Just over two months since my last short story, I’m posting a new one called Freedom of Trade and already in less than an hour it’s earned nearly two dozen mostly negative votes on Stories Online. But let’s be honest if I was expecting to get positive votes from a website whose readers are predominantly American redneck men who vocally support the more rabidly libertarian tendencies of the Republican Party (but not so much the Bible Belt tendency), I’d never post to the website and would most certainly not post Freedom of Trade.
However, it could be said that the exact target of this story is well chosen in this case as the story is a fairly brutal attack on exactly the most libertarian aspects of the American Dream. It basically posits the notion of what a world that is only a couple of steps away from the real world would be like if the libertarians did indeed have their way and capitalism was truly as free as the Rand Pauls, Ayn Rands, Alan Greenspans, Donald Trumps and the like seem to say they’d like it to be. Although they perhaps might support the open and free sale of guns and pornography, they might draw the line at hard drugs and indentured sex workers (which is just an obfuscation for sex slaves).
In a sense, this story could be seen as a companion piece to Thoroughly Modern Emancipation in the sense that it is a kind of satire on America’s worst traits and its woeful history with regards to the institution of slavery, but there are many differences and they definitely don’t belong to the same universe (to use a Stories Online concept).
Whereas Thoroughly Modern Emancipation is a kind of alternate history story where the slave trade never gets reformed, Freedom of Trade isn’t set in any specific place or time, and it isn’t really set in America. It could just as well be set in any English-speaking country in a kind of parallel present.
So, what’s the purpose of the story besides a way of annoying Stories Online readers in what they believe is a hermetically sealed environment where they can voice their peculiar opinions without fear of contradiction?
Well, inevitably there is the serious side which is to imagine just how untrammelled capitalism might work. The sex slave angle is more just a conceit to build a kind of story around something which is both rather horrible in practice (if you pause to think about it) and also titillating to those who in countless websites (and not just sex story sites) believe that this kind of thing is good fun rather than something nightmarish and squalid (as can be seen in the movie, Room).
And I wonder how much the negative votes the story’s attracted already is simply because this vision of libertarianism is disturbing to exactly those people who most avidly advocate it.