Monthly Archives: November 2014

Imagine a socialist USA

Imagine living in a Socialist USA – edited by Frances Goldin, Debby Smith, and Michael Steven Smith (Harper Collins Publishers, 2014).

This book was recommended by a friend but I didn’t realize until I checked it out that is a collection of essays by a variety of people. There is some basic coherence to the vision, since all the authors believe in socialism, but their specific ideas differ. The book begins, of course, with an explanation of “What’s Wrong with Capitalism,” but quickly moves on to what the USA would actually look like under socialism. There is some effort to analyze what went wrong with socialism under the Soviets and the Chinese, such as their devolution into a totalitarian political structure and their concept of nationalizing industries and running them from the top down. In a socialist USA, democracy in the political arena would be extended to the economic arena, so workers would run enterprises.

Each essay describes how a different aspect of U.S. society would be different (and generally better) under socialism – economics and finance, law and justice, education, health care, the media, the arts, science and technology, immigration, racism and gender issues. One significant area never mentioned in the book was religion, which was suppressed under all 20th century communist regimes. In the last section of the book writers offer various scenarios for the transition between capitalism and socialism, using the Occupy movement as a jumping off point for the inevitable revolution. Although I think it would have been stronger if written in one voice, this book will start some interesting conversations among left-leaning Americans.

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Filed under Politics, Social Science

The Long Mars

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (HarperCollins, 2014)

I just realized that I did it again – I read a book that is not the first in the series. This appears to actually be the third book, after The Long Earth and The Long War. This one stands alone a lot more easily than many science fiction books do, though. I am familiar with Terry Pratchett’s books about the Disc World but haven’t encountered Stephen Baxter yet. He does have quite a few books to his credit, so I don’t know if this is a typical “hooking up with an established author to sell books” scheme or not. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s a great way to introduce new authors. Anyway, this is a sci-fi book with a fascinating premise. In about 2015, someone invented a way to instantly transport to the other versions of our world that are created at each decision point in time. This came in handy when Yellowstone exploded in 2045 and most of the United States needed a place to evacuate to. The Long Earth presumably tells the story of the original Step Day which preceded the explosion that led to the discovery of the Long Mars (in which some of the versions of Mars are more habitable than ours). There are some additional fascinating concepts which I will leave you to discover when you read this book. In any case, it’s well done and hard to put down, but not as nonsensical and hilarious as you might expect from Terry Pratchett – the influence of Stephen Baxter makes it slightly more serious.

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Filed under Fantasy, Science fiction