IT IS A FINE DAY in the Libertarian Oceania. Archibald Elbert Winchell rose from his bed bleary eyed, but well rested and focused on the coming day. As he rose, his bed servant, a lovely girl of thirteen whom he had contracted out from her mother, a mine worker, rushed to signal the other servants to begin the day. In truth he liked the girl, but he was contractually obligated to give her the lash if she was too slow about her business—and, after all, contracts were everything.
She returned with a small group of other contracted servants—calling them indentured was rather gauche, not to mention old-fashioned—and proceeded to wash him down and then dress him. After he was fully clothed he stepped out on his balcony and looked over his holdings.
When Archie was a young lad, in a time he barely remembered, men of means such as himself were encumbered by a thousand petty rules and regulations governing everything one could imagine. The government stole half of Archie’s father’s fortune, or so the old man claimed. When Archie went over the books, he found the old man had exaggerated, but even five percent of his income was a theft beyond belief. What cowards they must have been, to accept such a yoke.
Stretching on before him was a plantation of size and efficiency that would stun the old masters of the south: coca plants for cocaine production and poppy fields stretched from horizon to horizon. Heroin and crack cocaine were Archie’s products. He’d doubled his profit margins in the last year by cutting his product. A few dozen people had died, he heard, but the motto of the new society was their guide: caveat emptor.
In that spirit, Archie waited patiently for his food to taste to sample each of his items. Archie had all of his food examined, and then tasted. He’s lost two servants this year to e-coli, another to metal shavings in the food, and a third to dysentery. A shipment of canned tuna had been improperly soldered with lead, but Archie caught it in time. As an informed buyer, he did what was appropriate when he purchased poisoned, contaminated, or otherwise inedible food: he took his business elsewhere.
There was much to do, but first, he had to review the fees and cut a check to the local police squad. There were three of them, and Archie made sure that he was a good patron, and so his boys would deal with any issues on his land discreetly, and would turn a blind eye to his… excesses.
After a breakfast of steaky, fatty bacon, foie gras, horsemeat, a touch of shark fin soup, and whale tartar, he rose for the day in earnest.
His automobile was one of the finest available, with a sixteen cylinder engine and open mufflers. To think, when he was a boy, the government told people what equipment to have in their vehicles! Why waste money on a seat belt when he had no intention of crashing?
With a handful of his own trustee guards, he first toured the plantation slowly, stopping to speak with the overseers one by one. The work was back breaking, and this year alone he’d lost six of his employees to accidents of various stripes. Most of them hadn’t chosen to purchase health insurance with Archie’s company scrip, even though his price was quite reasonable. The poor unfortunates often didn’t have enough legal tender or credit to pay the door fee at an emergency ward, but that was not Archie’s concern; every man had a right to healthcare, if he could afford it of course. Doctors have a right to get paid, after all.
Outside his walled compound, Archie drove fast. Speed limits were a distant memory, and his contracted police ignored him no matter what he did. It was a short drive into town, to his office.
He spent the morning reviewing memoranda and reports from his mining operation. Archie ran a tight ship in his asbestos mines, increasing his margins by forgoing safety equipment and primarily hiring children, who were better suited to underground operations.
He had a dozen lawsuits from grieving mothers, but it was no matter—contracts were contracts and his were ironclad. Even more so when reviewed by Archie’s panel of employed judges; the contract forfeited the right to a state court in favor of individual arbitration.
Archie received the accounts, and visualizing the gold he was collecting (fiat currency was long abandoned, greenbacks were near worthless, and most trade took place in checks, IOUs, and company scrip) Archie loaded his pockets with some of his own scrip and a few gold coins, and went out on the town.
While strolling down the main avenue past the drug dealers, strip clubs, and brothels, he strolled into his favorite gun store to overlook the new wares. He had his eye in particular on a new rocket launcher. Such weapons were freely available to own, but only men of means such as himself could purchase them. It was for the best; not only did the old government perform a background check,something that mystified and horrified Archie,they let just anyone who passed one buy guns as they pleased. Foreigners, blacks, even women. Archie vividly remembered when the change came and the old government fell. His mother wept when she was forbidden her work as a physician and all her credit and bank accounts cancelled, but later on she grew happy and content.
Outside, a familiar pimp offered Archie the chance to peruse the new wares. None were to his liking, so he passed and willed away a few hours at a gladiatorial game; they used to call it “football” before the machetes were introduced. To Archie, it seemed like feet had little to nothing to do with the ball.
After some absinthe and laudanum, Archie met with a few similar men of means. It was time to settle down and he was in the market for a bride. The girls sat meekly while Archie and his negotiating partners dickered and haggled over them. The girls didn’t strike his fancy and the offers were poor—they all wanted stock in his drug trade—so he’d have to come back another day.
Near sunset, Archie returned home. There had been more injuries; a twelve year old runner mowed down by a tractor, a broken leg, and a knife fight arranged by two of the overseers who’d grown bored. He would fire them, of course. His friends in the police would deal with the troubles. The contracts left him no liabilities, but he was kind enough to see that the injured were transported to the edge of his land, where they would need to arrange further travel to the emergency wards themselves. Their chances were poor, but alas, Archie had no responsibility to them. To even contemplate it would be to submit himself to slavery!
After a lovely dinner of ostrich eggs and giraffe filet, he retired, calling his bed servant to join him. He was tired from the day and had no plans to make use of her talents, but he’d grown used to her presence. He could marry her if he chose, and was sure she’d be grateful, but marriage was for making contracts. It was understood that the girl and her successors would remain, discreetly, and his new wife would say nothing or be cast out of his house without a penny. So it was.
Archie did not awake again until he felt thin legs straddling his waist and fire about his neck. A silk cord from one of his window treatments was wound around his neck, burning. The girl’s eyes met his and before his throat closed, he managed to gasp out, “Why?”
And she said, “I got a better offer.”