Lone Star Planet: A State I Could Tolerate

May 8th, 2014   Submitted by Foo Quuxman

LoneStarPlanetI’d like to hopefully draw attention to a short story titled “Lone Star Planet”, alternatively “A Planet for Texans” (available from the Gutenberg Project) written by Henry Beam Piper and John Joseph McGuire and published in 1958. It describes an unusual political system that I believe libertarians everywhere would enjoy, and statists will be horrified by (which is a good thing). I will try to avoid spoiling the plot, except for the description of the politics, and a minor event that demonstrates it.

The story follows a young ambassador sent from a standard Earth Federation type government to an independent planet named “New Texas.” His job is officially to replace, and find out who assassinated the previous ambassador. Along the way he solves problems, nips a war in the bud, and learns the political structure of New Texas before resigning and going native.

In the story the planet New Texas was settled a couple hundred years previously, after the discovery of FTL (faster than light) drives. The entire population of Texas moved to the new planet where they could be independent of everyone. On this planet is a life form called a “supercow” which is described as:

“a big mammal looking like the unsuccessful attempt of a hippopotamus to impersonate a dachshund and about the size of a nuclear-steam locomotive.”

The meat from these becomes an extremely popular product, and as a result New Texas becomes the meat exporter of the galaxy. Due to the enormous size and strength of the supercow, ranchers have to use small aircraft and tanks in order to herd them and butcher them for the market.

The result of this is that the ranchers are able to overthrow the planetary government rapidly if necessary  According to the story, this happened a few times early in the planet’s history, and is enshrined into the politics and culture. From this comes the implication that you can not allow a man with a force of five-hundred men, tanks, and aircraft the right to kill the government if it gets uppity and then deny the same right to the lone man with a gun or knife.

So, on New Texas when someone kills or assaults a politician the attacker is tried based not on whether he committed a crime, but based on whether the politician deserved it, and how much he deserved. In one scene a man is on trial for killing a senator with a machete after said senator introduced a bill to create an income tax. The 9 judges (they are called judges, but behave like a jury) find the killer not guilty of the charge of “political irresponsibility, and of unjustified and excessive atrocity” with the only dissent being described this way:

“There was one dissenting vote on acquitting you of the charge of political irresponsibility; one of the associate judges felt that the late unmitigated scoundrel, Austin Maverick, ought to have been skinned alive, an inch at a time.”

The trial was quite literally an open and shut case with the court having been in deliberation for all of one minute.

The backstop against the ranchers taking over as warlords themselves is that the culture is such that the ranchers cannot throw their weight around without their men killing them, partially due to each “army” being small enough for everyone to know each other.

This is a state I could deal with. Because it is a case of the minarchian dream of “Good Government,” or as close as we could ever get, and it has hard limits on its growth via the Court of Political Justice. And the culture is overwhelmingly in favor of those limits.

Now, I am not naive enough to think that it would stay that way forever, and the system also depends on the unique economic conditions described above, and it is close enough to anarchy that one may as well go the rest of the way. But the scenario is entertaining anyway, not the least because of how many heads explode in its contemplation.

Now go read it!


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8 Responses to “Lone Star Planet: A State I Could Tolerate”

  1. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks. I will look for this book. Is the capital of New Texas, New Austin?

  2. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    Nice review, Foo, but this one’s not for me. “Good government” is and always will be a contradiction in terms.

    Only a Zero Government will cut it.

    • Foo QuuxmanNo Gravatar says:

      “Good government” is and always will be a contradiction in terms.

      Heh, I agree.

      This story could be interpreted as showing how extreme the situation has to get before a government has even a chance of approaching “good”.

  3. DaveNo Gravatar says:

    Interesting. I suppose a more realistic version of this is secession, which is really shunning the federal version of the government. And, without bloodshed. Until, of course, when the feds try to make you come back…

  4. Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

    Just a thought. Is a government that leaves itself open to assassination still a government? It certainly doesn’t enjoy a monopoly on violence.

    • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

      You’re right. This sort of state is a contradiction in terms wrapped in a fairy tale.

      Why do nominal “anarchists” want to imagine a world in which some people are still entitled to kill other people? This vision seems more to covet the role of the statesman than to oppose it definitively. These “anarchists” don’t want to eliminate the statesman as much as they want to replace him, so they have a right to kill him, checked by whatever systematic justice they imagine, rather than he having a right to kill them.

      • Sam SpadeNo Gravatar says:

        Martin Brock:

        “…Why do nominal “anarchists” want to imagine a world in which some people are still entitled to kill other people?…”

        Insightful. It’s funny if it weren’t a bit sad: the web seems full nowadays of “theories” and “ism’s” pertaining to anarchy — something having to do with “thick” vs “thin” libertarian theory, etc etc etc.

        The world revolves around my belly-button — not yours. My world. The advantage I have with that theory is the understanding that your world revolves around your belly-button — whether you admit it or not. This gives me the freedom to know that you did not get out of bed this morning looking for reasons to denigrate or harm me in any way.

        And that, my friend, is the root of liberty as I see it. Everything else is muck raking. Sam