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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

For Us, the Living: A Comedy of CustomsFor Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As has been said, likely many times before, this first work of RAH is special for the fans. Not because it is a brilliant, exciting work on its own, but for the fact that it foreshadows some of the ideas that later live rent-free in our heads.

On the surface, it's just a fish-out-of-water piece. A 1939 man gets catapulted nearly 150 years in the future, and must come to terms with an amazingly different culture.

In actuality, it's a long and preachy thought-piece on a UBI-like utopia that explains itself very well, in down-to-earth terms, and skewers the 1939 customs in a way that might have been more shocking were it not for the fact that we're practically living in the same damn situation.

His core premise? Everyone should have the liberty to pursue their passions. For such a lifelong Libertarian, even rather conservative, RAH pulled off an interesting feat: he totally supported UBI and a precisely controlled economy -- where no hoarding is available.

(Context, at the time, Roosevelt will have raise the tax rate on the 1% to almost 90% and erected a ton of social support networks that WORKED, and this was a SF novel that took it even farther.)

With the basic standard of living having a nice floor, everyone who DOES want to work, can find their callings without bully or fear. Those who do work, make a nice profit because everyone has the ability to support whatever they want. A capitalist network is still in place, but it isn't marred by zero-sum mentality, hoarding, or maliciousness.

When you consider our world, today, with a greater divide between the rich and everyone else, with the strong-arm tactics to keep us all down, a thinking-piece like this novel is like a breath of fresh air and clear thinking, explained well.

No, it's not a traditional novel at all, and indeed, it was never published in RAH's lifetime, but that doesn't make it any less interesting.

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