In the June issue of Asimov’s, James Patrick Kelly laments in his “On the Net” column, the absence of economics as a structural component in science-fiction stories. I hope James will read this post because a new source of economic power creates plenty of trouble in my novel, Freemaker. It’s not just the unintended consequences of the new technology, though plenty of those arise. It’s the intended consequences of Philip Mahen’s machines that create the biggest problems and the nastiest dilemmas.
Economists study how we allocate scarce resources via markets and money and enough statistics to circle the planet. Ho-hum. Until, that is, Philip deliberately vaporizes the lynchpin of all economic behavior. When his Maker machines threaten to replace perpetual scarcity with universal plenitude, the wheels come off every economy in the world. Microcapitalism for the masses becomes Armageddon for the power elites, but it’s just the beginning of a new moral sensibility. And the realization of Philip’s dreams.