Sunday, 7 April 2013
Economics In The Heart Stars Novels
Politics: power and resistance;
History: progress or regression.
(...basically, I think.)
Economics underlies politics which makes history.
In James Blish's The Star Dwellers (London, 1979), four large stockholder corporations have been specifically organised to profit from space travel and its by-products. The government accepts this because:
space travel is too costly to continue without generating income;
government itself should neither seek profits nor use taxes for costly operations with no visible return.
In the sequel, Mission To The Heart Stars (London, 1980), which starts less than a year later:
"'...there is so much energy available for the taking...that it's very difficult to put a price on it...any more that you'd charge people for breathing...three quarters of the work and perhaps as much as half the thinking are routinely done by machines and with almost no supervision...nobody needs to be poor, even the unemployed, because our resources are such that production could vastly outstrip consumption - if we were foolish enough to let it.'" (p. 101)
The latter scenario resembles James Blish and Norman L Knight's overpopulation novel, A Torrent Of Faces, one difference, as far as I remember without immediately checking that text, being that procreation rights had not been restricted in the latter, hence the large population.
But do the two Heart Stars novels describe the same economy? In Mission..., it sounds as if:
no one is being charged for the use of energy;
therefore, no one is either selling it or profiting thereby;
production and distribution are exactly equivalent;
"we," which can only mean the government or society in general as represented by the government, do not allow production to outstrip consumption;
therefore, "we," not profit-seeking corporations, control production and supervise distribution.
So do the corporations operate in space though not on Earth?