Monday, 16 April 2012

Review: Subversive

"Subversive" by Mack Reynolds (1962)

The Free Enterprise company is offering a new business model by completely eliminating the middle man and providing goods directly to the consumer, but the men tasked with suppressing this sort of thing are watching.

Whatever his merits as a writer, this is a short story where Mack Reynolds Marxist views completely overwhelm his fiction.  Despite its meagre sci fi trappings, this is really just a sugar coated lecture on the long discredited Marxist theory of added value.  That is, the idea that most of the price we pay for goods is nothing but pointless costs added on to the "real" value by an army of middle men, such as advertisers, shippers, packagers and so on.  It would require a dry lesson in basic economics about how the "real" value of a thing is a question of supply and demand and that most middlemen do add value to their goods–if for no other reason than that without them, for example, you'd have farmers with barns filled with rotting produce while families starved to death.   But this is a review, not Econ 101, so we'll let that pass.  Needless to say, the lecture is a dry and often misleading and the procedural plot that it's wrapped in proceeds to a twist ending that was laughable even during the Cold War. 

Still, it would be interesting to find out what Reynolds would have made of ecommerce.  Probably result in a paradigm shift without a clutch.

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