines, not the decisions.”

On taxes:

“This stuff isn’t for sale anyway. It’s the share we have to pay to their high mightiness.” There was a real bitterness to his voice as he said it. “Who’s that?” inquired Mark, puzzled. “A far-off fat bishop who never set foot out of his abbey, and a far-off lazy lord who never did a day’s work in his life.” “You mean tithes,” said Mark, “a tenth for the church.” “A tenth?” Anderson laughed bitterly. “Round here it’s a sixth. And another sixth in taxes for using the land and sea which some noble calls his own.” Gene uttered a low whistle. “That’s a third gone before you start! Do they take a third of everything?” “Everything.” The word was spat out in bitterness.

On changing the meta-context:

We spread stories and provoke people to see the injustice of their rule, and to resent it.

There is also a problem with a fuel source that is mined by slaves. Many an author might have his characters fight against the slavery, and Madsen does, but he also has them realise the importance of the fuel, the suffering that its increase in cost would cause, and the possibility of a technological solution. This is a world in which technology offers hope and improvement despite its problems, rather than simply causing problems.

And there are murder mysteries, exotic flying machines, chase scenes, narrow escapes and double-crossings aplenty. It is all good, wholesome fun.

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5 comments to Children of the night

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Very interesting. He is quite a guy, that Madsen Pirie.

  • Paul Marks

    Pro private property and free trade literature is indeed important.

    But whilst education remains dominated by the Progressives we are fighting at a massive disadvantage.

    And it is not just the official state schools and universities.

    Remember the effects of such things as “teacher training” (licensing) and subsidies.

    Hillsdale University found that if it accepted a single Dollar of government money, even indirectly via government backed student loans, the whole tidal wave of P.C. regulations and ideology came with it.

  • Jason

    Swallows and Amazons – teaches a fantastic lesson in what fun can be had if you go out and get it for yourself.

    @Paul Marks: Chatting with a bloke raising money for the RNLI, it turned out this is the precise reason the organisation doesn’t want government money. The prospect of being set targets he found particularly troubling.

  • Paul Marks

    Jason – good that he understands this. Too often people only realise when it is too late (and the professional managers, from ads in the Guardian, move in – and push out anyone who want to say no to the tax money)

    Of course life boats are a classic example of what statists claim can only be done by the state.

    They (the statists) hate organisations such as the RNLI in Britain.

    Just as the hate Hillsdale in the United States.

    One of the very first universities to take in people from all races (and both sexes) as equals. Long before “Civil Rights Laws”.

  • CaptDMO

    I thought Dr. Seuss had a nice parable concerning progressive attempts at mere amelioration of inevitable consequences, and the “unintended consequences” that ensue.

    As long as “kids” get the message that ultimately successful Cat “Z” solution is an absolutely foreign “approach” than the entire “NEW, big idea” process.