Here are some thoughts on the book Looking Backward: 2162 – 2012, A View from a Future Libertarian Republic, by Iowa libertarian author Beth Cody. The review was written by Deborah D. Thornton who is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
The Libertarian movement, as evidenced by supporters of Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential bid, grew in strength during the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. According to the dictionary, a libertarian is one who “advocates for maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state.”(1)
The Preamble of the Libertarian party platform makes the following statement:
We seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives, and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others. We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized. Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.
Inherent in this statement and definition is that society and government as we know them today must be radically changed in order to achieve a better world. The idea is that all would be perfect if we made these changes. We could have a utopian world.
The idea of utopian communities has been a part of the American culture since our very founding. In many ways utopia is what the Puritans were looking for in their quest. Other well-known examples include New Harmony in Indiana, Brook Farm, the Shakers, the Oneida community, and even the hard-working Germans who settled our own Amana Colonies in Iowa. More recent utopian groups include those such as the “Jesus People Movement” of the 1970s. Utopian movements have been formed around socialist, communist, anarchist, and religious themes.(2)So far, while some have succeeded for brief periods of time, all have ultimately failed.
In her newly published book, Looking Backward: 2162 – 2012, A View from a Future Libertarian Republic, small business owner and writer Beth Cody has crafted a fictional Libertarian world and explains the workings of this society. She uses the honored “accidental” time traveler approach to set the scene for exploring.
A professor from a campus much like those in Iowa accidentally falls into a 150-year coma, emerging in 2162. The United States of America as we know it has fallen apart under the weight of onerous debt and taxation, unsustainable social entitlement programs, overreaching government regulations, continuing wars, and general corruption.(3) The first states to leave were Texas and California. Then the rest crumbled. The most successful of the resulting countries is the “Free States of America,” formed around Libertarian principles. The area of the Free States includes Iowa and the states westward to Idaho and Nevada.(4) Most interesting is the idea that various areas of the U.S. have broken off and formed countries heavily influenced by our history.
Much of the environment our professor awakens to is similar to 2012. Cars and homes haven’t really changed that much – we still haven’t figured out how to teleport ourselves like in Star Trek! But the government structure of the time is radically different.
The Constitution of the Free States is strictly Libertarian. Most importantly it includes prohibition of federal and state government taxation. All government is funded by voluntary donations. The federal government can not raise money through debt. Government can not print money or regulate its printing. There is no national military, only voluntary militia. Government can not fund or provide education. Government employees can not be paid with public money. And most importantly, the federal government cannot make new laws restricting the individual freedom of individuals, businesses, or states.(5)
Cody then goes on to have our professor’s sponsor show him around to see how the
country really works, and to explain why and how these ideas and systems are better than that
of the old United States. Looking Backward is an interesting and easy read. It clearly lays out how a Libertarian government might work.
Movement towards many of the ideas and goals discussed is needed in our country
today. Many of the new “Tea Party” Conservatives in Congress and the Iowa Legislature are working towards and promoting these approaches. Smaller government, lower taxes, increased personal freedom, and reduced government regulation are issues which many voters and taxpayers support.
Unfortunately almost 50 percent of the voters and elected officials stand firmly on the other side – believing that bigger government is more effective and more social services programs are needed, along with ever higher taxes. The wealthy must be taxed more because it is “unfair” for them to be successful. Parents are unable to decide how to best educate their children. Families must be forced to have health-care insurance or pay higher taxes. Consumers are unable to decide how much soda to drink.
Though utopian societies have never been successful – and one would not want the
United States as a country to disintegrate – when considering the current government and
economic situation one can not help but wish Cody and those supporting Libertarian ideals good luck.
1 “Libertarian,” TheFreeDictionary.com, accessed on July 9, 2012.
2 “Utopian Communities,” Answers.com, accessed on July 9, 2012.
3 Beth Cody, Looking Backward: 2162 – 2012, A View from a Future Libertarian Republic, p. 50.
4 Ibid, p. 47.
5 Ibid, p. 52.
Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute.