The Mirror Maze
by James P. Hogan

The most explicitly libertarian book that Hogan has written. It is also the least science fictiony. It was written in the late 1980s, and the action takes place from November 2000 (when the libertarian Constitutional Party wins the US Presidential election) to January 2001 (when the new president takes the oath of office at his inauguration), with flash backs to the mid 1990s. Unfortunately, the plot requires that the cold war between the USA and the USSR is still going on.

The action centers around two sisters and their old college boyfriends. The sisters look alike. One sister is mistaken for the other and murdered by a professional assassin. The surviving sister realizes that she was the real target and so she lets everyone believe the she was the one killed and she takes on the role of her sister. It turns out that her sister was acting as a spy for the libertarian party. In fact, she was a double agent pretending to have sold out the libertarians in favor of a secret international organization of wealthy people who manipulate world events behind the scenes. She gets her sister’s ex-boyfriend involved. The plot get more complicated. It is full of intrigue and suspense. The book shows a strong Ayn Rand influence: the political philosophy is limited constitutional government, the economics is Austrian, the history is Kolko revisionist, the theology is anti-Christian, the most admired people are independent businessmen, the villains are bleeding-heart intellectuals, the super-villains are the power-hungry inheritors of massive fortunes who manipulate world events behind the scenes.

Because Hogan is a good writer he is able to state his philosophy clearly in a few words. Here are some quotations:

Religion

“There’s a sucker born-again every minute.” (34)

“There’s a retired couple along the street who send over a third of their income to the TV ministries. They think it’ll guarantee them a place in heaven. There’s nothing you can do about a self-imposed stupidity tax...” (117)

“Soldiers went through the same programming [to instill the great cultural taboo against killing], supposedly, for eighteen years, and were then expected to be able to switch it off at will, simply because somebody pronounced the mass killing of people they had never seen before ‘just,’ after consulting an all-merciful, all-powerful God who had botched the job by creating imperfect men, and then had to have his only son tortured to death to remedy it. It was just as well that humans made better parents” (362)

“... if there really were a God, it wouldn’t have been necessary for men to invent such an absurd one.” (79)

History
“Every one of those evils happened not because of capitalism, but because of interference in it, by the government. This nation has never had a genuine free-market economy at all.” (51)

“Look, free-market capitalism and big-business politics are not the same thing. They couldn’t be more different, but people confuse them all the time. Big corporations don’t want a free market, whatever else their PR people pretend. It disciplines them, and it benefits the public. They want political protection--economic privilege enforced by law.” (115)

“The really big-time crooks don’t break laws. ... They make them.” (52)

“The popular belief that state-regulated industries, such as the railroads in the nineteenth century, and later the telephone and electrical utilities, had been brought to heel to protect the populace against exploitation was, for the most part, erroneous. Rather, it had been the owners themselves who had fomented the public outcries for government intervention--to protect themselves from competition. For the first step in response to such demands was invariably to appoint an expert committee to investigate and recommend on the legislation to be passed. And where else could the experts who understood an industry be obtained other than from within the industry itself? The inevitable outcome was that the foxes would be left in charge of the hen coop, while the reformers, heady with success, moved on in search of new dragons to conquer.” (259)

“... the essential control of this country was taken over by a small inner circle of the financial elite in a bloodless and practically invisible revolution that was pulled off in the first two decades of the twentieth century.” (314)

“The Federal Reserve System, which was set up in 1913, provided cheap credit by inflating the money supply, which reversed the signals and created huge malinvestments. Eventually bad investments have to liquidate, which is what a depression is.” (53)

“... dachas--luxurious country homes--allotted to the classless society’s privileged elite.” (87)

Economics
You see, except for a few, very rare cases, a monopoly cannot survive. Monopoly privilege can be sustained only by force--either of the criminal kind, where you blow your competition away with bombs and bullets, or the legal kind, where the government does it for you. The only exception is when the monopoly exists through genuine excellence of the product, where it’s impossible for anyone to offer the customers a better deal--and in that case there’s nothing to complain about, anyhow.” (51)

“The whole universe consists of energy and matter. ... And every advance in human knowledge makes more of it accessible to us. Resources become cheaper and more abundant with time, not less. All this doomsday nonsense we’ve been hearing for years is the biggest fallacy of the age. Look at how the prices of just about every commodity you can name have come down in real terms over the last two hundred years--despite all the insane economic policies to prevent it.” (98-99)

“... prices telegraphed information. The trouble with the idea of a centrally directed economy was that there was no effective way for buyers through the various levels of the system to tell suppliers what they needed. So the best the planners could deliver instead was what they thought people ought to have. And that tended not to work too well. It had been ruining economies around the world for half a century. The only thing that such systems did provide an effective means of control over--was people.” (64)

Science
“I saw science as coming to be the same as everything else: turning into a Big-Government-dominated monopoly that can hand out favors to the people it likes and bury anyone it doesn’t like. It was degenerating into a competition for bigger handouts at the public trough.” (272)

“... the energy densities associated with nuclear processes are thousands of times greater than anything you get from rearranging the outer electron shells of atoms, which is the basis of all chemical combustion. Hence you need thousands of times less fuel. And despite the things you hear, you generate thousands of times less waste. In the end it’s the only way to go. You can fool people and you can fool yourself--for a while. But in the end, facts always win through. You can’t fool the laws of physics and economics.” (272)

Political Philosophy
“Basically, we’ve come to the conclusion that the first amendment, separating church and state, is all very fine, but it doesn’t go far enough. It only does half the job. We want to finish it: by completely separating the power of the state from economic affairs.” (53)

“What we’re saying is that the power of the state should no more be available to secure economic privileges for one group at the expense of another, than to impose a favored religion.” (54)

“Taking away by force what a person has earned is theft--however else you try to disguise it with words.” (54)

“The law shouldn’t legalize for government what would be considered criminal if done by anyone else. (54-55)

“... people who have a choice will never all agree with any one person’s idea of what’s best for them, and the only way you’ll ever get them to go along is by force. The institutions of a free society become obstacles to the plan and get swept aside to be replaced by coercion. And once you’ve made that start, the end of the line is the secret police, the Gestapo, the Gulag, and the concentration camp. Science may be great for explaining the physical universe and building machines that work, but it’s not the way to try and run a society--you end up turning that into a machine, too. Yet people keep on trying because it works so well in its own field.” (104-105)

“Nature rewards achievement and ability, and punishes nonachievement. We try to create a system that does precisely the opposite, by levying a progressively more savage tax on success, and rewarding inability with cash prizes. So, of course, the system is falling apart.” (172)

“Our position is that in the longer term, any kind of giveaway program suffers from the same drawbacks internationally as it does domestically. Ultimately it creates dependency and prolongs backwardness.” (327)

Year Read: 2000


Back to Libertarian Essays by Roy Halliday
Back to Nonfiction Book Notes
Back to Fiction Book Notes
Back to Book Notes by Author

This page was last updated on September 27, 2011.
This site is maintained by Roy Halliday. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send them to royhalliday@mindspring.com.