I’m a slow reader. That’s why I buy interesting-looking books much faster than I read them, and why I must then lug boxes of them when I move. That explains my fascination with a new project from L. Neil Smith and Big Head Press: The Probability Broach graphic novel. I know that graphic novel is a fancy term for comic book, but don’t let that deter you. It’s a great feeling when you “can’t put it down,” and I get hooked on reading this novel. It’s an accessible and fun adaptation of an inspired premise.
In an alternate present, North America is living in liberacy. Wealth abounds, money is real, and everyone carries a firearm. Our protagonist, Detective Win Bear, is thrust into this alternate reality from his own, a version of our world with a few extra dashes of fascism. Winnie, as his new friends affectionately call him, is receptive to this libertopia – thinking that it’s a more prosperous future. He learns about the North American Confederacy, the main political body of the libertarian present, and comes to realize that he has not travelled to the future but to an alternate timeline. His rescuer is revealed to be his alternate self.
Besides being extremely easy to read, with stunning artwork, the book depicts the practice of much of libertarian/confederal theory. The political order borders on anarcho-capitalism, but with a minarchist defense league in the Confederacy. It shows how free banking, with backed currency, leads to cash of ever-increasing value. Thus, everyday items and services become extraordinarily inexpensive. The concept of underground cities is broached (excuse the pun) by the denizens of the North American Confederacy going underground at every intersection. The novel even shows how crimes are adjudicated in the absence of a sovereign state.
Some of the book may seem fantastical to many, even many minarchist libertarians. The point is, though, that it presents an ideal and a direction. L. Neil Smith has presented here a model of a particular libertarian vision – one that mirrors the goals of the Confederation Society. Even if a lot of libertarians are policy-oriented and have no opinions about political theory, this novel shows that the form of government and the resulting policy are interrelated. It shows that the negativity exhibited by many libertarians is a byproduct of living in the shadow of repeated tyrannies. Each victory for liberty will make life that much better and easier for our descendants. That truth, well-known by the better of America’s Founding Fathers, is why the American Revolution was the quintessential turning point in the history of human freedom, and why Hamilton’s subsequent coup, by way of the Constitution, was so damaging.
I could go on forever, but I recommend reading it first-hand. Without further adieu: The Probability Broach.
Thank you, Mr. Smith, for your contribution to culture and liberty.