Bill of Rights

Article IV: Imperial Rights of the Citizen-Shareholder

The Empire guarantees the following inalienable civic rights to all Imperial citizen-shareholders, over and above the fundamental rights of all sophonts.

Right of Person and Property: In recognizing the sacred and fundamental Right of Domain, the responsibilities of the citizen notwithstanding, all Imperial citizen-shareholders shall retain the inviolability of their minds, persons, homes, data, correspondence, and honor, save in accordance with strict process of justice, upon probable cause and within specific bounds, or for the immediate public safety. And since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified; when the immediate preservation of the public safety and order shall demand it; or by due process of law as punishment for a crime.

There shall be neither chattel slavery nor any other form of involuntary servitude in the Empire.

Right of Knowledge: Access to information shall not be abridged by the Empire, or by any instrumentality thereof, save to the least extent required for the public safety; nor shall the freedom of research and inquiry; nor shall the freedom of speech, nor that of the press, save when such information or speech constitutes, in whole or in part, infectious or self-executing code; nor shall the right of the people peaceably to assemble be abridged, subject to the availability of free public volume in which to assemble, and the capacity of the local environment to sustain life.

Right of Arms: In recognizing the sacred and fundamental Right of Defense, all Imperial citizen-shareholders shall retain the right to bear such personal arms as they deem their honor and the public safety to require; nor shall the exercise of this right be abridged on account of any crisis or state of emergency, howsoever existing or declared.

Right of Association: All citizen-shareholders of the Empire shall have the right to form and eschew associations with their fellows as they shall see fit; and they shall also have the right to form, join, withdraw from, and disband such coadunations as they shall see fit; nor shall anyone be compelled to become or remain a member of such a coadunation; and this right of association shall only be restricted by law on the grounds of protecting the public safety, the public order, or the public health.

Such coadunations, as associations of citizen-shareholders, shall have legal personality; and shall be guaranteed rights and be bound by responsibilities equal and equivalent to those guaranteed to and binding the citizen-shareholders constituting them, without exception.

Right of Trade: In recognizing the sacred and fundamental Right of Fair Contract, all Imperial citizen-shareholders shall retain the right to work within their trade or profession, to own, buy, and sell goods and capital, to enter freely into binding contracts, and to otherwise transact business within the Empire, without let or hindrance; and no law shall be made impairing the obligation of contracts, or restricting the freedom of trade.

Rights of Petition and Appeal: Each citizen-shareholder of the Empire shall have the right to petition the runér in whose fief a matter, having direct negative impact upon them, falls for redress of grievances; to, should they fail to relieve such grievances, appeal further to that runér‘s superior; and finally, to appeal for redress to the Imperial Couple.

Right of Voyage: An Imperial citizen-shareholder shall have the right to travel freely between and take up residence within the Empire’s constituent nations, except where impeded by due process of law for the public safety or public health; to leave the Empire; and having left the Empire, to return to it, except where prohibited by previous due process of law completed before the date of their departure.

Rights of Justice: The Empire shall recognize these rights of an Imperial citizen-shareholder accused of a crime:

  • To be released on the word of a runér;
  • To seek such release by writ;
  • To challenge the prosecution before trial to show that the prosecution is motivated by evidence linking the citizen-shareholder to the crime;
  • To a trial before a tribunal of judges of the Curial courts, of legal capacity to examine all relevant evidence;
  • To examine the indictment and the evidence against him before trial;
  • To summon witnesses on his behalf;
  • To engage an advocate and investigators;
  • To make any statement of explanation or exculpation; and
  • To accuse others.

For the protection of the citizen-shareholders against the unjust application of law, the privileges of the prerogative writs shall never be suspended; nor shall any ex post facto law be passed; nor bill of attainder, bill of pains and penalties, or lettre de cachet be used; nor conviction work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate.

And all citizen-shareholders of the Empire shall and must have full recourse to the courts of justice and mediation both for remedy.

Right of Self-Mutagenesis: The Empire shall respect the right of each and every sophont of self-ownership insofar as, but not limited to, each citizen-shareholder’s inalienable right to modify their physical substrate as they shall see fit, through genetic or cybernetic technologies or through any other means, including the right to transfer their mind-state to such replacement physical substrates as they shall see fit.

While the Empire shall respect the Right of Self-Mutagenesis with respect to germ-line genetic modifications or other modifications which may affect the subsequent creation of other sophonts, the Right of Self-Mutagenesis shall not be held to supersede lawful restrictions upon reproduction imposed for the public health, or for the benefit of the incipient sophont.

Right of Gnosis: The Empire shall respect the right of each and every sophont of self-ownership insofar as, but not limited to, each citizen-shareholder’s inalienable right to modify their mind-state as they shall see fit, through noumenal pharmacy, psychedesign, noetic modification, or through any other means, provided only that such modifications do not constitute pernicious irrationality threatening the public order, the public safety, or the public health.

Right of Assistance: Inasmuch as the Eldraeic Transcend exists coextensively with the Empire, the Transcend guarantees to all Imperial citizen-shareholders, whether currently Aspects of the Transcend or not, the assistance and advice on demand of a Transcendent coadjutor.

– the Imperial Charter (as amended)


Trope-a-Day: Utopia

Utopia: Well, the Imperials would certainly like to think that they live in one, or at least an asymptotic approach to one, anyway.

Of course, as we pointed out back in Imperial Dream, the Empire is a utopia for people who think the way that the Imperials think people ought to think (“the right sort of ambitious, self-motivated, self-defining, run-through-life-without-a-guidebook, make-it-up-as-you-go-along soph”). Kind of sucks if you need other people’s terms to live your life by, though, really sucks if you want to define those terms for other people, and can be quite horribly crushy if you actually want some darkness, ugliness, or mediocrity in your universe, even just as a contrast to the pervasive drive towards unrelieved, inescapable shiny awesomeness. You deviated cacophile prevert, you.

In short: there ain’t no universal utopia. The Empire tries for it, with its ideology of “An it harm none, do as you will – so long as it’s awesome!”, but even then, people who don’t know what they want, whose wants involve harm, coercion, or externalities, or who want non-awesomeness, are pretty much screwed.

There’s also a particular non-utopian case which I might well mention, exemplified by this quotation from John C. Wright’s The Golden Age:

Helion had leaned and said, “Son, once you go in there, the full powers and total command structures of the Rhadamanth Sophotech will be at your command.  You will be invested with godlike powers; but you will still have the passions and distempers of a merely human spirit.  There are two temptations which will threaten you.  First, you will be tempted to remove your human weaknesses by abrupt mental surgery.  The Invariants do this, and to a lesser degree, so do the White Manorials, abandoning humanity to escape from pain.  Second, you will be tempted to indulge your human weakness.  The Cacophiles do this, and to a lesser degree, so do the Black Manorials.  Our society will gladly feed every sin and vice and impulse you might have; and then stand by helplessly and watch as you destroy yourself; because the first law of the Golden Oecumene is that no peaceful activity is forbidden.  Free men may freely harm themselves, provided only that it is only themselves that they harm.”


Helion looked sardonic.  “‘Mistake’ is such a simple word.  An adult who suffers a moment of foolishness or anger, one rash moment, has time enough to delete or destroy his own free will, memory, or judgment.  No one is allowed to force a cure on him.  No one can restore his sanity against his will.  And so we all stand quietly by, with folded hands and cold eyes, and meekly watch good men annihilate themselves.  It is somewhat… quaint… to call such a horrifying disaster a ‘mistake.'”

The Empire’s like this. You are the captain of your soul, the proprietor of yourself, the beneficiary of an unshakable tradition of absolute self-ownership. You have bodily – and cognitive – autonomy in an actual, meaningful, and complete sense (granted, if you venture into the territory labeled ‘pernicious irrationalism’ you will subsequently have to be autonomous elsewhere, but no-one can or will actually stop you), not the limited ones some of *here*’s activists use. You can do anything you want to yourself, massively self-destructive things included, and when you’re doing it to you, you don’t even need informed consent, because the only person who could judge that is also you.

So far as they’re concerned, the Freest of the Free, that’s the way it has to be. Yes, some people accidentally wipe themselves out, but it’s a very small number, and we count on our ongoing tradition of being clever and wise and temperate and disciplined and creatures of talcoríëf to keep it that way – but if we take away your ownership of yourself, then what are you?  Nothing that belongs in a free society, and neither are we. A degree of choice-and-self-mastery-risk is the price you pay to live in a world without gorram slavers.

Humans, contrariwise, by any brief examination of your local democracy, are on average very keen on taking powers away from everyone so that they personally don’t do anything dangerous, bad, or unpleasant with them. Empirically, we don’t seem to like living without safety rails everywhere.

The Imperials would consider that a lamentable lack of character (which, indeed, is what they consider it in-universe when someone takes the individual option to disempower themselves out of fear of what they might do), but nonetheless, it’s probably enough to take the Empire out of the utopia category for most of this planet’s ape-descendants.


Questions: Meddlement, De Minimis, and Food

Specialist290 asks:

One thing I didn’t really see clarified anywhere else:  What exactly is “meddlement” in the sense that it’s used in Imperial law (and, more to the point, what sorts of behavior would it outlaw that would be considered “business as usual” and beneath legal scrutiny *here*)?

Well, the legal definition is:

To make use of, interact with, or non-destructively interfere with, without engaging in theft, another’s property without the consent of its owner.

So, that, basically. It’s the legal reflection of the concept of coválír, property as extension of self, in which conceptually to them, “my car”, say, is every bit as much a part of them as “my hand” is. And thus and so, even as decent humans in general will refrain from making free with other people’s bodies without their consent…

(Or, alternatively, you could think of it as the personalty equivalent of what in realty terms would be trespass.)

So there are literally all sorts of things that would qualify: if you sit on someone’s chair, use the calculator on their desk, borrow their stapler, access their wi-fi, take a book off their bookshelf and read it, etc., etc., without their consent, you’ve just committed misdemeanor meddlement. (I’d add “help yourself to a drink in their house”, but since you don’t plan on giving the liquid back, that’s actually theft.)

[For efficiency reasons, obviously, certain blanket permissions exist – if you are welcomed into someone’s home as a guest, for example, you receive the hospitality of the house, the offer of which constitutes a blanket consent for some things – make use of the public rooms, get yourself drinks, use the bathroom, access the guest network, read books off the non-private shelves, etc. – albeit not for others – go opening drawers in the private study, use someone’s personal computer – and so forth. For full details, please consult Codices of the Mannerly Symposium, Vol. II, p. 78 et seq.

And in emergencies – well, for example, in a case of defense-of-self-and-others, it’s technically a violation to grab someone else’s gun to use for that in the absence of better alternatives, but in the unlikely event that it were to proceed to litigation, a plea of necessity existed will more than cover it.

But as a general rule: ask before touching.]

Side note:

So far as being beneath legal scrutiny is concerned, a thing to bear in mind is that the Imperial legal system has no de minimis rule. To say that the Curia finds the arguments that support it in our legal system unconvincing is to understate the case, pointing out that to declare such a rule is no more than to declare that society will tolerate an arbitrarily large amount of injustice provided that it’s measured out in sufficiently small individual increments, and, pardon their Klatchian, fuck that shit. No sparrow shall fall, etc., or at least no sparrow shall be pushed without the legal right to redress.

(If it sounds like this implies that some people might be filing and/or responding to their first lawsuits before leaving their kindergarten-equivalents, well, it does. The Courts of Common Pleas and Small Claims are used to that. It’s educational.)

JonS asks:

In the whole “Royale With Cheese” translation, I’ve got a question-

(For those who don’t follow my G+, this was just a phrase I translated randomly probably for reasons including vague feverishness and cheeseburger craving. And if you want the big burger there anyway, you don’t want to order that, you want to order an Equity Lord With Cheese.

Anyway, the translation is:

tralin-runér galráchan ond-mícma


Let’s plop a thousand statistically average Eldrae in a well-stocked, well-appointed food court on Earth with cash to burn.  No chain restaurants, you can get pretty much anything that isn’t completely “off the wall” exotic there, and the food is good.  Not five star great, but a decently good example of the food type in all regards.  Assume everything is labeled (or we provide warnings) to prevent somebody from eating something that they might be allergic or can’t consume.  There is beer, both microbrewery of your particular choice and commercial brands.  There is wine, for meals that go with wine, but no bar.  There is a decent coffee and tea shop, and a very good ice cream/dessert/pastry stall.

On average, what will the Eldrae like in the food court and what would they not like?

Well, that’s a difficult question in the first place, because – short of stacking the deck by carefully selecting your thousand eldrae from the same community or food affinity group, which is not a good way to do “statistically average” in the first place – you’ve got a group large enough to like all sorts of stuff. Not much of a bell curve, either, thanks to the absence of peer norming, except that you might only have the one guy out on the end who thinks lye-pickled fermented hagfish or synthegen B is the absolute epitome of cuisine. Between them, they’ll eat and drink all manner of things.

But maybe I can offer some generalities.

Let’s start with raising three key points of difference, here. The first one is that, culturally speaking, anyone who spent their formative years in the Empire is accustomed to very, very high quality in everything. Their “fast express food” restaurants don’t get the option of substituting speed for quality – they have to solve the difficult problem of managing both, ’cause speed alone sells no burgers.

The second is that they’ve all been enhanced for better chemoception. They can all taste and smell really well, which rewards subtlety in cuisine, and punishes things that you can probably get away with where a human palate is concerned. The difference in flavor between cane sugar, beet sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup is stunningly obvious to an eldrae palate, for example, and anything picked up from cross-contamination or absorbed from packaging is rather more likely to turn out to be a problem.

The third, which probably isn’t all that relevant in this case, is that the portion sizes are too small, especially if this food court is located anywhere that isn’t the US. High-power metabolisms that chew through 7,000 kcal/day make you a big eater.

The good chemoception pushes the favorite things list towards the organic end of the scale – not because it’s organic, specifically, but because less processed foods tend to have, empirically, better and more subtle flavors. (Example, tomatoes: a heirloom tomato has flavor; a regular supermarket tomato tastes like a blob of mostly water.) Also, because some of those additives we mostly don’t taste? Many of those, they absolutely can taste. Which is not a prejudice against synthetics in or as food, note: it’s just that the people *there* working on those were responding to different incentives.

(A similar effect applies to the beer. Microbrews – and even some commercial brews that have some depth to them – will go over well. Mass-market love-in-a-canoe beer on the other hand… not so much.)

That subtlety preference in turn affects choice of styles, when multiple styles are available. For example, given the choice, a modal eldrae will prefer Indian-style curry – in which the subtle complexities of the spicing matter – over British-style curry, which often prefers to eschew sophistication for seeing how big a fire it can light in the eater’s stomach.

The third factor, incidentally, probably makes the Healthy Options portion of the menu unlikely to attract notice. Insufficiently calorific and composed by and large of inferior or watered-down versions of things (low-fat sour cream, imitation foodstuffs, etc., that does not delight the palate). And aren’t extra-healthy in this case – said metabolism can chew its way through a giant steak and hefty serving of whole-fat double-cream cheesecake without shifting gears.

(Also, while you avoided chain restaurants, operating procedures like, say, Chipotle, in which you participate in customizing your food such that you get exactly what you want how you want it will also go over well.)


Trope-a-Day: Uterine Replicator

Uterine Replicator: Or, as it’s known locally, the exowomb.

Ubiquitous. (Although neither mendacious nor polyglottal.) I mean, “In vivo? How quaint.”

For values of quaint, that is, equal to “Gods below, what is this, the primordial reign of chaos and darkness? With stone knives and bearskins?”

Because even leaving aside practical considerations, such as the gambling (if you went for conception in vivo rather than gene-printing like responsible parents) with felony dysgenesis, or the difficulties that arise when mother and child are not technically the same species, or the heteronormativity that assumes there is even a mother involved in any particular generative scenario, or the risks and stress levels (not to mention the inconvenience) involved to both mother and child in a vivo pregnancy and birth, complete with permanent after-effects, or how much more difficult and less effective it makes pre-natal education, and so on and so forth….

…well, let’s just say that the equivalent of the Betan – or possibly Cetagandan – cultural points of view in this particular area from Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga universe all apply here, too, and have had many centuries to sink in.

No-one expects women to do the work of reproducing personally any more anywhere halfway civilized. The only reason the Citizen Eugenics Board even keeps the capability around at all is long-range disaster-planning.


Trope-a-Day: Used Future

(As a side note, please permit me to apologize for the lack of new fic content over the last few days. I appear to have once again contracted some sort of death plague that is playing merry hell with my creativity, so I’m just sitting around crunching numbers, popping excedrin, and playing video games. Normal operation will be resumed as soon as I can operate normally.)

Used Future: Averted in the Empire – as you can probably tell by the way we hit up Crystal Spires and Togas, Everything is an iPod in the Future and Raygun Gothic on the way here, not to mention Scenery Porn, the Empire sits hard on the shiny side of the Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty.  Note: it’s not necessarily new; some of it’s just been lovingly maintained for millennia and polished every morning until it gleams.  Even more so with robotics and nanotechnology and post-scarcity energy supplies that fervently and with zeal ensure that all litter is picked up, all spills vanished, all nicks and dings repaired, and everything maintained in a state of appalling just-off-the-production-line perfection at all times!  Even the garbage trucks are gorgeous!

The metaphorical appearance of the actuality may best be compared to the perfect streets and shiny happy people seen mostly in architect’s impressions and Jehovah’s Witnesses pamphlets.

How used everyone else’s future is tends to depend on location: see Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty for this, and Shiny Looking Spaceships for one way this trope plays out in practice.

Trope-a-Day: Urban Segregation

Urban Segregation: Averted in the Empire, at least in the prestige/class-based sense, mostly because the sort of class structure that results in people of different classes (especially wealth-based classes) declining to associate in the segregationist sense is an outgrowth of primate relative status hierarchies and exclusivist signifiers.  Since the eldrae, as they would put it, are not insane – or in any case, don’t do relative status hierarchies, and people of all wealth levels share the same mores, culture, and tastes – their cities aren’t divided into the upmarket and downmarket areas, the gated and the ghetto; their districts tend to be a jumble of all incomes, and residential, commercial and light industrial properties all mixed together.

(As a side note, I would add, most of the cities are owned by people who, first, consider their personal pride a function of their civic pride; and second, as runér, are inclined to the quaint notion that poor people are every bit as entitled to have their rights respected as anyone else.  Any city-district that degenerated to a level even substantially above that of a “ghetto” would swiftly attract a military garrison, loaded to shoot trouble; and even before that, well, the Watch Constabulary understand the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, and that their jobs will be a hell of a lot easier if they keep things above the point at which the rational strategy flips to default-defect.)

Inasmuch as you’re going to find differentiated districts, you’re going to find them differentiated by function, profession, or cultural fillip – “Commerce Gyre”, “City Hall”, “Cinnareville”, “Kaethburg”, “Little Vervian”, “Codewalkers’ Apartments”, “Cogging Ash”, etc., etc., with lots of mixed creole districts in between.