Questions: Spite, Amendments, Nomic, Favor-Trading

So what’s the eldraeic take on spite? (In both the game theoretic and emotional senses.)

In the former, that it’s pointless and self-defeating, inasmuch as it’s a negative-sum interaction. You lose, they lose. The best you can do in a spiteful interaction is come out relatively better off because they lost more than you did, even though in absolute terms you end up worse off yourself. Simply walking away or minimum-cost defensive action wins every time.

(Humans are prone not to think of it this way because exchanging absolute losses for relative gains makes sense if you’re operating on primate relative status instincts; you get a larger piece of a smaller pie. Eldrae, contrariwise, tend to think of relative status games as perhaps the single dumbest notion the universe ever came up with, and so recognize that they’d be worsening their own position right off the bat.)

So far as the emotional sense is concerned, it’s spiritual entropy. The sort of thing that chews away at the soul, and if indulged or unless corrected, likely to end up leading you directly into one of the Antithetical Heresies, probably the Defiling Nihility with a chance of the Obstructive Naysayer.

More pointedly, what’s their take on Hamiltonian spite?

It has all the negative qualities of Wilsonian spite, with the additional fillip that it’s pure-quill “To improve my position it is sufficient to worsen someone else’s.” In their above-mentioned paradigm, that qualifies as both stupid and evil, as well as unsatisfying (the one-eyed human king might be able to derive satisfaction from seeing better than all his blind subjects, but it would never occur to the one-eyed eldrae to use other people as his yardstick in the first place).

How amenable is the Imperial Charter to amendment or revision? We’ve been made aware that it’s possible, but how does the amendment mechanism itself work?

The amendment mechanism is a spectacular pain in the ass. Of course, that’s by design; if you can’t push whatever amendment you wanted to make through said spectacular pain in the ass, it almost certainly wasn’t both important and generally agreed with enough to be an amendment. Specifically to quote:

Article IV: On the Amendment of this Charter
After the ratification and implementation of this Charter, amendments may be proposed for consideration in three ways:

  1. By a two-thirds vote of each of the Chambers of the Senate; or
  2. By a proposal put forward, concurrently or consecutively, by two-thirds of the demesnes of the Empire; or
  3. By a citizen proposal, put forward in the same manner as an initiative, which achieves the support of one-third of the citizen population.

Any amendment proposed for consideration by either of these methods shall first require a substantive vote of each of the three Chambers of the Senate for ratification;

And, this having been achieved, shall then require a three-quarters vote in a plebiscite of all citizens of the Empire for further ratification;

And shall then become effective on the first day of the next year, following this final ratification.

A substantive vote, incidentally, means a 5/6ths vote rather than a 2/3rds vote of a substantively quorate Senate. So in order to approve an amendment, you have to win 2/3rds of each of the three Chambers of the Senate, or 2/3rds of all the constituent nations, or 1/3rd of the citizen-shareholders; then win 5/6ths of each of the three Chambers of the Senate; then win 3/4s of the citizen-shareholders (total, not just voting).

There’s a reason it’s only been amended 12 times in over 7,000 years.

Also, there are some parts that can’t be amended at all:

Article V: Irrevocable Provisions
The provisions listed here within shall not be amended, nor shall their amendment be proposed. They shall remain above all power of amendment or repeal.

  • Section I, Article I: On this Charter
  • Section I, Article III: Limitations of Imperial Government
  • Section I, Article IV: On the Amendment of this Charter
  • Section I, Article V: Irrevocable Provisions
  • Section I, Article VI: Dissolution
  • Section III, Article III: Fundamental Rights of the Sophont
  • Section III, Article VI: Nonrestriction
  • Section III, Article VII: Equal Protection
  • Section III, Article X: Renunciation
  • Section IV, Article I: On Sovereignty
  • Section IV, Article II: Full Faith and Credit

For various reasons. Not kicking away the latter you’re standing on while you’re on it (I.I, IV.I), because the governance shouldn’t invent new roles for itself without going through the proper procedure (I.III), because amending the amendment rules or the irrevocable sections would defeat the whole point of having them (I.IV, I.V), because when they said inalienable they meant it (III.III, III.VI, IV.II), because there shouldn’t be special privileges in ethics (III.VII, IV.I again, IV.II again), and because people shouldn’t be deprived of their right to wind up their collective body (I.VI) or their right of exit (III.X).

And the Curia will throw out any proposals that are going to make the whole thing nonsensical due to innate self-contradictoriness, or suchlike.

But apart from that? Easy.

By extension, how comfortable are the eldrae with incorporating nomic mechanisms into games and contracts, as a general rule?

Perfectly comfortable… when used appropriately and properly scoped. A fully general nomic contract is a potential suicide mission, in the same way that a unilaterally, arbitrarily modifiable contract is, and no-one in their right mind’d consent to that. But building nomically adaptive contracts such that they can handle unanticipated changes within the essential scope of the contract – well, doing that is exactly how smart-contracts began in the first place.

Given how it’s an eldraeic principle that everything can be quantized in some fashion, can (and do) favors accrue “interest” in some fashion, just like monetary debts and balances?

They could, if the people involved wanted to set them up that way. In practice, they don’t: a debt carries interest because of the opportunity cost of lending money; namely, you can’t spend it while you don’t have it (and you risk losing it) and that deserves compensation. But unlike money, there’s not the same opportunity cost of having an outstanding favor.

Is there such a thing as “favor arbitrage,” where you can make arrangements to connect people you owe favors with people who owe you favors to resolve both at a profit to yourself?

In a manner of speaking. If A owes B and B owes C, connecting A and C transfers A’s debt to C, paying off B’s, and then performance pays off A’s, leaving no-one indebted to anyone.

Now if you happen to have collected a lot of favors, like, say, the Marquis de Carabas, and you happen to know people who could use certain favors from certain people, you can certainly arrange introductions there, at which point the provider no longer owes you and the recipient owes you one. And some path-pointers operate in this mode to transfer in one direction or another favors you can’t use or can’t fulfil, either way. But that’s not you doing it: that’s involving a third party, whom you owe for their trouble.

Also mainly in reference to favors, but with potential application to monetary debts as well: We all know by now the Imperial attitude to failing to discharge an obligation that you owe to someone else, but what’s their attitude about imbalances perpetuated by the creditor refusing to, say, take payment offered in good faith for an “early release,” or intentionally holding a favor in reserve to call in at an advantageous time?

Well, I think their first question would be “what imbalances?”

(I mean, in the first case, well, unless there’s an early release clause in the contract, it’s not like you have a right to early release – and if there is, they can’t refuse to take it. But even if there isn’t, if you happen to have the cash on hand to pay off the debt, principal and all interest accrued right up to the end of the normal term, and they still refuse to renegotiate for the same money offered earlier, there’s nothing to stop you from sticking that into an escrow account with a smart-contract attached and forgetting about it.

And in the latter case – well, since most people are going to call favors in when there’s an advantage to doing so, I’m guessing you mean “when it will disadvantage the debtor in some way?” But unless you’ve written and agreed yourself into a tight corner, it’s not like favor-repayment is so tightly defined as to demand specific performance right then, either. Unless you inadvisably promised to jump when they say “frog”, or you owe a life-debt to someone being hunted by assassins today, or something, you can say “Sure, but I’m getting on a lunar shuttle in less than an hour, so it’ll have to be next Tuesday, if that’s okay by you?”)

Or, I suppose, there’s the psychological factor of having a debt hanging over you, but – that’s another case of primate status hierarchies. It makes us feel all stressed and subordinated to have outstanding debts, but that plays on instincts they don’t have. So far as an eldrae is concerned, “a debt and its repayment sum to zero”. Unless and until they’re actually behind on servicing it or flirting with default, it’s no big deal, and no little deal either.

3 thoughts on “Questions: Spite, Amendments, Nomic, Favor-Trading

  1. The thing I would worry about as a debtor here is that my debt being transferred to someone who has a more /agressive/ style of debt collecting. I may have gotten my debt with someone I can tell that a missed payment is an accident, whereas the new creditor is someone who gets payment /in the flesh./

    Citizens rights and all that aside, contracts are notoriously counter-intuitive and I should not have to pay some AI (or similar) just so I can sign a contract in good faith.

    “Well, don’t be so dumb to sign that.” is a very darwinist approach to contract law.


    • Contracts are like that here, because they’re attempting to compensate for arbitrary amounts of precedential and regulatory bafflegab and mostly the province of lawyers (who love to complicate things to justify their hourly rates); most of the ones regular people ever see are those provided to them by employers and finance companies which they end up signing without reading anyway; and no-one teaches anyone anything about them. Most people couldn’t even name the three elements of a contract if asked.

      [I remember when I got my first corporate job back in the UK just how shocked, shocked they were to discover that I actually wanted to read my employment contract before signing it. Actually negotiating one of the clauses practically blew minds left and right.]

      In a world in which the law is (necessarily) kept small enough that non-ignorance of it is possible, in which the legal system is infamous for its intolerance for bullshit, and in which Contracts 101 is a middle-school-equivalent course, they’re pretty damn intuitive. At least so far as the locals are concerned.


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