Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Planet for Texans

The recent attempted assassination of a democratically elected official in Arizona has understandably elicited a great deal comment. There's been a lot of talk about heated political rhetoric and the influence it may have had on events. There's also been discussion of the accused assassin's reading list and the books it contains. What hasn't been mentioned yet is the Libertarian science fiction novel that imagines a society in which such killings are legal: H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire's A Planet for Texans (1957).

Also published under the title Lone Star Planet it is a trifling novella that imagines a planet colonized by Texans who heard giant cattle. However, it has become a favorite of Libertarians and militia groups because of its central premise that it should be legal to assassinate politicians. The idea is lifted from H. L. Mencken's satirical 1924 eassay, "The Malevolent Jobholder", which proposed killing "delinquent officials". (Whoever edited The Mencken Society online version of the essay comments, "I am more than even convinced that it embodied a good idea.")  It would be easy to dismiss this tale as a forgettable, farcical work by a minor sf author if not for the fact that in 1999 it was awarded the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, a prize given to "libertarian science fiction".

There's no evidence that the gunman who massacred all those innocent people ever read this book. I'm not suggesting it had any influence on that tragic crime. But rather than making vague statements about "the tone of political rhetoric" I think we should be asking hard questions of the political factions who in the past have looked favorably on fantasies about precisely such actions.

"Libertarianism" is just a euphemism for plutocracy. I'm sure most Libertarians deplore this horrible crime and just want to get back to making money by hook or by crook. But maybe in light of recent events they might want to rethink a thing or two.

No comments: