This series of fiction novels by Ursula Le Coin is another interesting exploration of a truly alien society and way of thinking, based on the writings of obscure economist Ludwig Von Miser. The Misers exist in the anarchist Permanent Free Zone universe.
1. The Misers Claim Planet Argela-4
In this first novel of the series, we see the Misers establish themselves on a planet called Argela-4, then making a property claim on the whole planet and renaming it Ancapistan. Sociologists and diplomats from the Permanent Free Zone visit the planet, and are puzzled at the ideology of the Misers, who believe that they can own a whole planet of which they can only use or occupy a tiny fraction at a time.
A good introduction to the Miser society and ideology, which is very selfish, underhanded (Misers are very cruel to each other, going so far as exploiting each other with price manipulations and charging interest on loans) and xenophobic. Their interactions are dominated by the desire for economic conquest, including the use of money and reputation to get laws passed in their favour by the king, and the routine bribing of courts. Despite their obvious flaws, the Misers are shown to have their good sides, such as an inordinate fondness for operas.
PFZ courts declare the Misers’ property claim to be incoherent and invalid, and the Misers respond by breaking off from PFZ jurisdiction and refusing to uphold Common Law, preferring their own arbitrary rules. Diplomacy winds down and a period of isolationism begins.
2. The Misers Blow Up a Fountain
A business owned by a Miser, Stephan Rothbard III, is contracted to build a fountain on planet Walden. After it has become clear that no one understands what the shape of the fountain is a metaphor for, Rothbard III becomes enraged, goes on a 20-page rant about the primacy of existence over consciousness, and then blows up the fountain.
Rothbard III is found guilty of unauthorized destruction of social assets and endangering people’s lives. His business is kicked out of Walden and he is ordered to pay a heavy fine to Walden society. Rothbard III refuses to pay and escapes Walden, swearing revenge in a 32-page speech against all socialists for refusing to admit his genius and not letting him boss over others. An extraordinary PFZ grand jury officially declares Rothbard III an outlaw.
3. The Misers Against the Space Hippies
A colony of nomadic Space Hippies settles on the opposite side of planet Ancapistan. The Misers are outraged and claim that their property is being infringed, but are unable to find the Hippies. When a lone trading party from the Inner Rim comes to barter with the Hippies, the Misers are hot on their heels with laser rifles. Fighting soon turns to disaster for the Space Hippies and their new allies, and they must escape nothing less than genocide.
4. The Misers Sell Themselves into Slavery
After the PFZ’s Land Distribution Bureau tightens the noose on the Misers for their invalid property claims by sending a strongly-worded memo, the Misers sell themselves as slaves to the Mendelians, a society where people believe in owning bodies. This is all part of a Miser plan to have themselves classified as non-sentient and thus protected by PFZ law as part of the Ancapistan ecosystem. As the PFZ bureaucracy is mainly composed of people too incompetent to do any other job but pushing paper, it charters two adventurers, diplomat Voltarine and lawyer Lysander, to convince the Mendelians that their policy is unwise before the Misers can do irreparable damage to Ancapistan’s natural resources as the Mendelians’ new slave-exploiters.
During this whole process, the Misers also deny the nature of the Space Hippie Genocide that they perpetrated in the last book, bizarrely calling it “self-defense.”
Although Voltarine and Lysander are familiar characters to Le Coin fans, this is their first adventure in the Miser series, and they are amongst the main characters in all subsequent books.
5. The Misers and the Doomsday Cult
Five years after the previous book, a new group has emerged on the isolated planet Zapata. Its members predict the imminent collapse of the PFZ due to internal divergence of interests and lack of economic information. They become a doomsday cult which uses what they call “counter-counter-economics”: claiming an area by force and barring anyone else from using it, by murder if necessary. Their doctrine of total control over nature and other people’s actions awakens the animal within and turns reasonable people into brutes. They also have a strange fetishism for using gold as currency.
Voltarine and Lysander are commissioned by the shadowy Septapartite Organization for the Valuation of Internal and External Threats (S.O.V.I.E.T.) to get to the bottom of this doomsday cult, and they find out that the Misers are behind it all, trying to stir up a propertarian revolution against the socialist iron rule of the PFZ and its monetary bureaucracy. In order to get the inside scoop about the cult, they have to befriend a young girl called Margaret, who is frightened to betray the cult because they made her sign a billion year contract.
6. The Misers Declare War
The king of the Misers dies in a suspicious industrial accident. Having greatly risen in reputation on the basis of his anti-socialist rhetoric, Stephan Rothbard III, the man who was declared an outlaw by the PFZ in “The Misers Blow Up a Fountain,” is crowned the new king. Hot on the heels of an official report by the S.O.V.I.E.T. which declared Miser society oppressive and a possible target for “liberation,” King Rothbard III pre-emptively declares war on the PFZ.
Still investigating Miser wrongdoings from the previous book, Voltarine and Lysander accidentally stumble upon the invasion force, but are captured by the battleship HMS Agora before they can report it. They are prisoners of an invasion fleet which aims to lay waste to the Outer Rim and strong-arm the PFZ into conceding their property claim. We learn that the Misers consider all prisoners to have “surrendered their rights,” and so Voltarine and Lysander become temporary slaves to Miserian commander Albert Bastiat and, after dodging an attempted rape, are put to work on the bilge deck. Can they escape and get to the communications room in time to warn Galactic Defense Command of the imminent threat?
Both this and the last book change the general tone of the series from a slower-paced sociological study to a nail-biting thriller, but the depth of ideas is still there.
7. The Misers: Spy and Counter-Spies
In the final work of the series, the PFZ’s military fleet, after defeating the Miser fleet, has been blockading Ancapistan for two years and is now preparing to deploy a Perpetual Winter Screen to drown the Misers in an eternal ten feet of snow and crash their burgeoning refrigerator industry. At the same time, Miser spy Dagny Reardon finishes a three-year mission to find the blueprint of a revolutionary new space missile, the Galt-X, which is virtually invulnerable to defensive lasers, said blueprint having been left behind during the massive emigration of the Misesian State Project. We follow her as she uncovers the blueprint and devises a way to break through the blockade. We then follow the adventures of Voltarine and Lysander as they play spy in turn and try to sabotage the Galt-X manufacturing attempts before they come to fruition and threaten the whole fleet.
Here we really get a full sense of the Misesian insanity in the head of spy Dagny Reardon. She believes in all sorts of outdated 21st century economics nonsense like offer and demand curves, man as “purely selfish being,” universal scarcity, and so on. It’s really quite fascinating. While we are not told what happens after the Galt-X plans are confounded, it is probable that the Misers were defeated and relegated to the dustbin of history. And that is as it should be, in the opinion of this reviewer.