Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Unincorporated Man

The counterpart for education would be to "buy" a share in an individual's earning prospects: to advance him the funds needed to finance his training on condition that he agree to pay the lender a specified fraction of his future earnings. In this way, a lender would get back more than his initial investment from relatively successful individuals, which would compensate for the failure to recoup his original investment from the unsuccessful. There seems no legal obstacle to private contracts of this kind, even though they are economically equivalent to the purchase of a share in an individual's earning capacity and thus to partial slavery. - Milton Friedman, The Role of Government in Education

So begins The Unincorporated Man, by Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin. You know when a book begins with a Friedman quote it is going to be interesting, and not exactly light reading. On that promise the Kollin brothers deliver.

The Kollin brothers that Friedman's idea and run with it, exploring the consequences of such a system. Just as micro-loans to the third world are perhaps the best way to help third world farmers and entrepreneurs, would not buying stock in such folks be even more beneficial.

This is the grand idea, would not owning stock in others thus harness the mighty engine of enlightened self interest? War would suddenly become unprofitable for example. You certainly don't want to go around shooting people you own stock in after all.

The down side is naturally that your investors expect a good return on their investment. Now as you save you can buy your stock back and get more control over your life, but as you become more successful your stock will naturally rise in price...

Enter into this world one Justin Cord, wealthy industrialist who had himself cryogenicly frozen when dying of cancer. He's from 300 years in the past, and older than the concept of personal incorporation. He IS the Unincorporated Man.

4 out of 5 stars. 5 for concept and 3 for execution. Lots of reviews say it reads like Heinlein, but it really doesn't. (Varley reads like Heinlein.) This novel reads more like someone tossed Asimov and Rand books into a blender but poured out the resulting mix while still a bit lumpy. It starts out well and ends well, but slows down quite a bit 2/3 of the way through.

And yes, I know this review is late, and everyone else read it last year. I picked up my copy at last year's CopperCon, (signed by Dani & Eytan) but these days it seems I only read while on business trips, and I haven't had to travel for the new job until last week.

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