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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Book Review

This book wasn't originally on my loose, more-than-a-little-disorganized-not-really-a-true-list, to-read list. I have a number of books that I'm actively looking forward to reading, and while I lurve me a Heinlein, I'm more likely to read a new book these days than one I've already read.

That said, after Rob read Artemis, he started in on The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and suggested I read the Heinlein lunar revolution book before reading Artemis, there being some similarities (I haven't read his review of Artemis yet). Easy enough to do. So I did.

And remembered why I love Heinlein so much. Yes, he has opinions I find offensive. Yes, he has ideas about humans that fundamentally could absolutely never work. But, yes, he has a way with words, a way that draws you in and makes you wish that people were more than our natures, that we could be his idealized version of ourselves.

I love the idea of people being rational. We are not.

I love the idea of a small government that respects the rights of its people. Its people are fragile, irrational beings, capable of incredible cruelty to each other. One cannot respect all the rights of a person when said person cannot respect the rights of another; cannot be rational when irrational acts creates a "might makes right" belief; cannot be fair when a victim cannot speak up or out for fear of retaliation, banishment, exile, or death.

His ideas are lovely on paper, and impossible in life.

The story, though, wheeeeeee, what a ride. Heinlein totally missed out on the fiction part of the future, with everyone communicating over hardwired telephone lines. The communicator doesn't exist yet, even though the Internet was predicted in the early 1900s. Which is fine, the story works, and would work with current technology with only a few other adjustments. A wifi connection is not going to work through a hundred kilometers of lunar rock, so there would still be hardwire connections of a sort.

Still, I enjoyed this book the second (third?) time through. Worth reading if you're a Heinlein fan, or want insights into how a revolution c/should be done.

Remember Mike was designed, even before augmented, to answer questions tentatively on insufficient data like you do; that's "high optional" and "multi-evaluating" part of name. So Mike started with "free will" and acquired more as he was added to and as he learned - and don't ask me to define "free will."
Location 18

By ship, of course - and, since a ship is mass-rated almost to a gram, that meant a ship's officer had to be bribed.

Some were bribed, they say. But were no escapes; man who takes bribe doesn't necessarily stay bribed.
Location 227

Tourists often remark on how polite everybody is in Luna - with unstated comment that ex-prison shouldn't be so civilized. Having been Earthside and seen what they put up with, I know what they mean. But useless to tell them we are what we are because bad actors don't live long - in Luna.
Location 257

Girls are interesting, Mike; they can reach conclusions with even less data than you can.
Location 1098

A man can face known danger. But the unknown frightens him.
Location 1349

"The trouble with conspiracies is that they rot internally. When the number is as high as four, chances are even that one is a spy."
Location 1372

Revolution is a science only a few are competent to practice.
Location 1379

It depends on correct organization and, above all, on communications. Then, at the proper moment in history, they strike. Correctly organized and properly timed it is a bloodless coup. Done clumsily or prematurely and the result is civil war, mob violence, purges, terror.
Location 1379

As Prof says, a society adapts to fact, or doesn't survive.
Location 2248

Easier to get people to hate than to get them to love.
Location 2254

Mike listened at all times in workshop and in Wyoh's room; if he heard my voice or hers say "Mike," he answered, but not to other voices.
Location 2345

Here, Heinlein predicts Siri.

Nothing frustrates a man so much as not letting him get in his say.
Location 2565

"Oh, 'tanstaafl.' Means ~There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.' And isn't," I added, pointing to a FREE LUNCH sign across room, "or these drinks would cost half as much. Was reminding her that anything free costs twice as much in long run or turns out worthless."
Location 3179

Where do you start explaining when a man's words show there isn't anything he understands about subject, instead is loaded with preconceptions that don't fit facts and doesn't even know he has?
Location 3196

Here we are, two million males, less than one million females. A physical fact, basic as rock or vacuum. Then add idea of tanstaafl. When thing is scarce, price goes up. Women are scarce; aren't enough to go around - that makes them most valuable thing in Luna, more precious than ice or air, as men without women don't care whether they stay alive or not.
Location 3214

Mike drew parallels from XVIIIth century, when Britain's American colonies broke away, and from XXth, when many colonies became independent of several empires, and pointed out that in no case had a colony broken loose by brute force. No, in every case imperial state was busy elsewhere, had grown weary and given up without using full strength.
Location 3295

We had Mort in a twitter; he was yelling for help.
Location 3450

In a twitter. I giggled.

Women are amazing creatures - sweet, soft, gentle, and far more savage than we are.
Location 3631

But was best we had, so we organized First and Second Volunteer Defense Gunners of Free Luna - two regiments so that First could snub lowly Second and Second could be Jealous of First. First got older men. Second got young and eager.
Location 3901

Thing that got me was not her list of things she hated, since she was obviously crazy as a Cyborg, but fact that always somebody agreed with her prohibitions. Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws - always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: "Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop." Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them "for their own good" - not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.
Location 3967

This particular quote changed my attempts at classic Stoicism a bit. When I'm angry, I've been asking myself, "How have I been harmed?" Usually, the anger is the result of an action I don't like done by someone else, but I'm not actually harmed. This realization helps me let go.

"I almost needn't have bothered; more than six people cannot agree on anything, three is better - and one is perfect for a job that one can do. This is why parliamentary bodies all through history, when they accomplished anything, owed it to a few strong men who dominated the rest."
Location 3981

"Why not admit that any piece of writing was imperfect? If thin declaration was in general what they wanted, why not postpone perfection for another day and pass this as it stands?"
Location 4060

All drug had done for me at catapulting had been to swap a minute and a half of misery and two days of boredom for a century of terrible dreams—and besides, if those last minutes were going to be my very last, I decided to experience them. Bad as they would be, they were my very own and I would not give them up.
Location 4321

The only thing we truly have is ourselves.

Is mixed-up place another way; they care about skin color - by making point of how they don't care. First trip I was always too light or too dark, and somehow blamed either way, or was always being expected to take stand on things I have no opinions on.
Location 4980

I saw Yankees play and I visited Salem. Should have kept my illusions. Baseball is better over video, you can really see it and aren't pushed in by two hundred thousand other people. Besides, somebody should have shot that outfield.
Location 4987

I laughed at this.

"A managed democracy is a wonderful thing, Manuel, for the managers... and its greatest strength is a 'free press' when 'free' is defined as 'responsible' and the managers define what is 'irresponsible.'"
Location 5048

This planet isn't crowded; it is just mismanaged... and the unkindest thing you can do for a hungry man is to give him food. 'Give.' Read Malthus. It is never safe to laugh at Dr. Malthus; he always has the last laugh. A depressing man, I'm glad he's dead. But don't read him until this is over; too many facts hamper a diplomat, especially an honest one."

"I'm not especially honest."

"But you have no talent for dishonesty, so your refuge must be ignorance and stubbornness. You have the latter; try to preserve the former."
Location 5063

"Comrade Members, like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have freedom - if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant."
Location 5895

"But if representative government turns out to be your intention there still may be ways to achieve it better than the territorial district. For example you each represent about ten thousand human beings, perhaps seven thousand of voting age - and some of you were elected by slim majorities. Suppose instead of election a man were qualified for office by petition signed by four thousand citizens. He would then represent those four thousand affirmatively, with no disgruntled minority, for what would have been a minority in a territorial constituency would all be free to start other petitions or join in them. All would then be represented by men of their choice. Or a man with eight thousand supporters might have two votes in this body. Difficulties, objections, practical points to be worked out - many of them! But you could work them out... and thereby avoid the chronic sickness of representative government, the disgruntled minority which feels - correctly! - that it has been disenfranchised.
Location 5918

"But, whatever you do, do not let the past be a straitjacket!"
Location 5920

"I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent - the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority... while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?
Location 5921

Voluntary contributions just as churches support themselves... government-sponsored lotteries to which no one need subscribe... or perhaps you Congressmen should dig down into your own pouches and pay for whatever is needed; that would be one way to keep government down in size to its indispensable functions whatever they may be. If indeed there are any. I would be satisfied to have the Golden Rule be the only law; I see no need for any other, nor for any method of enforcing it. But if you really believe that your neighbors must have laws for their own good, why shouldn't you pay for it? Comrades, I beg you - do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is so worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.
Location 5939

The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys.
Location 5950

It may not be possible to do away with government - sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive—and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby?"
Location 5951

"Manuel, when faced with a problem you do not understand, do any part of it you do understand, then look at it again."
Location 7125

Seems to be a deep instinct in human beings for making everything compulsory that isn't forbidden.
Location 7402

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