A superb discussion — as usual, although to say that devalues it: each one really is a treat. One highlight here was the description of the story of Susana from the apocryphal Daniel as a detective story, but there were a great many.
To address one question that was raised at one point: I will say that the politics of this story are hard to read as conservative, for me anyway. At least, they're hard to read as late-60s/early 70s conservative. I'm thinking of your comment that the critique here is almost socialist, and someone — Glenn, I think? I didn't write it down — mentioned a conservative view that people oughtn't to have to work, ought to be freed from that. I will say that's not in any version of conservatism that comes to my mind; the closest is classic European-style conservatism that supports aristocracy, and there it's only that certain people shouldn't have to work, not everyone. The closest thing to a version of this in American thought were some pro-slavery arguments, who understood American slaveowners as, basically, European aristocrats (incorrectly, but never mind), Otherwise this critique it certainly doesn't fit American conservatism. At the time this was written, the leading conservatism was based on "fusionism" (pioneered at William F. Buckley, Jr.'s magazine, The National Review), which combined anti-communism, free-market beliefs & traditionalism. A critique of work is opposed (to greater & lesser extents) by all three. Honestly, there wasn't really a conservative critique of slavery; conservatives were for it when it existed. (You mentioned Catholic views on slavery as if they were negative, but as far as I can recall there wasn't any particularly large or notable Catholic presence in US anti-slavery movements. Quakers, of course, were the early adopters there, and most of the white anti-slavery movement in the 19th century came out of the (Protestant) Second Great Awakening. African Americans, of course, were against slavery for other reasons, but I don't know if there were many Catholic African Americans at that point. Obviously one can come up with a contemporary Catholic anti-slavery argument, about the innate worth of people, etc, but that wasn't one made widely at the time, as far as I know. (I don't mean to rag on Catholics here; my people, the Jews, were not better — and a divine anti-slavery movement is the founding myth of our religion, so.))
All of which is to say that if this story represents a Buckley-ite view, I don't see it. Better, perhaps, to see it as Wolfe moving away from Buckley-ite views (as he said he did), particularly since this story was written a good half-decade or so after Operation ARES? (By the same token, however, I am not seeing any particular metaphor with the Civil Rights Movement here, either; one of you said Wolfe was making the connection, but I don't see it. (Worth remembering, of course, that conservatives were generally against the Civil Rights Movement (as, e.g., Buckley was at the time, although he later backed off from that view). Not saying Wolfe shared this view, just noting that conservative views of the Civil Rights Movement tended to see it more as threatened anarchy (as, for instance, in "Paul's Treehouse").
In sum: I see this as a humanist story (broadly speaking), sticking up for the value of humans (broadly speaking, to include (as is Wolfe's wont) robots), not specifically political in any but the broadest sense.
Otherwise, I don't have much to add. Great discussion, great story.