Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Unincorporated War Book Review

Picture by Renjith Krishnan
The first book of Dani and Etyan Kollin's series is "The Unicorporated Man," which I reviewed here.  The story continues.  The second book, "The Unicorporated War," is a much different novel.  On amazon you'll see customer reviews decline a lot for the second novel.  That is largely due to the ending.  However, I found the ending to be intensely exciting which leaves the authors open to do many different things.  I won't give away what happens here.  Rather, I will explore the idea of liberty and prosperity within the context of this book.

As the authors explore the idea of freedom and liberty they ask such questions that can be summed up as follow: "What is better for society, liberty or security?"  "Are liberty and prosperity mutually exclusive?"  "Is war the reason for liberty?"  None of these questions are explicitly stated but they are definitely explored.

A lot of these questions are asked in such a way that necessitates a trade-off between liberty and prosperity or liberty and security.  This comes from a very conventional belief drilled into us by government apologists that they are in fact necessary for the organization of society.  Of course governments are not necessary to organize society and in fact stymie the organization of society through the destruction of creative minds and the destruction of the price-system.  This brings us back to some ramifications of the book.  Mainly, how does incorporating individuals (turning them into incorporations, parceling out their revenue in stock) affect societies' ability to engage in spontaneous order, that order which is not designed by any individual but is the result of individual actions.  F.A. Hayek describes Spontaneous Order as follows:

A spontaneous order is a system which has developed not through the central direction or patronage of one or a few individuals but through the unintended consequences of the decisions of myriad individuals each pursuing their own interests through voluntary exchange, cooperation, and trial and error.
Our economy organizes itself through a price system that tends towards equilibrium because of the self-interested nature of individual man.  Government intervenes in the price system through taxation, regulation, crowding out, and moral persuasion.  This interventions deteriorates the good things that come out of spontaneous order.. mainly the creativity of the human mind.  Spontaneous order is good at replacing inefficient business models with more efficient business models.  For example, if there had never been a bailout of Chrysler they would have been forced to sell themselves to a company who could remodel their business in such a way as to make a profit off of their assets.  I write about the bailouts and infrastructure here.This is what liberty brings, this is why it's good.

The question is... can forced incorporation at birth facilitate the necessary conditions for spontaneous order to create positive results for society?  This book series (trilogy, quadrilogy), seems to suggest that prosperity can result even as man is enslaved to another forcibly at birth (that is, assuming an individual gives up a controlling interest in him or herself as a result of schooling and wanting to increase their own revenue).  It isn't full enslavement, people have a latitude of freedom that can definitely fulfill this process, but it isn't liberty.

A society of incorporated people doesn't fall into the central planning problem... each incorporated individual has an incentive to make money while other various individuals have an incentive to help them make money because they wan to make a return off of what they invest.  Schools take a percentage of stock in order to fund their education.  The successful schools will obviously teach what has a high return.  Unsuccessful schools will go out of business and be replaced by more successful ones.  This system takes full advantage of the spontaneous order arrived at through prices and adds monetary incentives into such institutions as family while increasing monetary institution in such things as schooling (but equity rather than debt being used to pay for it).

However, this society is not totally free.  They are incorporated at birth.  This is what the main character, Justin Chord, is fighting a war to end.  With a war between the status-quo and a more free society it isn't obvious what the results would .  In the long run the more free society should win out because of it's ability to experiment and it's freedom to do so.  But since a free societies' advantage is it's failure, bad business models being replaced by better ones, this failure in the beginning of a war could be devastating.

Then there is the question of War.. forced participation in war.. and whether or not spontaneous order can facilitate a successful war.  To be clear, this book doesn't explore the topic of spontaneous order explicitly but implicitly.  Just as someone who discusses the formation of language also is implicitly discussing spontaneous order.  So, can a more free people win a war?  In the book there seemed to be a fair amount of coercion used to have people in war or force people to stay in war.

I'm not going to discuss this in greater depth but rather refer any readers to the book I have advertised to the right, The Myth of National Defense, in which the idea that we need a government for national defense is discussed.

Overall I give "The Unincorporated War" high marks because of it's intensely exciting war scenes, some really good evil characters (especially in the avatar world), and a look into the brutality of war for the common soldier.  This is definitely a book worth reading and ideas worth pondering.

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