Study Guide

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Philosophical Viewpoint: Libertarianism

By Robert Heinlein

Philosophical Viewpoint: Libertarianism

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).

Questions About Philosophical Viewpoint: Libertarianism

  1. Read Professor Paz's description of a Rational Anarchist (6.43). Do you believe this political philosophy will ultimately help Luna's society or do you find some issues with it? Why or why not?
  2. Which character would you say is the most libertarian in the novel? Why? Give examples from the text to support.
  3. Prof asks Wyoh, "Under what circumstances is it moral for a group to do that which is not moral for a member of that group to do alone?" We humbly extend this question to you.
  4. This cover for the novel claims it is the tale of libertarian revolution. Do you think the revolution really fights for libertarian values? If you need a brush up on libertarianism, check out this handy little guide.

Chew on This

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.

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