We hear the words freedom and liberty all the time. Politicians can't go two whole sentences without using one of them, newscasters often speak about countries where citizens lack freedoms, and history lessons are full of cool quotes about the subject. Yet, as sought after and loved as these ideals are, how do we know when we've obtained them? Can we say we have liberty if the government tells us how much money we must provide it through taxes? Can we say we are free if we cannot marry whom we wish?
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress provides a potential answer to these types of question, suggesting that government interference in the lives and businesses of individuals limits freedom and liberty. Will you agree with this answer? Let's discuss it and find out.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress sees economic freedom as the crème de la crème of freedoms since it ties all other freedoms—such as freedom of speech—to it.
The average Loonie does not gain additional freedom as a result of the revolution.
Libertarianism is like the Baskin-Robbins of political philosophies: There are more than thirty-one flavors to choose from, and some combinations taste better together than others. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has certainly crafted its own unique libertarian sundae. It borrows points from anarcho-capitalism and fiscal libertarianism, while giving shout-outs to thinkers of classical liberalism. All of this comes with the cherry on top of Professor Paz's one-of-a-kind philosophy of Rational Anarchist.
Given this breadth, we're going to stick to showing you where the novel espouses the key tenants of libertarianism: free market, personal choice of lifestyle, and limited or no government authority. By doing so, we hope to show you how the novel became so influential to key libertarian thinkers, especially in the United States (Source).
Luna's libertarian society strays from traditional libertarianism in several key aspects. Most importantly, their tendency to teach lessons with violence conflicts with a traditional libertarian views of individual rights (called the Non-Coercion Principle). As the libertarian saying goes: "Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins."
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress helps dispel several misunderstandings about libertarianism. For example, while libertarians view economic policies in a conservative light, this does not make them conservative. As evident by the novel's exploration of line marriages, libertarians often view private affairs with a more liberal approach.
Here's the thing about rules: They can be pretty weak. Okay, we're not telling you anything new, are we? We're sure you've been in a situation or two when a rule said you had to do something you didn't think was right or correct. Chances are you didn't create the rule, either—someone who likely claims to know better than you did. But why should someone else be allowed to create the rules for you? If you've ever asked this question, then The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is for you.
This novel questions the legitimacy of society, especially government, having the power to enforce rules on everyone, and suggests that only an individual can create his or her own rules. But what happens when the government creates rules for individuals and those rules don't work out? That is what revolutions are for.
Under Prof's leadership, the Luna Congress attempts to pass several laws and regulations, but we only see them pass the Luna Declaration of Independence. It's the novel's way of hinting at the true purpose of a government body such as Congress.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress seems anti-law at first glance, but in truth, it is saying any law can be perfectly acceptable, so long as each individual person chooses to follow that law of their own volition.
If you've ever been to a country that isn't your native one, you might have experience something called culture shock—you know, the jittery, agitated feeling one gets when everything around them is suddenly different. Ever found yourself in another country's bathroom wondering how to use the toilet? Then you've experienced a mild form of the phenomenon.
As awkward as culture shock may be, people who manage to overcome it often confess to learning to appreciate the uniqueness of the human experience, and also to considering their own culture more critically. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is basically a dose of culture shock found at your local library. The Loonies' traditions, customs, and principles will jar you at first—it can be a trippy trip—but as you explore the novel, you'll find yourself questioning your own social norms. And it's good to question things from time to time, Shmoopers.
On Luna, customs take the place of laws, improving on law by being derived from natural law instead of anything written.
Luna customs have the concepts of free market and family equally at their core.
Science fiction often depicts technology turning on humans, but this wasn't always the case. In the genre's golden age, technology and modernization were generally viewed as a beneficial force that would ultimately save humanity from itself. Yay technology. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress follows this rosy, golden view.
The super computer Mike, the hi-tech-honcho, allows individuals like Mannie and Prof to go toe-to-toe with larger-than-life government entities such as the Lunar Authority. Technology gives the everyman the power to do extraordinary things, so long as he uses that power for good, and not just for creating Internet memes.
Mannie is the guy who wins the day for the Loonies, not because he's a warrior or a great speechmaker, but because he can use technology like a pro.
Technology not only makes life easier on Luna, it is essential to even being able to live on the Moon in the first place—although the same could be said for life on Earth if you're human.
There is no such thing as a bloodless revolution. The Bloodless Revolution of 1688, a.k.a. the Glorious Revolution, was misnamed—soldiers did die, albeit very few. Even the Coldplay song "BloodlessRevolution" had some of its listeners bleeding from the ears.
In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,the insurrection on Luna is no exception, joining the long list of not-so-bloodless revolutions. Importantly, though, Luna is a society of violence even before the revolution. Duels are a way to settle Loonie debates, and men can kill each other without repercussions so long as the victim has it coming. Violence is simply a fact of Luna life, and any act of violence seems justifiable within Luna customs—so long as it is committed by a Loonie, that is.
Despite a society where violence is the norm, the Loonies attempt to wage as blood-free a war against Earth as possible by launching rocks into uninhabited zones. In doing so, they are trying to respect Earth's rules on violence rather than their own.
The major source of violence on Luna is not the Loonies, but the environment.
Oh boy, here we go. The issue of ladies and femininity in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress—or any Heinlein novel for that matter—makes for a debate that can include thoughtful analysis, forum flame wars, and everything in-between. Some people think Heinlein's female characters are often put in the background, but believe they play important roles and are strong characters all the same, while others think Heinlein attempts to imagine women's liberation but doesn't quite figure it out. Still others see Heinlein as playing a shell game with the novel's female characters, claiming they are independent when in practice they are anything but. What do you think?
Even in its title, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress fails to recognize women as truly autonomous beings—mistress is a relational term, after all.
Timing is everything, and if The Moon is a Harsh Mistress comes up short on the feminism front, this is only because it was written in 1965, when women's lib was a much newer phenomenon.
In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, profit comes from about every form of manipulation you can imagine: propaganda, coercion, money laundering, voter fraud, and just flat out lying to round things out. Surprisingly, it's not so much the Lunar Authority who deals in manipulation, but our revolutionary heroes, especially Mike and Professor Paz, who manipulate the very people they claim to be fighting for.
So what's the novel trying to say about manipulation if it is present on both sides of the conflict coin? Is it saying that manipulation is necessary to survive? That he who manipulates best ultimately wins at life? Or that politics corrupt absolutely? We're not sure what the answer is, but we're sure the discussion will be fun all the same.
The Luna Revolution is won through politics and combat, in both cases thanks to the art of manipulation.
The average Loonie does not gain additional freedom as a result of the revolution. Because of Mike and Prof's manipulation, only the revolutionaries at the top actually receive more freedom.