Created By: WeAreAllKoshSeptember 30, 2012 Last Edited By: DalillamaDecember 21, 2013
Troped

Libertarians in Space

Earth society becomes repressive or stifling, and people settle space to seek liberty or their individual niche.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Earth itself becomes the Old Country, backwards, repressive, ossified in its ways, or simply a place where individualism is cramped by too much crowding. Objects in space (other planets, moons, asteroids, or artificial space habitats) become the refuge for misfits, "rugged individualists", visionary entrepreneurs, transhumanists, etc. Often results in The War Of Earthly Aggression: Earth and her military forces (and/or corrupt multinational corporations) become a threat to these new islands of freedom in some way, and our heroes must overcome great odds in defending their newfound freeholds.

This trope can cover capital-L Libertarianism (personal and civil liberties plus laissez-faire capitalism), as Heinlein's works often did, but the general idea is more lower-case-l libertarianism, open to broader conceptions of liberty that needn't be (and indeed may challenge) the hyper-capitalist variety. The off-Earth colonies can be places where an individual is less restricted by either government or powerful private interests (or both) which hamper the individual on Earth.

Can be related to Privately Owned Society if we're talking the big-L type of Libertarianism (and this society is presented as an ideal, rather than a form of dystopia as it perhaps just as often is).


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • a recurring theme on the Gundam Franchise, with (usually) the Earth or one of the most powerful colonies around wanting absolute control and the rest of the colonies wanting independence.

Film
  • Earth is implied to be a teeming dystopia in the sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, compared to the Saturn 3 outpost (presumably Tethys) where Adam and Alex tweak low-gravity crops for peak crop yield. Until the murderous Benson arrives, Adam and Alex have that moon all to themselves.
Literature

  • Paul Mc Auley's novels The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun pit an eclectic variety of small colonies in the Solar System against the growing aggressions of reactionary and "Gaian", ecologically templaresque Earth superstates Greater Brazil and the European Union—whose main objections are to the wild transhumanist genetic engineering freely allowed in the colonies.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy sees Earth multinational corporations trying to muscle in on the emerging Martian society, whose people want to be left alone to build their new world their own way.

  • Robert Heinlein novels that fit this mold
    • Red Planet: The Earth-controlled Mars Company administration vs. the Mars colonists
    • Between Planets: The Federation (all Earth governments) vs. Venus colonists
    • The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress: The Earth-controlled Lunar Authority vs. the lunar colonists
    • The future history arc of novels involving Lazarus Long, beginning with Methuselah's Children, depict an Earth that persecutes certain families for their hereditary longevity. These families end up fleeing the planet and setting up the free-love Libertarian utopias that would become a Heinlein trademark.
      • Time Enough For Love presented Lazarus Long's opinion that a planet became "too crowded" when they started using ID cards, and the Chairman of Secundus somewhat agreed with him.

  • In CJ Cherryh's Alliance Union series features the loosely tied Alliance of independent merchants and traders which split off from the technocratic Union that declared independence from Earth. Also, Cyteen, the capital of the Union, was originally colonized by a group of scientists and engineers fleeing increasingly oppressive earth.
  • John Varley's Steel Beach features a Heinlein-inspired Libertarian group trying to build a Generation Ship. The ship is even named The Robert A Heinlein.
  • Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion features two unusual versions. The first, a former Penal Colony, has developed a ruthless, dog-eat-dog society based on a mixture of laissez faire and might-makes right. The second is a quasi-socialist libertarian utopia based on passive resistance, civil disobedience and the teachings of Ghandi. Their motto is "Freedom—I Won't!"
  • David Weber has used this as backstory a couple of times, especially in the Honor Harrington universe, where whole planets have been settled by, respectively, artists, American ranchers, gangsters, genetically engineered humans, and a group who believed technology was Evil. The Solarian League is the giant, sprawling nation who looks down on other star nations, OFS is the grasping military arm of the League, and there's a lot of corrupt planetary corporations doing things behind the scenes.
  • Michael Z. Williamson's Freehold duology is about the Freehold of Grainne, a libertarian's paradise in comparison to the corrupt and dying United Nations-controlled Earth.
  • The Dorsai of the Childe Cycle, a planet with the greatest mercenaries among the Fourteen Worlds. It's people are fiercely independent, free as long they do nothing to harm and respect their freedoms. Interestingly, the Dorsai has problems from this - their government have almost little power compared to the other Worlds.
  • In Gradisil, many of Earth's rich have migrated to space habitats, collectively known as "Upland".
  • Allen Steele's Coyote novels are about the settlement of a planet in the 47 Ursae Majoris system. The original settlement expedition was originally state-sponsored by a repressive government that took over the USA (called the United Republic of America), but the crew was infiltrated by dissident scientists and technicians who "stole" the ship upon its launch. The new colony was largely democratic with the general freedom of the frontier, but was subsequently beset by attempts of other repressive Earthly governments to take it over, or overpopulate it too quickly.
  • In F. Paul Wilson's La Nague Federation series there are two planets that live by differing strains of a philosophy called KYFHO (Keep Your Fucking Hands Off). Every inhabitant of Flint is armed to the teeth and deadly, while their philosophical siblings on Tolive are Actual Pacifists
  • H Beam Piper's Lone Star Planet/A Planet For Texans was colonized by people who are trying to live the romantic ideal of Texas, IN SPACE!. Everyone goes armed, and killing a politician is not illegal unless the politician's heirs can convince the court he didn't need killing (this is rare). Four Day Planet, sometimes bound in the same volume, may count as well. The colony was started as a company town by a mining corporation which abandoned it, but the hardiest and most independent colonists stayed to make a go of it.
  • S.A. Swann's Hostile Takeover trilogy takes place primarily on the planet Bakunin, where any kind of social organization that doesn't call itself a government is allowed.
Live Action TV

  • Babylon 5 touches on this idea somewhat, in that Earth slowly (and then more quickly) becomes an oppressive place, and also more heavy-handed toward its offworld colonies. Mars probably takes the brunt of this, but it is implied that even pre-coup, most colonies are at least taxed very heavily by Earth, and labor strikes are banned. Earth Gov's intrusions affected the Babylon 5 station adversely as well—until Sheridan decisively declares the station's independence.

  • Firefly and Serenity give us Browncoats. Earth is not present anymore in this Verse, so the Core Worlds fill the repressive role, and the Browncoats are heroic separatists who want to preserve their freedom.

Music

Tabletop Games
  • GURPS: Transhuman Space: the Duncanites, derived from the Ares Conspiracy that initiated the terraforming of Mars and were chased off by the colonizing powers for eco-terrorism, which turned them off the idea of "statism". Divided into the "Green Duncanites" who are attempting the same thing on Europa, and the "Red Duncanites" also known as the "Trojan Mafia".
  • Eclipse Phase has the Autonomist Alliance throughout the Belt and Outer System (except Jupiter). The Extropians are anarcho-capitalists, the Anarchists are anarcho-collectivists, the Scum are space gypsies, and the Titanian Commonwealth is a state with a gift economy similar to the Anarchists'. While the different sub-factions disagree on many things they formed The Alliance to fight off the Jovian Junta and Planetary Consortium.

Video Games
  • Rapture from the Bio Shock series is a version of this build under the oceans instead of in space

Web Comics
  • In Escape From Terra Ceres and a number of other asteroids are anarcho-capitalist. In an early arc they fight off an attempted invasion by the straw socialist United World of earth.
  • Quantum Vibe presented the idea that when there's no frontier to explore and expand into culture begins to rot and erode.
Community Feedback Replies: 48
  • September 30, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Babylon 5 touches on this idea somewhat, in that Earth slowly (and then more quickly) becomes an oppressive place, and also more heavy-handed toward its offworld colonies. Mars probably takes the brunt of this, but it is implied that even pre-coup, most colonies are at least taxed very heavily by Earth, and Earth Gov's intrusions affected the Babylon 5 station adversely as well--until Sheridan decisively declares the station's independence.
  • September 30, 2012
    aurora369
    Firefly and Serenity give us Browncoats. Earth is not present anymore in this Verse, so the Core Worlds fill the repressive role, and the Browncoats are heroic separatists who want to preserve their freedom.
  • September 30, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Tabletop Games
    • GURPS: Transhuman Space: the Duncanites, derived from the Ares Conspiracy that initiated the terraforming of Mars and were chased off by the colonizing powers for eco-terrorism, which turned them off the idea of "statism". Divided into the "Green Duncanites" who are attempting the same thing on Europa, and the "Red Duncanites" also known as the "Trojan Mafia".
    • Eclipse Phase has the Autonomist Alliance throughout the Belt and Outer System (except Jupiter). The Extropians are anarcho-capitalists, the Anarchists are anarcho-collectivists, the Scum are space gypsies, and the Titanian Commonwealth is a state with a gift economy similar to the Anarchists'. While the different sub-factions disagree on many things they formed The Alliance to fight off the Jovian Junta and Planetary Consortium.

    Web Comics
    • In Escape From Terra Ceres and a number of other asteroids are anarcho-capitalist. In an early arc they fight off an attempted invasion by the straw socialist United World of earth.

    Mind rewriting the description to look more like an actual page?
  • October 1, 2012
    Arivne
    The actual fighting between the two is covered by The War Of Earthly Aggression.

    You can find many more examples of this trope on that page.

    Literature
  • October 1, 2012
    TBeholder
    The usual theme for The Alliance faction, especially when there's The Federation around too.

    • Factions in the Frontier Elite setting include Independents -- not affiliated locals running all the spectrum from Anarchy to Martial Law. Alliance is a bunch of colonies caught between Federation and Empire and banded together (i.e. a confederation) under democracy not (yet?) centralized and bureaucratized like in Federation, using privateers like Player Character as their navy.
    • Vega Strike faction LIHW -- those are "everyone else", bunched together to avoid being subsumed by the bigger factions. Outside of the Confed, there are Forsaken -- early colonists who ended up dispossessed due to FTL travel, they are not organized as a whole, poor, bitter and due to the two latter circumstances acting as a Space Pirate haven. Also, while Andolians themselves are Hive Mind-ed, the Andolian Protectorate is united only in loyalty to them and is very amorphous and free, especially contrasted with Confed. As one of their client races likes to say:
      Klk'k pilot: "[singing idly]Give me space lots of space where the void commences. Don't like interdictors under false pretenses..."
  • October 1, 2012
    Earnest
    Well, if you take away the "conservative Earth" part, this is basically Star Trek in all its incarnations, albeit with pesudo post scarcity socialism rather than capitalism.
  • October 1, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I realize I probably should have noted that Titan has a cyberdemocratic government (legislature is an online forum open to all citizens) in the "Eclipse Phase" example.
  • October 1, 2012
    AgProv
    Literature: Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat is an exemplar of this trope. The last criminal left alive in a law-abiding galaxy, who pursues a life of crime so as to set him apart from the herd.
  • October 1, 2012
    Twospoonfuls
    The flip side of this is that everyone hates libertarians.
  • October 1, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^ No, everyone hates Libertarians. Capitalization makes a difference. :)

    Literature
    • In CJ Cherryh's Alliance Union series features the loosely tied Alliance of independent merchants and traders which split off from the technocratic Union that declared independence from Earth.
    • John Varley's Steel Beach features a Heinlein-inspired Libertarian group trying to build a Generation Ship. The ship is even named The Robert A Heinlein.
    • Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion features two unusual versions. The first, a former Penal Colony, has developed a ruthless, dog-eat-dog society based on a mixture of laissez faire and might-makes right. The second is a quasi-socialist libertarian utopia based on passive resistance, civil disobedience and the teachings of Ghandi. Their motto is "Freedom--I Won't!"
  • October 1, 2012
    Damr1990
    a recurring theme on the Gundam Franchice, with (usually) the Earth or one of the most powerful colonies around wanting absolute control and the rest of the colonies wanting indenpendance
  • October 1, 2012
    fulltimeD
  • October 6, 2012
    Irrisia
    David Weber has used this as backstory a couple of times, especially in the Honor Harrington universe, where whole planets have been settled by, respectively, artists, American ranchers, gangsters, genetically engineered humans, and a group who believed technology was Evil. The Solarian League is the giant, sprawling nation who looks down on other star nations, OFS is the grasping military arm of the League, and there's a lot of corrupt planetary corporations doing things behind the scenes.
  • October 6, 2012
    zarpaulus
    The Sliding Scale Of Libertarianism And Authoritarianism might be a good place to mine examples.
  • October 7, 2012
    Gatomon41
    • The Dorsai of the Childe Cycle, a planet with the greatest mercenaries among the Fourteen Worlds. It's people are fiercely independent, free as long they do nothing to harm and respect their freedoms. Interestingly, the Dorsai has problems from this - their government have almost little power compared to the other Worlds. Individuals remain independent from the local cantons, and those cantons are independent from the United Cantons.
  • October 8, 2012
    jatay3
  • October 8, 2012
    BOFH
    Literature
    • In Gradisil, many of Earth's rich have migrated to space habitats, collectively known as "Upland".
  • October 14, 2012
    TBeholder
    The Final Frontier of Freedom?
  • October 14, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Something I noted in Time Enough For Love was Lazarus Long's opinion that a planet became "too crowded" when they started using ID cards, and the Chairman of Secundus somewhat agreed with him.

    This webcomic I started reading recently, Quantum Vibe, presented this idea that when there's no frontier to explore and expand into culture begins to rot and erode.
  • October 15, 2012
    StarSword
    I'm just going to say it out: I don't like this trope on a personal level because such a society only works as long as the overwhelming majority are actively committed to making it work, and are willing and able to enforce it on those who aren't.

    That said, under Literature:

    • Michael Z. Williamson's Freehold duology is about the Freehold of Grainne, a libertarian's paradise in comparison to the corrupt and dying United Nations-controlled Earth.
  • October 15, 2012
    StarSword
    Also, might I suggest Privately Owned Society as a related trope.
  • October 15, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^^ The anarchistic examples, most likely true. The ones with actual governments, might be able to hold off larger and more aggressive powers if they're far enough out that it's too difficult to deploy a large enough fleet there (space travel ain't cheap you know).
  • October 15, 2012
    AFP
    I feel like it should be mentioned again that this is often a contributing factor to the The War Of Earthly Aggression. Could be a subtrope of Earth That Used Tobe Better.
  • October 15, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    I did put that in the trope draft above, some time ago: "Often results in The War Of Earthly Aggression". ;)
  • October 15, 2012
    AFP
    Do we have a trope for the common sci-fi thing where there is a mass move by people on Earth (sometimes overcrowded or used up) to colonize off-world? I know in the Honor Harrington books they have an event referred to as The Diaspora, where there was a mass exodus of people from the Solar System to other planets once FTL became relatively practical, which was a big enough event that it changed their calendar system.
  • October 15, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    That would be a good trope to have if we don't already, too. And there'd be some overlap: a lot of times individual freedom is reduced in many ways, the more crowded a place becomes. And of course constraints on resources means more sharing, and the need to make sure no one consumes or wastes too much at the expense of everyone else.
  • October 15, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Of course, the constraints of an artificial space environment (manufactured air and/or water, a closed-system environment) could invert the trope as well: smoking may not be allowed, nor use of water for such things as showering, etc. And a small artificial habitat like a cylindrical space station would likely be like an urban environment as well, bringing back, once again, individual constraints due to crowding.
  • October 15, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    I think a lot of times the "freedom" is a matter of perception: there's a give-and-take of some sort with any kind of change like that, the question is do people feel less free on Old Mother Earth, and more free off-world--and is it a case of "the grass looks greener", until you actually get there?
  • October 15, 2012
    Xtifr
    Eric Frank Russell can be made into a blue-link now. :)
  • October 16, 2012
    Xtifr
    The thing referred to by AFP is "the great explosion" in The Great Explosion mentioned above, FWIW. (In case anyone is using this discussion for inspiration.)

    In the meantime, I came up with another unusual example:

    Music
  • December 10, 2013
    Dalillama
    It might also be worth noting that these are often an excuse for AuthorTracts and AuthorFilibusters.

    Literature
    • HBeamPiper's Lone Star Planet/A Planet For Texans was colonized by people who are trying to live the romantic ideal of Texas, IN SPACE!. Everyone goes armed, and killing a politician is not illegal unless the politician's heirs can convince the court he didn't need killing (this is rare). Four Day Planet, sometimes bound in the same volume, may count as well. The colony was started as a company town by a mining corporation which abandoned it, but the hardiest and most independent colonists stayed to make a go of it.
    • S.A. Swann's Hostile Takeover trilogy takes place primarily on the planet Bakunin, where any kind of social organization that doesn't call itself a government is allowed.
  • December 10, 2013
    arbiter099
    Sometimes this means Ayn Rand...IN SPACE!
  • December 10, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Uh, my Na No Wri Mo entry for this year, currently working under the title The Pride of Parahumans (really bad with naming things), about genetically engineered Asteroid Miners who rebelled against their creator corporations and are trying to build their own societies in the Belt, I will admit has a bit of a tract against Anarchism. Though it does end with a fairly typical for this trope solution of leaving an asteroid that degenerated into feudalism to establish a new colony.
  • December 10, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Earth is implied to be a teeming dystopia in the sci-fi thriller Saturn3, compared to the Saturn 3 outpost (presumably Tethys) where Adam and Alex tweak low-gravity crops for peak crop yield. Until the murderous Benson arrives, Adam and Alex have that moon all to themselves.
  • December 10, 2013
    arbiter099
    ^^unfortunately, anything like that goes here.
  • December 11, 2013
    DAN004
    So this is like the movement (forgot what it's called) that leads European people to find America?

    Related to Space Is An Ocean, then :P
  • December 11, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^^ I've been posting the rough draft on two different web sites, including the one I linked to. That index says it's for works that the author hasn't shared.
  • December 11, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Rough draft with a working title isn't a finished work. Also, Examples Are Not Recent; we don't write examples in the form "work X is currently Y." They either are or they are not, there's no in-between.
  • December 11, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    Okay I removed a hat because i that this trope was a rough draft (The comments about were talking about actual rough drafts, Of course I took a look and it actually seems ready to publish (save for one redlink) Si I've added a hot back.
  • December 11, 2013
    Koveras
    Would Rapture from the Bio Shock series count? It's a purported objectivist utopia, built under the ocean rather than in space, but the idea was the same: get as far from the existing world as possible to enjoy a libertarian paradise.
  • December 11, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Again, it's the same as the discovery of America (aka "New World"). So yeah, I guess this has a basis in history. :D
  • December 12, 2013
    Dalillama
    ^Sort of. The big difference is the Libertarians IN SPACE are usually actually not genocidally conquering the land, it didn't have anyone there to begin with.

    This might also be a subtrope of Planet Of Hats
  • December 12, 2013
    zarpaulus
    The CJ Cherryh example has another bit. Cyteen, the capital of the Union, was originally colonized by a group of scientists and engineers fleeing increasingly oppressive earth. However, as the population grew and the war with the Earth Company and Alliance dragged on things became increasingly political.

    ^ Oh, and the Alliance Union universe is kind of an exception to that rule of yours Dalillama. The Alliance was rather exploitative of the natives of their one semi-inhabitable planet, even using their religion to convince them to work as maintenance personnel on their space station (though at least they didn't extensively colonize the planet as the atmosphere was unbreathable). And the Union originally intended to wipe out Cyteen's entire ecosystem (no sapient natives) and Terraform it, but then they found that a Longevity Treatment could be extracted from the native lifeforms.
  • December 13, 2013
    Larkmarn
    • Not outer space, but this is the basic idea behind the city of Rapture in Bio Shock. Only instead of going into space, they went to the bottom of the sea.
  • December 13, 2013
    Dalillama
    ^Zarpalus, I did say usually. There's loads of examples of spacefaring SF cultures exploiting the hell out of natives, committing genocide and all that, but the places that Libertarians IN SPACE! applies to are usually set on asteroids, previously uninhabited worlds, entirely artificial habitats like space stations, undersea (or on the sea), etc.
  • December 13, 2013
    Dalillama
    I took the liberty of adding the examples that have been suggested since the last update.
  • December 21, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Cool, thanks.
  • December 21, 2013
    DAN004
    Launch?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable