Trope-a-Day: Privately Owned Society

Privately Owned Society: In what is now the Empire, long ago. Or now. Could go either way.

In its purest form, in the years immediately following the Drowning of the People. After deciding that democracy amounted to substituting a parade of replaceable jackasses for the old permanent jackasses on the thrones of tyranny – and subsequently tossing the first candidates for the position off a 400′ waterfall – society was indeed privately owned, there not being anything non-“private” left in the world. Law and contract enforcement was entrusted to for-hire and eleemosynary PPLs, justice and arbitration left in the hands of equally private deemsters, and pretty much every other necessary function that people not familiar with the theory of this sort of thing are now thinking of handled by one or another for-profit, non-profit, or cooperative (yes, kids, an internally syndicalist syndicate is every bit as much a free-market entity as a megacorporation) group.

Things evolved somewhat over the centuries, with various PPLs forming complex coordinating superstructure organizations out of efficiency, evolving towards de facto pseudo-monopoly in some areas, and for similar reasons ending up purchasing sovereign rights – which in Imperial parlance are a very limited subset of the bundle of property rights attached to real property, nowhere near as generous as what we would claim them to be on Earth – from their subscribers. These superstructures were, through evolution, the basis of the Old Empires and other pre-Imperial polities of Eliéra, and eventually for the Empire itself.

But is that a move away from a Privately Owned Society?

Well, the obvious answer is that the citizen-shareholders obviously do own the Empire and all its appurtenances. That’s what the shareholders part means. Hell, they can even dissolve it any time they like.

But a more sophisticated answer would be that the Drowning of the People marked a divergence point from our history in that it pretty much killed off all forms of legitimacy, governmentally speaking, as we use the term. You can look down pretty much every form of legitimacy/legitimate government mentioned in that Wikipedia article, and they’ve got a multi-thousand-year old philosophical tradition explaining how that’s a quaint slaver’s rationalization. You can’t legitimize the coercion of the non-consenting no matter how much bullshit you spread on it.

The only source of “legitimacy”, they would claim, is the free consent and contract of the individual, and that’s what they have. Their Divine Majesties’ Governance derives all of its power from literally every single Imperial citizen-shareholder having contracted its services – in the areas of law and contract enforcement, externality management, and some minor coordination functions – and clicked through to accept the terms and conditions of service – and, as Imperials point out laboriously to those missing the point, it has absolutely no existence apart from the sum of people who follow said service agreement…

(And, okay, the volume in which they own the purchased sovereign rights mentioned above. But even tenuous as they are, there’s an entire political faction – the Dissolutionist Tendency – which exists to argue that they should never have got into volume-management in the first place and should sell said rights right back to the citizen-shareholders.)

…and they have the seals and signatures on file to prove that, dammit.

All the terminology and practices reflect this. There’s no tax, for example, because the governance literally does not have the power to tax. All it can do is charge a Service Fee, and that service fee is strictly defined in the contract. And if you don’t pay, it’s not some special criminal offense of “tax evasion” with all manner of special investigatory powers and punishments attached; it’s plain old breach of contract.

Privately owned enough for you?

3 thoughts on “Trope-a-Day: Privately Owned Society

  1. What is the status and life like for Non-citizen shareholders in areas ran by these privately owned service companies? Another is that even with this system coercion must exist in some form. Even citizens acting in self defense or hiring someone to do so on their behalf are using force to keep others from stealing, killing, or such.

    • On the former, since we’re talking about the Imperial context, well, very similar. As the Imperial Charter says, the fundamental unalienable rights of the sophont are the fundamental unalienable rights of the sophont, not to be given or taken by any person or organization, period. You have them anyway. The only thing it would affect is (a) whether someone’s defending them for you, and (b) whether you have the extended “civic” rights of citizen-shareholders.

      But if you’re standing in their volume legally, then you have signed form I-180 on your way in and therefore agreed to respect everyones’ rights during your visit, in exchange for which everyone agrees to reciprocate with respect to you, which leaves you on the exact same footing as a citizen-shareholder, fundamental rights and responsibilities-wise. The Watch Constabulary will defend your rights, as will the random passer-by on the street (actually, they probably would do so anyway), and you can feel free to hire all the additional private rights enforcement you feel that you need.

      As for the extended civic rights, most people get the majority of those (the applicable ones) by courtesy; they’re not constitutionally guaranteed to them, but no-one *there* is interested in being a restrictionist jerkass just for the sake of it. They do, however, reserve the right to not extend the special rights and privileges if there’s a good reason not to do so in a particular case.

      Socially speaking: well, you’ll get some funny looks if you’re a long-term resident who hasn’t taken up citizen-shareholdership, but that’s about it. I mean, from the Imperial point of view, obviously all right-thinking sophonts want to be Imperial citizen-shareholders, that’s just the way it is, but you can’t blame foreigners for not understanding that straight away. If they did understand it straight away, they wouldn’t be foreigners, would they?

      (Your mileage may vary in other places that still use a strict PPL-only model, like the Rim Free Zone…)

    • Coercion is something of an awkward term of art. Let me rephrase this in something closer to local terminology:

      You have an absolute and unalienable right to your self-integrity/autonomy of volition. From this proceeds various subsidiary rights which are intrinsically necessary to that first one: property and obligation (contract) and truth, and so forth. No-one may transgress upon these without your informed memetic-cognitive consent.

      But all rights are also responsibilities. They’re inseparable halves of the same coin. Having the right to your self-integrity/autonomy of volition necessarily implies the responsibility to respect those of others, and so on likewise down all the subsidiaries.

      “Coercion”, in this paradigm, implies stepping outside the borders drawn for you by those responsibilities and infringing upon another person’s self-integrity/autonomy of volition without said consent.

      By doing so, and only by doing so, you open yourself up to the unfortunate consequences. You definitionally can’t have the right without the responsibility, so if you abandon the responsibility, by doing so you voluntarily cede the right.

      (And that’s why it’s not coercion, by their terms, when the lady you just tried to mug whips out a sluggun derringer and blows a hole the size of your torso in your head. It’s more like… well, civic duty thoroughly executed. Well done, that chapess.)

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