Transitioning from government to freedom is a strategic quandary for libertarians to contemplate. Given that reformism is off the table, what direct action strategies are viable and (potentially) efficacious in securing our liberties? One strategy in particular focuses on developing trade outside the purview and control of the State, regardless of the legality of said voluntary exchanges.
Attempts have been made by libertarian novelists to improve upon Atlas Shrugged by presenting more realistic scenarios leading up to how a Second American Revolution could unfold. Whether it be The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or The Probability Broach, imagining how government might collapse is a not-so-hidden delight of American libertarians. Revolutionaries at heart (even if in denial), libertarians oppose the State root and branch; yet, how such a revolution would be successfully pulled off is just as important as to the end goal itself – in other words, function determines form.
Set against the backdrop of an economic collapse doom porn scenario, this novel explores an American dystopia through the eyes of teenager Elliot Vreeland. Most of the plot revolves around Elliot trying to reunite with his family because his father is being persecuted by the government for being an outspoken economist critical of their disastrous monetary policy. Subplots involve Elliot’s romance with Lorimer Powers, Lorimer’s hostile relationship with her father who is the FBI director, and the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre’s efforts to grow the counter-economy in order to abolish the State.
My favorite scenes involved the tzigane, Aurora, and the Cadre’s raid on Utopia. The tzigane are essentially gypsy cabbies who outperformed the government sanctioned medallion cab drivers. As Elliot himself described them:
“When you’re cruising illegally, you try not to look like anything in particular. A dozen might have passed us already…[w]e wait for one to find us.”
Elliot also observed that the tzigane he hired wore a gold band on his right hand that was twirled occasionally. Not only that, but the tzigane used the term, “laissez-faire,” as a kind of farewell; other members of the Cadre also use it as a type of salutation.
Aurora is literally an underground marketplace with a hotel, a YMCA-type complex, and a trading promenade. Elliot met with cannabis dealers, document forgers, and most notably, the salesman at Lowell-Pierre Engineering, who was selling a 100-kiloton atomic fission device. When Elliot asked him if they also sold plutonium, he replied:
“No, of course not. You’d have to find your own source. But even if you did, you’d have to accept one of our supervisors to ensure that the device would be used only for excavation or drilling, before we sell you one. We don’t hand over nuclear weapons to fools who want to blow up the world.”
Although I appreciate the caution exhibited by Lowell-Pierre, it has been argued that the privatization of nuclear weapons would likely be the free market response to the demand for “national” security, especially via invasion by governments or other hostile foreigners.
Utopia is a maximum-security prison, which is effectively the FBI Director’s government dungeon for political prisoners. Without spoiling the end of the novel too much for you all, the Cadre eventually raid Utopia in order to release the inmates, who have been imprisoned without any semblance of due process; in essence, Utopia is a black site. Following the public exposure of Utopia’s very existence, the United States federal government effectively collapses in on itself, and the Cadre go aboveground to maintain a semblance of normalcy during their own revolution. As the chairwoman of the Cadre Board of Directors herself told Elliot’s father:
“It is the policy of the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre to deal with foreigners. Assuming they also wish to deal with us. Your other questions assume we are – or intend to become – a government. But we are agorists: propertarian anarchists. Our prosperity to date has come from following agoric principles we generally adopted. Why would we abandon market principles we have found efficacious in favor of hegemonic ones that have led society after society into ruin?”
Following the premier news conference of the Cadre, the President of the former United States orders the immediate release of all political prisoners. Needless to say, the good guys win, but how they win is rather quite instructive, to put it politely.
Regarding the film adaptation, it was nowhere as bad as the Altas Shrugged movie trilogy. Alongside Night was more faithful to the original novel, and the depiction of Aurora was just about how I imagined it. While I think a few scenes were less than stellar, such as the raid on Utopia, the biggest flaw with the movie was that the pacing was awfully slow; however, given the source material, I honestly don’t know if any director could have realistically done a better job than the author himself did. Perhaps if the Alongside Night movie had been animated like Silver Circle, its production value would’ve been higher than it is?
Other Alongside Night media has been released to compliment the novel. Soleil O’Neal-Schulman performed the Alongside Night Theme, which has served me well as blogging music. Lee Oaks illustrated the Alongside Night Graphic Novel, and a 30th edition of the original Alongside Night novel was made available for free download. At this point, the only form of media that is missing would be an audiobook version!
J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night is a noticeable improvement upon the theme of how such a transition from tyranny to liberty could be accomplished. Just as The Illuminatus! Trilogy gave a fictional portrayal of Discordianism, I think Schulman’s novel gives a likewise fictional portrayal of agorism; however, I would’ve liked a more realistic depiction of security culture, given the counter-economic activity occurring throughout the novel, yet considering that this novel was originally published in 1979, I refuse to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Frankly, Atlas Shrugged carries a lot of baggage, and even the best of it is only limited to strategic withdrawal, whereas Alongside Night goes on the offensive in bringing about a truly freed world.