L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 251, December 14, 2003
Remember the Bill of Rights
Exclusive to TLE
I'm a huge science fiction fan. This is hard to do in modern times, when virtually all SF is either boring or nothing more than statist propaganda wrapped up in science fiction trappings.
Think for a moment about all of the really popular science fiction movies, TV series, and books of the last couple of decades. Almost without exception, they have featured the adventures of government functionaries. Arguably the most popular science fiction franchise of all time, Star Trek, is entirely about government representatives. What SF that is not about government functionaries invariably involves the perceived failings of the free marketand almost never involves the exploration of outer space.
The moral of the story is simple: the future belongs to government.
The really fascinating thing about this is that in reality, the future of government is to reign in technology and keep individuals forever mired in the mud of planet Earth. Modern-day government flunkies understand perfectly well that once humanity has moved outside the influence of Earth's gravity, it will have simultaneously moved outside the influence of Earth's governments. Interplanetary and interstellar governments are an impossible Statist pipe dreamand they know it.
As a science fiction fan and a philosopher of the Zero Aggression Principle, I find myself constantly frustrated. There is no program on television, almost no movies, and a small handful of books that cater to my philosophy. While I can watch the SciFi Channel's recent re-make of Battlestar: Galactica and admire its artistry, its Statist underpinnings make me want to shoot my TV set full of holes. No doubt this would improve my viewing habits considerably, but I would occasionally miss out on some real gems.
Case in point: The Adventures of Pluto Nash, starring Eddie Murphy. Murphy is a contemporary of mine: I was a big fan of his stand-up comedy, his appearances on Saturday Night Live were positively brilliant, and his early movie career hilarious. While lacking range, he is an extremely underrated actor.
Murphy has not, however, made a good transition from being "young, irreverent, leading man" to "mature leading man." In the last few years (in an apparent attempt to reinvent himself), he has appeared in a number of Disney movies. Typically playing the father of a middle-class family, these movies have been consistently unmemorable.
By 2002, the mention of Murphy's name was enough elicit yawns. When we saw the trailers for Pluto Nash in the theaters, my daughters leaned in to me and said, "I don't want to see that one, Daddy." Sadly, I had to agree. The trailer didn't look at all promising, and we gave the movie a miss in the theater. So, apparently, did the rest of America: with a budget of over $90 million dollars, US box offices receipts grossed only $4.4 million, making it the number one failure of 2002.
Last week, in a fit of nostalgia (I was renting the National Lampoon "Vacation" movies), I rented the movie. Two days later, I purchased a pre-viewed copy of the DVD for a song.
This is a GREAT movie.
Don't get me wrong: there's nothing technologically ground-breaking about it. It doesn't have a brilliant script. It's not extraordinarily well-acted. It is no Matrix, no Lawrence of Arabia or even Star Trek.
It is, however, the best filmed libertarian science fiction since the late, lamented Firefly (DVD Collection).
The Adventures of Pluto Nash chronicles the adventures of Pluto Nash (Murphy): smuggler-cum-nightclub owner whose club has been targeted for acquisition by less than savory characters. The twist: the nightclub is on the moon, in a settlement known as "Little America." Within the first fifteen minutes, Club Pluto has been bombed, and Murphy alternates between being on the run with his bodyguard robot, Bruno (Randy Quaid) and love interest Dina (Rosario Dawson, who went on to co-star in Men in Black II).
The movie is a breath of fresh, capitalistic air in an otherwise Statist genre. Government is mentioned only briefly as a plot point: Earth, having outlawed gambling worldwide, has driven organized crime to the moon. Pluto Nash is a former smuggler whose inventory consists largely of clothing and cryogenically frozen Chihuahuasluxury items unattainable on the moon, apparently due to government taxation.
The only government functionaries in the film are retired ex-cop Rowland (Peter Boyle) and the crooked FBI agent who kills him. In a telling bit of back-story, Rowland is one of Nash's best friends.
In fact, other than in back-story, we never see a Lunar government. Yet robots such as Nash's Bruno are commonly used as bodyguards and virtually everyone carries and uses a gunincluding Nash's mother (Pam Grier).
And what guns! Apparently someone who actually knows something about firearms consulted on this movie, because rather than using standard projectile weapons that fire bullets, everyone uses semi- and full-auto Gyrojets!
For the uninitiated, the Gyrojet is not a firearm in the conventional sense. Historically, Gyrojet ammunition was a 13mm stainless steel armor piercing rocket (the civilian model was 12mm to comply with immoral, Unconstitutional, ZAP-violating laws that limit civilian guns to a calibre of .50 or less). It was available in both a pistol and carbine version.
Historically, the pistol is about the same size as a Colt 45, but far lighter, at approximately 22 ounces. I had occasion to see and hold one at Wanenmacher's Tulsa Arms Show in April of 2003, and its weight combined with vent holes makes it feel like a very odd weapon, indeedmore like a poorly-made steel toy, in fact.
When a conventional gun is fired, all the pressure from the exploding powder is held in the chamber and/or barrel. This pressure is what pushes the bullet forward. Because all pressure is expended on the bullet at the moment of firing, a conventional bullet begins losing velocity almost immediatelyhence the measurement of the velocity of the bullet in feet per second at the muzzle.
The Gyrojet round is pushed by burning solid rocket propellant that is contained within the projectile itself. All the pressure is contained by the PROJECTILE rather than the gun. Muzzle velocity is significantly lower than a conventional gun at about 860 feet per secondhowever, since the projectile is a rocket, the longer the propellant burns, the faster it pushes the projectile. At about one hundred yards, a Gyrojet "bullet" is 50% more powerful than a conventional .45 caliber bullet.
Historically, Gyrojets barely got off the drawing board. They saw some service in Vietnam, where they were a popular sniper weapon due to their negligible recoil and almost silent report. Soldiers who used them say they sounded more like a bottle rocket than a gun.
In any case, everyone on the moon in Pluto Nash carries a Gyrojet, manufactured with slick-looking polymers in primary colors. In an interesting twist, such guns can even have a retractable tripod and auto-firing capabilitya neat trick used by Nash to delay the bad guys from following him at one point.
Everyone on the moon has a gun, and no one so much as bats an eyelash. At one point, Nash's mother guns down a pair of robot bodyguards owned by the bad guys, to Nash's comment, "Nice shooting, Mom!" Indeed, the only person who has no firearms experience is love interest Dina. After randomly firing mini-rockets all over the bad guys' lair (with her eyes closed, no less), good-guy bodyguard robot Bruno forcibly takes the gun from her and admonishes, "Haven't you ever fired a gun before?!"
Dina's excuse? She's a recently-emigrated Earthling. No doubt she'll learn.
The moon itself is a capitalist paradise, with Little America being filled with billboards, hovercraft, and businesses. Lunar inhabitants further think nothing of helping each other out, as evidence by Felix (Luis Guzman), who is shocked to have accidentally rescued his rill-hopper idol.
What's a rill-hopper? I won't spoil it for yourent or buy the movie.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash is a wonderful little romp through the moon. Certainly not great literature or ground-breaking technology, it is nevertheless a refreshingly libertarian film that's fun for the whole family. Murphy's trademark raunchiness is entirely absent from this film, making it something you can safely watch with your kids.
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