L. Neil Smith's

Number 3, December 1995


By Robert B. Boardman

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Let me describe Paradise for you.
         It is an island in the Western Atlantic. This little island is inhabited by 249 people; they and their ancestors have settled here from all over the world. One hundred fifty-four of them claim European background; thirty are African, 22 Hispanic, and two claim their ancestors were there from the beginning of time. The rest are from somewhere else, or don't know. Most of the people don't really care; they're just happy to be on this island.
         Of these 249 people, 187 live in the city; the rest are scattered across the island, with 25 of them living on farms. Every kind of climate and terrain can be found here. Nature and technology have so blessed this little island that only four people are occupied in growing the food and husbanding the trees and mining the bounty from the Earth.
         Some highlights of what the rest of them do: seven are building homes, offices, factories and roads for other people. It takes twenty people to manufacture what the people need, and 24 to sell it. Moving people and their goods from place to place takes five more. Six people are occupied fixing things that break; yet ten are involved in fixing people, which are largely self-healing organisms that were apparently designed to wear out anyway. Supplying all the things we normally think of as utilities (telephones, electricity, water, etc.) occupies three more people.
         Most of these workers have freely chosen their occupations, and few of them spend more than half their waking hours at work. And yet, they are among the wealthiest people in the world.
         Sixty-six students are enrolled in school, including 18 in the college. Ten people are engaged in educating those 66 - that's fewer than seven students per educator; care to guess how many of those ten are teachers? Of the total population, 32 have completed four or more years of college.
         Starvation is almost unknown. Life is so easy that, despite easy access to tobacco and alcohol and too much food, and despite dangerous pollution, guns, automobiles and violent crime, fully 31 of these good people have survived to age 65; in fact, seven of them are over 80! (Who would want to live past 80? Custom dictates that they stop working at 65.)
         Protecting this island from invasion occupies only two people. To help them out, they get all of the money earned by twelve of their neighbors.
         Sounds like Paradise to me. But during the Twentieth Century, there was a slow but pervasive change in attitude: They lost faith in themselves, the natural rights given to them by their Creator, the bounty of Nature, and the good will of their neighbors. There followed an hundred years of wars, famines, and economic uncertainty, which taught them that their only salvation lay in making a daily pilgrimage to the holy places and giving up half of that day's production to their eighteen anointed ones. In exchange, these eighteen anointed ones have promised to discover and solve the island's many and varied problems.
         And discover them they do. Here is a small sampling:

* Thirteen of the island's 249 inhabitants are disabled, seven so badly that they can't find a way to make a living. And that's just the youngsters, under 65!

* If that's not enough to worry about, 25 of these people don't speak the local language very well.

* One hundred sixteen of these poor souls have jobs, but eight of the can't find work; another crisis for the anointed ones.

* Thirty-two of these islanders live below the poverty level. (I don't know what that means. The anointed ones, in their wisdom, decide what standard of living is comfortable, and anything below that is poverty. Even though most of the world would be happy to trade up to it.)

         Now, what about those eighteen overworked anointed ones? Remember that in addition to defining these crises, they've promised to solve them. How can they possibly do that? They've got to take care of 7 people too disabled to work, 25 who don't speak the language very well, 8 who can't find work for other reasons, 32 in poverty, and 31 over the age of sixty-five. That's a total of 103 of the 249 citizens, or 41% who are disadvantaged. Assuming no overlap between categories.
         So the real crisis is, there are only 18 anointed ones to take care of them. That's almost six disadvantaged people for each of those overworked anointed ones.
         Fortunately, to help them out, they get all of the money earned by 69 of their fellow citizens. So have no fear; Paradise will survive.

Robert B. Boardman is the author of sf novels Savior of Fire, published by Blue Note Books, and The Trashers, as yet unpublished. He is currently managing director of the Nepenthe Project, a startup center in Houston for making liberty-oriented movies and videos. email: RBBoardman@aol.com

Pallas, the new sci-fi adventure novel by L. Neil Smith is out in paperback from Tor. Is there room for a socialist utopia on an individualist asteroid?
Now available at good bookstores everywhere!

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