John C. Wright- Libertarian

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John C. WrightImagine a libertarian utopia. Now imagine that utopia a million years in the future. That's what science fiction writer John C. Wright does in his Golden Age trilogy -- and his daring feat of imagination has earned him respect as perhaps "this fledgling century's most important new SF talent" (according to Publisher's Weekly), and acclaim as one of the genre's most exciting libertarian authors.

The three books in the series -- The Golden Age (2002), The Phoenix Exultant (2003), and The Golden Transcendence (2003) -- feature immortal humans, a hundred-kilometer-long golden spaceship, artificial intelligences, implanted memories, mysterious enemies from another star system, and space battles. Written in the grandiose style of a space opera, the books examine serious themes of morality, identity, and liberty. In fact, the climax of the trilogy involves a debate between the hero and an evil artificial intelligence over the nature of reality and morality.

In an interview on the jefallbright.net blog, Wright said the books are a rebuttal to socialist science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950), who also wrote epic, galaxy-spanning novels that took place in the distant future. "My ideas of law and economics are the opposite of Mr. Stapledon's, and so my utopia has in it everything he would leave out of his," Wright said. "He proposes a communist utopia, blissfully without private property. I propose a libertarian utopia, blissfully without public property."

In the novels, Wright continued, "I am proposing a government so unobtrusive and so honest that few citizens even realize it exists; the social organization in the Golden Age is entirely voluntary." He's not exaggerating. In the trilogy, one character describes the government as "unable to do anything except defend the peace, unable to use force except to stop force." In the trilogy's Appendix, Wright noted, "The severely limited powers of the government in the Golden Age rendered government useless and unnecessary for the conduct of daily affairs of life."

Wright said he had to make the Golden Age's society libertarian because the plot required one of the characters to own the solar system's only interstellar ship. Wright said he wondered: What kind of society could afford such a luxury? "The answers suggested themselves from the logic of the question," he said in a 2003 interview on MostlyFiction.com. "The society would have to be absurdly wealthy, a free-market society, to have any one man have the capital to spend on such a project... Logic suggests that such a society would have to be libertarian in nature, an Ayn Rand utopia..."

But Wright's utopia is no problem-free Galt's Gulch; it features murder, fraud, espionage, sabotage, and other crimes so futuristic they won't make it into the penal code for a million years. This utopia "is not so utopian as to lack all drama," Wright noted.

Wright is also a realist about the limitations -- and dangers -- of liberty. As one character in the Golden Age explains, "There are many things which are repugnant, deadly to the spirit, and self-destructive, but which law should not forbid. Addiction, self-delusion, self-destruction, slander, perversion, love of ugliness." Indeed, the trilogy features characters who squander the limitless possibilities of freedom; using it only to engage in smug rebellion against society, drugged-out bliss, the exploitation of others, and efforts (noncoersive but powerful) to halt activities they consider dangerous to social stability.

The trilogy's non-stop drama -- and its dizzying philosophical and technological speculations -- have earned Wright praise from libertarian science fiction fans. On George Mason University's "Liberty & Power" blog, Roderick T. Long described the Golden Age as a "thoughtful, imaginative, and suspenseful tale of a libertarian hero in rebellion against a libertarian utopia." On the LewRockwell.com blog, Stephan Kinsella called it "just about the best sci-fi I've ever read...by an obvious libertarian and proponent of individualism. Highly recommended."

In an e-mail message to the Advocates, Wright said he has "never publicly declared myself to be a libertarian... When anyone asks me my political persuasion, I usually tell them I am a Virginian." He also said he holds some political positions that would make "a true-blue libertarian...denounce me."

"But," he added, "if your definition of libertarian is broad enough to include all those who cherish human liberty, or anyone persuaded of the rightness and sanity of the economic philosophy of Ludwig van Mises and Adam Smith, then I accept the honor without reservation."

In addition to the Golden Age, Wright is the author of Last Guardian of Everness (2004), Mists of Everness (2005), Orphans of Chaos (2005), Fugitives of Chaos (2006), Titans of Chaos (2007), and the forthcoming Null-A Continuum. Both Last Guardian of Everness and Mists of Everness were nominated for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel by the Libertarian Futurist Society. Orphans of Chaos was a Nebula Award finalist in 2006.

Before getting his first novel published, Wright (born 1961) worked as a lawyer in private practice, a newspaper reporter and editor, and a technical writer. He lives in Virginia with his wife, author L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their three whimsically named children, Orville, Wilbur, and Justinian.

A lifelong "vehement, argumentative, proselytizing atheist," Wright suffered a heart attack in 2003 and soon afterwards had a "supernatural" religious experience that made him, he wrote, "aware of a spiritual dimension of reality of which I had hitherto been unaware... I was altered down to the root of my being." Wright is now a Christian.

-- Bill Winter

 

Quotable

"My ideas of law and economics are the opposite of [socialist science fiction writer Olaf] Stapledon's, and so my utopia has in it everything he would leave out of his. He proposes a communist utopia, blissfully without private property. I propose a libertarian utopia, blissfully without public property." -- John C. Wright on jefallbright.net (December 20, 2003)

"When I was young, I thought all science fiction writers were like me: people who believed in science, and, hence, in rationality and, by extension, in the virtues of reason, such as individualism, independent thinking, self-reliance, non-conformity. Hence, it was with considerable surprise that, going to my first science fiction convention, I found that most of the writers were leftists, socialists, mystics and collectivists." -- John C. Wright on http://johncwright.livejournal.com (September 23, 2003)

"[My] opinions...are standard, flag-waving, pro-American-type individualism." -- John C. Wright on http://johncwright.livejournal.com (September 26, 2003)

 


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