I am looking for the author and title for a Science Fiction novel depicting a society where people are paid to obtain necessities and pay to work. It may be a Heinlein, Asimov, or Clark title. Does anyone remember that subplot?

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    This sounds pretty broad; do you remember any other details? Anything about the setting or characters? When you read it? Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 19:45
  • I don't know about the paid to work bit, but James Womak's Terraplane envisions a Late USSR wherein people were coerced to shop.
    – Lexible
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 21:48
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    Fairly highly duplicated: scifi.stackexchange.com/search?q=Midas+Plague Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 23:19
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    Reopened. There's no acceptance from the OP.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


Not an exact match, but the topsy-turvy nature is reminiscent of Frederik Pohl's The Midas Plague which is set in a society in which robotic production has created such an avalanche of consumer goods that the 'poor' are forced to work many hours a day to use up their ration of luxuries. The 'rich' live relatively austere lives.

It was later expanded into a novel called Midas World

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    That makes no sense
    – user16696
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 19:55
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    Can no one find the off switch for the commodity creating machines?
    – Firebat
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 20:47
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    @Richard I read the book and can report that the belief is that if no one is consuming luxuries, then the need for inovation and discovery of better luxuries is lost. So people must consume 'x' amount of things so that more can be created. Its a very odd idea to be sure. I also don't think they heard of recycling.
    – Firebat
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 21:09
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    It's also partially tied to that society was on the brink of riots at the time when the robots were set to automatically produce. No one wants to mess with what is working.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 21:11
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    No, it doesn't make much sense, and a lot of people said so at the time. However, Pohl was writing a satire of capitalism, not a Heinleinian prediction. The means of production, distribution and exchange have been turned over to robots, programmed simply to increase output. The idea that society should work towards human happiness and fulfilment has been lost. Eventually the hero finds the obvious capitalist solution - the robots consume the goods which they produce, thus completing the supply-and-demand circle (and removing any potential revolutionary threat to the system).
    – PeterClose
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 21:15

The part where people are paid for buying but pay to work sounds like Lloyd Biggle's Round Trip To Esidarap, where a couple from our world take a trip to 'Kroywen' offered by a competing travel agency in their town. When they buy items they are paid in 'Rallods'.

The isfdb entry is here https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?72632

It is available to read on Google books

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