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An idea, as formally expressed in Eric Frank Russell's short story "And Then There Were None", that in a truly free society no person may coerce another in any manner. That at any juncture, a person may simply say, "I won't" and that answer must be accepted as valid.

Russell's story describes a world of people who call themselves Gands (after Mahatma Gandhi), who all have taken to this philosophy wholeheartedly. They trade goods and services through a system of "obs" - obligations - that they "plant" on each other and then pay off. For instance, by providing groceries to the fire station, the grocer plants an ob on the firemen, ensuring that if his store ever catches fire that they'll come. In accordance with Freedom: I Won't, only the recipient of the ob can say when he has paid it back, not the planter.

Russell briefly touches on how civil services are provided...for instance, businesses that don't transact directly with the fire station "buy" fire station obs from businesses that do, as a form of insurance. And by starting a much-needed business in a town, a person can plant a "functional ob" on the entire town, helping him through his first shaky year.

Of course, on Russell's planet, all towns are small (since large cities would allow people to live their lives planting obs on many different people without ever paying them off) and there is no war (difficult to figure how many obs you have to plant on a man to make him go die for you). So this is probably Yet Another Social System That Doesn't Work In Real Life. But it's an interesting concept, and while we may not be able to base our entire society on Freedom: I Won't, we could certainly use a bit more of it.

You may read the story online at:


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