RLwtP: How A Bill Becomes A Law

On this day in which we here in the US observe the attempt to make law a 497-page document issued too late to read before the vote, in the form of a non-searchable PDF with handwritten, barely-legible marginal annotations…

…an observer from a far distant land might turn to another, one who has mocked the baroque formality of the Imperial Senate – and in particular the requirement that all Harmonious Proposals of Unquestionable Justice and Incontrovertible Benignity be submitted in the proper formal register of language, poetic form, and exquisite calligraphy with accompanying testimonials likewise, lest they be discarded by the President of the Senate into the Brazier of Insufficiency to the Mandate (and Other Poor Form) at his left hand – and say unto him:

“This, my dear skeptic, is what it is for.”

(It’s not the only Schelling fence against attempted last-minute Senatorial bullshittery, but it is undoubtedly the most beautiful.)

 

Some Commentaries on Property Issues

A reader sent in a trio of interesting articles discussing the nature of property and wealth in a stateless society – and while the Empire isn’t one, obviously, being a joint-stock diarchy, it draws from a lot of the same memeplexes. And so it seems that a discussion of these ideas in its context might be an interesting thing to have.

The articles are these, for context:

So, let’s discuss.

On property rights and self-ownership (with a brief digression into sanctity of contracts):

The first opens with the claim that you can’t derive property ownership from self-ownership, because to do so would be to alienate one’s self-ownership: “But if “Trespassers Will Be Shot On Sight” is a valid assertion of property rights by the owner, then it is clear that self-ownership has become alienable and inferior to property rights. Yes, of course, I might shoot someone because they are a credible threat to my life, but this is true whether they’ve threatened me in the home I own, the apartment I rent, the hotel where I’m staying, or the restaurant where I’m eating: it has nothing to do with my being the owner of the property.”

Of course, the immediate response of an Imperial to this is that property ownership isn’t derived from self-ownership, it’s merely indistinguishable from self-ownership, because property is self. el daráv valté eloé có-sa dal, a sophont is equivalent to all that he possesses. All that is mine is me – my memories, my ideas, my name and frame, my reputation, my body, my terminal, my flitter, my home, my private luxury moonlet, my corporation, my forty acres of swampland in the Nine Dominions, wherever my worthsense extends – and all that is me is mine. That’s what coválír means.

Which, incidentally, is why an actual Imperial (one not experienced with dealing with barbarian outworlders) would be quite puzzled at the above notion that you are somehow less entitled to defend your property than your person against violation. In either case, you are defending your self.

In trying to explain this to said barbarian outworlders, they might also go so far as to point out that no kind of property simply comes into existence ex nihilo. It must either be created (“that which you create is yours“), which includes land that is homesteaded or otherwise put to use, or traded for against, ultimately, something that a soph did create. Appropriation of property, therefore, is appropriation of effort, of time, of chunks out of the owner’s life, and therefore is tantamount to slavery, and counterarguments can thus be submitted to Messrs. Stabby and Shooty, Esq.

But to come right to the greater point of self-ownership and its alienation, both in this context and the one brought up later in this piece arguing that the sanctity of contracts alienates self-ownership, they’d point out that no, neither property rights nor the obligation of contracts alienates self-ownership, they’re recognition and acts of self-ownership.

Ownership, in its simplest form – i.e., the one in which one holds all of the bundle of property rights we talk about below – is control. It is that my will commands here; and contrariwise, none may act upon what is mine/me without my consent. That includes the ability to transfer rights in it or bind its future actions – if it did not, it wouldn’t be ownership at all.

The unalienable part is that only your consent can enable actions on you/yours, and you can’t alienate that. You can bind your future self or alienate parts of you/yours just fine if you consent so to do, and it’s your (self-)ownership that lets you do that, but there’s no way for you or anybody else to bind you or alienate parts of you without your consenting to it.

On proprietary communities:

Proprietary communities are another extraordinary application of extreme propertarianism. Defenders of these sometimes assert that ANY rules can be set and enforced, so long as the property was legitimately homesteaded or transferred. Again, anybody who believes that self-ownership is unalienable needs to explain why they are so casual in permitting its alienation. I can say for certain they’ve never had to deal with the management of a co-op or condo association.

In its unlimited form, that’s traditionally called “sovereignty”. Although in the civilized parts of the galaxy – by which we of course mean Societies of Consent – they’d point out that you explicitly consent to those particular contractual rules up front when you enter the property, just like you explicitly consented to the law of the polity when you entered that. That’s not alienation: that’s binding yourself, which is a function of self-ownership.

(In less civilized parts of the galaxy they may enforce them without your explicit consent – which is, per above, alienatory – or bothering to tell you what they are, but hey, I’m talking about civilization here.)

The Empire is polite enough to acquire sovereign rights over the volume it holds from their original owners, and thus is entitled to require consent to polity law. As for private law, the applicable private legislative privileges are referred to as “conlegial rights” which let you charter your own property-specific laws so long as they don’t contradict Imperial law, the Charter, or the Contract, and includes certain other provisions for permissible enforcement, documentation and notification – made much easier by the tradition of announcing yourself when you cross a property line, and “without the word of acceptance, you are nothing” – and required disinvitation (which formally defines someone as a trespasser and notifies them of that) as a first resort.

As a side note to that, I’d add that it’s particularly essential in some areas: it’s bloody hard to run an odocorp without conlegial rights, because at the very least you need to be able to set rules about which side of the skyway to drive on. Or, y’know, you have something of a dying-in-fiery-twisted-hunks-of-molten-metal-falling-right-out-of-the-sky problem to deal with.

I have nothing in particular to say about easements (which, yes, exist) – especially since that particular example leads directly to the Most Annoying Straw Man On The Internet – on volumetric rather than areal property, or on the lengthy series of rulings and fine legal nuances when it comes to dealing with light and air and water and other such motile things. Solutions have been found aplenty.

(Except to point out that contra our system, this hotel:

CxRr9xTWEAA-mQj

…which is, I am given to understand, not best pleased to have some jackass turn it into a billboard, absolutely can exclude that light from going on to its property. The difference? Intentionality.

If within-the-threshold-of-normality light wandering around doing its own thing crosses a property line, that’s not a cause of action ’cause there’s no ethical actor. If you choose to light up someone else’s property, or casually emit very abnormal amounts of light… that most certainly can be.)

Not a whole lot to say on the concept of property as a bundle of distinct rights, which is obviously true – the more so because Imperial law is much more comfortable applying that principle to personalty as well as realty than ours is. But –

Okay, before I move on, here’s a quick digression on how land ownership works *there*. If you don’t know how it works here, you may want to consult these Wikipedia articles for a quick refresher.

Back?

Okay. Now, in the ‘verse – and from the Imperial legal point of view – the fundamental holding of property is in allodium. Somewhat different from the modern use of it here, an allodial title there is one which encompasses all the possible rights one might have over one’s property, including what are traditionally called the sovereign rights: legislation and enforcement. It is completely independent of any superior landlord or polity, and upon the owner’s demise without being transferred to an heir or agent it reverts to terra nullius, and is thus available for homesteading.

This is the province, primarily, of polities and self-sovereign individuals.

Most land in the Empire is held sub Mandamus, “under the Mandate”. What that means is that the Empire has acquired certain of the property rights of that land: legislation, qualified enforcement, qualified eminent domain, and qualified exclusion, all as laid down in the Imperial Charter, while leaving the remainder to the purchaser. It also reverts via escheat, instead of abandonment, to keep the title clear.

(This is distinct from fee simple, as it is here, because in that the Crown or People are considered the “owner” of the land and you merely own an estate in it; whereas in sub Mandamus you own the land in truth, with certain powers merely reserved to the Throne. This distinction makes very little practical difference, but people insist that it is nonetheless of great importance and significance. So it goes.

It’s not that there isn’t land held in fee simple in the Empire, either. Leaving aside the demesnes of runér, the freewheeling contract environment there means that anyone who has the necessary rights in land can subinfeudinate it just as easily as they can lease it, rent it, sell it, or whatever. But it’s not the norm.

Likewise, there are plenty of variants – sub Mandamus conditional, sub Mandamus tail, etc., analogous to their counterparts.)

But, anyway, no-one there is going to be surprised by the notion that an allodial title – to realty or personalty – can be split fractally and more or less arbitrarily into bundles of more specific rights, because it happens all the time. If you bought some realty there recently, you possess the majority of the rights, but the Empire possesses the sub Mandamus rights and your bank has (the rights implicit in) a mortgage lien until you finish paying them, and that’s assuming that there are no easements, entailments, covenants, or anything else.

And, hell, technically you split the allodial title to your lawnmower or other chattel, say, any time you lend it to someone by slicing off a right to use and assigning it to them on a temporary basis, which is what stops them using it being misdemeanor meddlement. This is How Shit Works 101, *there*.

The reason, however, that homesteading doesn’t work the way it’s suggested it might in the article, “to the extent we are using it and in the manner we are using it” – although numerous explicitly-different varieties do exist for various purposes (homesteads, mining claims, travel routes, etc.) – is an outgrowth of the notion that people can’t be expected to obey the law if they don’t understand it, and it leaves all manner of things up to cloudy implicit expectations; also, not starting with exclusivity and exclusion opens up all sorts of horrible questions about liability the day someone decides to homestead himself a hiking trail across your obviously-not-used-in-that-way emergency landing site and gets smacked upside the head by 300,000 tons of plutonium freighter flying with his comms out.

On “possession is nine points of the law”, and adverse possession:

“No, it bloody isn’t.”

Title is the whole of the law, and possession means precisely bugger-all where ownership of anything is concerned, or even the right to use it (see meddlement in the law books, for example). Adverse possession is a fancy term for legalized theft, and abandonment doctrine (for reasons other than, y’know, explicit disclaim of rights and/or ceasing to exist) isn’t much better.

So it’s not that the anarcho-communists are spewing pure drivel, from the Imperial point of view. Merely pure evil.

(See also property-self equivalence, and exactly what adverse possession looks like when applied to sophonts. Creepy.)

A minor sidenote here, but one which also applies to the second essay and the ancom social decision process over how an object should be used:

I especially like the idea of goodwill as the ultimate currency, as William Gillis wrote recently on his site, Human Iterations. In an anarchist society, the rich never forget that they cease to be rich if the rest of society chooses not to recognize their property claims: the moment you claim the right to more than what you can personally control, you are relying on other people to honor your claim. So be nice to people.

This is one of the primary reason why I tend to think of the ancom-autonomist habitats described in Eclipse Phase as complete hellholes for the non-EXFX set. If you’re dependent upon goodwill, that works great for the charismatic extroverts. As a non-charismatic mostly-asocial introvert, I’d be absolutely fucked.

(Sometime I should write about the various methods of structuring various ‘verse rep-nets use to ensure that they don’t devolve into proxies for generalized goodwill. Once I figure out what they are.)

The great virtue of money is that money doesn’t stink.

The great vice of social allocation processes (whose whole point is that they do, metaphorically, stink) is… well, basically, imagine every purchase you make, from homes to groceries, being mediated and possibly vetoed by your least favorite enraged Twitter-mob. What you get to eat for dinner is whatever survives a committee made up of Gamergate, SJWs, dogmatic Rothbardians, and neo-monarchists, moderated by neo-Nazis and antifa, and conducted on 4chan.

(From the second, by the way, I did like

But this is incomprehensible for Libertarians because they see respect for property titles as entirely stemming from a respect for personal agency. In practical, everyday terms respect for another person’s agency often comes down to a respect for the inviolability of their body. Do not shoot them, do not rape them, do not torture them. Because humans are tool using creatures like hermit crabs there is often no clear line between our biomass and our possessions (we use clothes instead of fur, retain dead mass excreted as hair follicles, etc.), and so a respect for another’s person seems to extend in some ways to a respect for things that they use. Begin to talk of Rights and these associations must be drawn more absolutely. And sure enough we already have a common sense proscription often enforced in absolutist terms that matches this intuition; do not steal.

Which is both accurate, I believe, and sort of the weaksauce version of coválír. As for the follow-up concerning metrics and singlemindedness – well, there’s a reason why the conflation of value and exchange-value is the greatest heresy of their economics.)

On contracts:

Quoting:

Moreover, the limits on property rights have already been acknowledged in common law, and ancaps need to abandon the cartoon version of contract law, and learn about duress, undue influence, and adhesions: established common law concepts that go beyond the “well, he agreed to it” view of contractual obligations. We’ve modified contract law enough in the US to recognize that employees have the right to quit their job even if they signed a multi-year contract (except for those who join the government military), and debtors can have their obligations cancelled in bankruptcy and never end up in prison if they don’t pay (except for those who owe the government taxes). In short, the sanctity of contract is already recognized as an intolerable concept under law, because it violates self-ownership. Self-ownership is inalienable. Period.

Well, we’ve talked before about duress, undue influence, etc., so I won’t repeat myself here. Likewise, I talked up above about how the right to bind yourself isn’t a violation of self-ownership, but an exercise of it, and I won’t repeat that, either.

But the obvious point to make here is that if the sanctity of, or the obligation of, contracts violates self-ownership, it doesn’t do so under only those particular circumstances you might find unjust or convenient. It does it all the time, for all contracts and agreements.

There are places in the Rim Free Zone that try to live by this interpretation. You can recognize them by the loincloths and pointy sticks, because it turns out that if anyone can walk away from their promises any time it pleases them to do so, you can’t build a functioning society at all. They’ve broken the entire basis of functioning interdependency, and the entirely predictable just happened to them.

With regard to the second’s fear-based theory:

For that is how I would characterize –

However, if property is a second-order good derived from market institutions based in reputation/goodwill/credit, then if one class systematically fucked over their credit with all of another class the underclass would no longer have any incentive to respect their title claims because no individual within it would fear even marginal sanction or loss of goodwill for occupying and appropriating their wealth.

and the later comments on the high cost of security against theft, along with some similar suggestions in #3.

I’d merely point out that we’ve run a few experiments on “you (A) get to keep your stuff and/or living only so long as you keep us (B) happy” systems. They don’t tend to end well. “Bread and circuses” is the good outcome. The bad outcome is what happens when (A) figures that they don’t really need the lumpen (B) for anything, and that they won’t be threatening anyone when they’re dead. And someone’s bound to have read Danegeld.

It is not, as a rule, a good idea in constructing a stable society to give any one class incentive to exterminate another.

On to the third. On “corporate personhood”, or more accurately, what they would call coadunate rights:

There, these derive extremely simply from the subsidiarity principle. The most common formulation of this is the maxim “The power which is derived cannot be greater than that from which it is derived,” typically used to rebuke enthusiasts for our style of governance by pointing out that sophs can’t empower a coadunation to do anything they can’t do in and of themselves, but the reverse interpretation is equally true and binding.

Namely, that since all coadunations – be they branches, circles, corporations, Houses, etc. whatever – are merely groups of sophonts from whom they derive their powers, they share in their rights, and they cannot be deprived of those rights since to do so is implicitly to alienate those rights from the sophonts making them up and to whom the rights actually belong. Coadunate rights are just a convenient legal fiction to simplify the paperwork.

(Likewise, the virtual rights which apply to proxies, partials, agents, and smart-contracts, which are no more than a legal fiction wrapped around the derivation of their principal’s rights.)

The local viewpoint is very much that people coming up with additional rights, or restrictions on rights, for sophs-in-groups are trying to write themselves ethical indulgences for one kind of dodgy shit or another.

(This is the underlying reason why, for example, you can hand an Imperial an elegant essay on democratic theory and they’ll look at it as a 300 page rationalization on the theme of the strong, in the form of sufficiently large groups, being able to do as they will and the weak being obliged to suffer what they must.)

On limited liability:

While the author of #3 seems to characterize limited liability as nothing but a subsidy to investors, I’d just make a quick couple of points. One of which is that it’s necessary for any business large enough to need investors who aren’t all close personal friends and/or in control of it. If they operated under standard “joint and several” liability, you’d be in a world where a process server’s going to go calling on your grandmother in Pennsylvania to explain that not only is her pension fund bankrupt, she’s also personally liable for $1.73 million of corporate debt, and if it’s not paid in a month, they’ll be taking her house. Have a nice day.

This is, I ween, problematic.

You can get around this problem by simply not having any businesses that large, at which point you realize that there are some desirable things that plain can’t be delivered without concentration of capital, and you don’t get to have them. Which is fine, if you swing Luddite, but I suspect the majority doesn’t.

They certainly don’t in the Empire, which is why the privilege of limited liability exists there – on the same voluntarist basis as favorable bankruptcy and their UBI, which is to say, it optimizes certain highly desirable outcomes, and the modal citizen-shareholder isn’t a damn fool.

Limited liability and corporate personhood make possible a way of doing business in a far riskier way than normal people would.

Given that normal people demonstrate cognitive bias towards excessive and self-disadvantaging risk aversion, this would be a good thing.

In a final, general comment on #3, I’d point out that the Empire and the other Core Markets do have a much stronger presence of small entrepreneurs than ours for some of the reasons there identified: there is more risk (but also more opportunity) due to the lack of much regulation, and the complete absence of subsidy and government monopolies and regulatory capture, not to mention mucking around with monetary policy: it’s a much more freewheeling and chaotic business environment.

(On the other hand, our way of grooming and regulating things makes individual excursions much worse: we have markets dominated by few large monolithic corporations and “too big to fail” banking institutions, so everything goes up and down together from bubble to depression and back. In a world where there are lots more smaller businesses and even the starcorporations are a cloud of loosely-coupled units, there are local failures and recoveries all the time, but the market as a whole cruises on just fine.

As a final note:

An attack on one is an attack on all;
an attack on all is an attack on each.
To defend another is to defend yourself;
when all are defended, justice is done.

 

Trope: Names to Run Away From Really Fast

(Okay, so I found one more…)

Names to Run Away From Really Fast: In the Imperial context alone, Imperial Hand, Fifth Directorate, and any Imperial military officer, agent, or private contractor whose House name is “Sargas” are the chief contenders. In the Worlds as a whole, Operatives of the Conclave are also not to be trifled with.

The Photonic Network‘s OPSEC, the Voniensa Republic‘s Exception Management Group, and the Eilish High Guard are also notable in this field, and while most people wouldn’t rate them against first-rank regulars, Kestal’s Raiders have achieved a certain bloody success in the unbonded mercenary business, operating out of the Rim Free Zone.

At least some of these can also be Names to Trust Immediately. All depends on who you are, and who they are.

Also, as was mentioned under Overly Long Name, one of the traditional components of eldraeic names is the attributive name, based on your personal attributes and/or accomplishments, which grow increasingly significant as your reputation grows, up until you reach the people with really towering reputations who can introduce themselves only by attributive name, Exalted-style, such as Exquisite Engineer of Worlds, or Manyfold Propagator of Celestial Wealth. Of course, those aren’t terribly intimidating in this trope’s sense, but should you encounter, say, Bloody-Handed Avenger of Iniquities… start running.

(Curiously enough, despite their taste for lush verbosity, this effect only increases as the attributive name dwindles towards Gallifreyan sparseness. Anyone who could pull off simply introducing himself as “the Warrior”, for example, would surely be someone able to win a major fleet action armed only with a cheese knife.)

 

Tropes Going Forward

So why is that a Trope-a-No-Longer-Day, I hear you cry?

Well, because I’ve run out of pre-written ones, and the demands on my time these days are such that – especially if I want to keep prioritizing writing at all – I can’t take enough time out to go through possible tropes and write ’em up in advance. So from here on in, they’ll be done more or less ad-hoc as I happen upon ones that seem relevant, rather than trying to keep up a list in advance.

Of course, should you think of any that seem relevant to the ‘verse that I haven’t tackled already, feel free to send them in and I’ll see what I can do you for.

 

Trope-a-No-Longer-Day: Creepy Cleanliness

Creepy Cleanliness: To more than a few foreign visitors, yes. As William Gibson said in Disneyland With the Death Penalty, “Was it Laurie Anderson who said that VR would never look real until they learned how to put some dirt in it? Singapore’s airport, the Changi Airtropolis, seemed to possess no more resolution than some early VPL world. There was no dirt whatsoever; no muss, no furred fractal edge to things. Outside, the organic, florid as ever in the tropics, had been gardened into brilliant green, and all-too-perfect examples of itself. Only the clouds were feathered with chaos – weird columnar structures towering above the Strait of China.

The Empire is exquisitely groomed by a horde of tiny robotic negentropists to a state of perfection usually seen only in architect’s drawings, concept art, Gernsbackia, and the like. If you need some dirt and wear on things for them to seem natural, you’re out of luck, because if there was any visible entropy around, someone’s had it caught and shot before it became noticeable. (And gods alone help you if you admit a preference for grunginess, or litter, or some such, ’cause you might as well stand up in the middle of Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to announce your life-long devotion to scatophilia.)

Good Stargates Make Good Neighbors

So, wondering about the non-Imperial worlds on the Imperial Fringe map? Here’s some trivia about the Empire’s neighbors for you!

To rimward, in the Banners, we have:

  • The A’t’rr Hold, who own the Aturr System. (The vowel is fake and the apostrophes unpronounceable by human mouthparts, since the a’t’rr communicate by rubbing their chitinous legs together.)
  • The Dvrrrrr Concordat, who own the systems of Kkrkrkh, Krtlkh, and Nkvkvvk. (And yes, their clicky language also has no vowels.)
  • The Garagou System, a single-system polity.
  • The Ianic Commonwealth, an Imperial satrapy, who own the systems of Cith, Strith, and Icp.
  • The polyspecific (originating in an idealist colony) Nanarchy of Huthla, who own the Huthla System.
  • The Sindil Global Republic, who own the Sindri System.
  • The Topaz Republic, who own the systems of Hatira, Kondotra, Lachra, and Thetra.
  • And the Venik Technate, who own the systems of Clogos Ven, Entil Ven, and Lisn Ven.

To coreward, in the First Expanses, we have:

  • The Araline Order, who own the systems of Analac and Halac.
  • The Arkhirii Imperium, who own the systems of Hasekh, Issak Ahk, Rotak Ahk, Tilak Ahk, and Vehk. (“Ahk”, in the most comman khiras language, means “home soil”. Those systems with that suffix are colony worlds; the others hold only outposts of one kind or another.)
  • The Combined Nekara Nests, who own the Seviks System in addition to their holdings in the Ring Nebula. (The nekar are avioids, yes.)
  • The Laeth Pact, who own the systems of Nichtal and Victa.
  • The Mirilasté Synarchic Interactive, who own the Ir Sargonnin System in addition to their holdings in the High Verge (below).
  • And the freesoil Omane System.

To acme, in the High Verge, we have:

  • The Shirethi Guilds, who own the systems of Belshir and Dalshir.
  • The Ganth Household, who own the G’ganth System.
  • The Mirilasté Synarchic Interactive, once again, who own the systems of Ir Garren, Ir Kelan, Ir Nassen, Ir Sian, and Ir Tollan.
  • The Qugu Symbiosis, made up of two sophont species (the ren-qu and ren-gu) which evolved on the same world as a symbiotic pair, who own the Qugarth System.
  • The Tokgac Free State, who own the systems of Tok-Jahr, Tok-Rash, and Tok-Slih.
  • The Twelve Pillars of Kerbol, who own the systems of Kerbol and Kerbevin. (Yes, this is a shameless homage to both KSP and to a particular story on the KSP forums.)
  • And the freesoil Loxix System.

To spinward, in the Principalities, we have:

  • The Amiable Futarchic Ecumene of the iothal, the Empire’s closest ally among its immediate neighbors, who own the systems of Dal Coriss, Dal Laiss, Dal Miless, Dal Silifiss, Dal Tirass, and Dal Thess.
  • The Lakatakau Nest, who own the systems of Arakau, Ditakau, Lakatakau, and Sekelkau. (The katakau, however, are not avioid.)
  • The Lamuran Diarchy, who own the systems of Aracory, Encory, Isory, and Vielcory.
  • And the Trinary Interactate, who own the systems of Dinuu and Eiruu. (Eiruu is binary, hence the name.)

And finally, to trailing-nadir, in the Talie Marches, we have:

  • The Five States, which owns the systems of Wa Fid, Wa Ganis, Wa Indane, Wa Loek, and Wa Varos. (The wakae colonized four of the systems by generation ship before being integrated into the stargate plexus; when the systems were linked, they couldn’t agree on reintegration and ended up forming a loose federation.)
  • The Kerabar Sovereignty, which owns the systems of Intsha Ker, Metsha Ker, and Revja Ker.
  • The Rúrathtu Maternity, which owns the systems of Cal-den-Heflo, Goris-den-Lesk, Illik-den-Saro, Ric-den-Narin, and Tor-den-Ras.
  • And the protected planet in the Glazimír System.

 

October Stuff

In honor of the coming holiday, a terrifying thought I had:

According to “The Blood-Brain Barrier” (and other incidental mentions elsewhere), it’s possible to target, edit, and alter the will if you know what you’re doing.

By implication, this means that it must be possible to *erase* someone’s will entirely with a personalized “nolitional” payload.

It would be an incredibly subtle and terrifying assassination method. Your target would be almost physically untouched and retain most of their sensory and cognitive functions, but the one thing that makes you a person would be as utterly destroyed as if you had taken a bullet to the brain-pan.

It’s certainly possible to build a p-zombifier, yes.

On the other hand, it’s not all that subtle (at least to societies that have sophotechnology, since coring out the logos will show up on a mind-state display like a claidheamh mor on a chest x-ray); and since – per the Cíëlle Vagary, etc. – logotic activity is most relevant in instants of chaotic choice, if you p-zombify Kim Jong-un, all you get is someone who can’t choose not to be Kim Jong-un. While not completely unuseful, leaving ethics aside for the moment, this is much less useful than one might think. 🙂

Given the emphasis on and discussion around the eldraeic take on “cold justice,” particularly in the recent post on the “Bonfire of the ‘Elites’,” I figured it would be appropriate to ask this one: Did the Empire ever develop anything parallel to the body of law and jurisprudence of equity (and its derived equitable remedies) that arose *here* from the English chancery courts that were established to “temper the rigor of the law”?

Equitable remedies have always been available in Imperial law, where applicable and just; unlike Earthling common-law systems (up until recently, in some systems), there has never been any distinction between law and equity. (Similar, although this is as imprecise as all Terran analogies, to the Scottish situation.)

(Not, of course, to “temper the rigor of the law”; if the law is just – and since the justification for the existence of the law hinges upon that it is just, which is to say, is as accurate a reflection of the Platonic ideal of perfect justice as possible – then any departure from the rigor of the law is, eo ipso, unjust. If the law is not just, then the only thing to do is change the law until it is.)

Okay, tomorrow morning AD, we have First Contact with the Eldrae. The day after, Corvus Belli gets access to an excellent intellectual property AI legal council and starts to put out the licensing and publication rights for their miniatures wargame, “Infinity”. They don’t make the mistakes that Games Workshop makes when trying to license their IP.

What would the game-playing public think of the game and how well would it do?

Don’t think I can commit to a position based on what the web alone can tell me, alas.

What would the eldrae think of [toppling] dominoes, seeing as they’re displays of entropy at it’s finest?

On the contrary, they’re lovely ordered complex systems producing a desired and desirable end result. Sure, they produce entropy as a by-product of their operation, but so does everything else: it’s a broken universe.

(On a related note, what of victims who become either implicitly or explicitly complicit in their own victimhood?)

I’m talking about, to use a specific case, the situation that Patty Hearst fell into where, after initially being kidnapped, she was so thoroughly reprogrammed that she actively aided and abetted her captors’ further illegal activities because, in her own words, “The thought of escaping from them later simply never entered my mind. I had become convinced that there was no possibility of escape… It simply never occurred to me.”

Unless you can prove reprogramming in the technical sense – thought-viruses, overshadowing, coercive fusion, bodyjacking, et. sim., such arguments do not gain you much sympathy. Because, y’know, you have free will and the capacity to choose – and whatever your position on that *here*, in the Eldraeverse not only will mainstream philosophers tell you that hard determinism is incoherent, but the sophotechnologists and physicists will chime in and point out that they’re only a skosh away from being able to point at the widget that makes it work – and can exercise them unless you’ve been technically deprived of that capacity (your hypothetical “nolitional” payload, for example), and so bloody well ought to have.

(If available, you would definitely be better off trying for the duress – committed-lesser-crimes-to-prevent-a-greater-one – defense, but it wouldn’t have been in her case.)

It doesn’t help much that the eldrae in general, being constructed differently and very disinclined to submission, do not see much Stockholm Syndrome, et. al., per the bottom answer here, and thus do not consider it part of “human nature” the way we do.  Here, that’s victimization that could happen to anyone; there, it makes you an undiagnosed parabulia case, and in the modern era, the Guardians of Our Harmony and your tort insurer both will be wondering how exactly you went undiagnosed for long enough for this to happen.

(And since you don’t grow up in a mature information society without learning something about memetics, or a philosophically mature society without learning some formal ethics, an inadequate memetic immune system is no defense either.)

This, naturally, flavors the sympathy you get if you victimized yourself, in much the same way as if you were an undiagnosed schizophrenia case; people feel bad for you because you’re fundamentally broken and need fixing. It also tends to evaporate much of it when the choice you made under its influence was to go from victim to victimizer.

Nor does the meme rehab prescribed in such a case excuse you from paying weregeld and reparations: you still chose and acted, and that’s still on you.

[As a side note, actually, the schizophrenic has a better defense available: if you shoot at your hallucinatory monsters and hit someone, you don’t have mens rea because you responded reasonably to the data you have. That’ll play for an insanity defense.]

(Continued from earlier…)

What, specifically, is the issue at stake that makes such a conclusion unacceptably psychotic? I can understand why they might object on grounds that it’s morally pessimal (to use your terminology from a previous discussion) not to “abstain from the very appearance of evil,” and how in a positivist sense it might be abnegated by an Imperial citizen-shareholder’s commitment to maintain a specific standard of what locally is defined as sanity,

I’m going to assume this has effectively been answered by the earlier comment on the layered shells of ethics.

but as for its applicability to the general mass beyond the confines of the Empire’s own reach, and particularly to a self-sovereign individual under no contractual constraints to behave otherwise:

Law is local (the Doctrine of the Ecumenical Throne notwithstanding, and in any case, that’s less of a legal principle and more of a good excuse); ethics are universal. The Empire’s citizen-shareholders are more than happy to export and apply – on a personal, non-legal level – their views on what constitutes virtue and lack of same to the entire observable universe.

(As a tangential aside — though one I’ll come back to later — it seems that this is the necessary justification that allows anyone, and not just the particular victim(s), to shoot and kill an offender for what we would regard as relatively petty offenses if they deem it necessary under Imperial jurisprudence.)

I note that you have the right to defend self, others, and property by lethal force in the moment; this doesn’t extend to a generalized hunting license for anyone who has committed a crime and who hasn’t been formally outlawed. (Although since everyone has the right of arrest upon probable cause provided that the alleged criminal is handed over forthwith to the Constabulary or to a Curial court for arraignment, crimes committed while resisting arrest can blur this a bit.)

As has been greatly emphasized elsewhere, the eldrae place a high value on informed consent in their dealings. How would they respond, however, to the idea that consent is not a thing that can merely be passively solicited, but something that can be actively manufactured or engineered — as espoused (and largely developed) *here* by men such as Edward Bernays (1)(2) — by controlling what information passes through the various filters and “gatekeepers” on its route from the source to the general public, and by dictating how that information is presented

I believe the relevant snarky soundbite is: “No-one can manufacture your consent without your consent.”

Or, possibly, “Isn’t that called persuasion?”

There are certain constraints on what’s permissible by way of information control (extraordinarily limited) and by way of bad information (prohibitions on YGBMs and basilisks, but also in re choice-theft on defamation, falsification of information, falsificiation of entelechy, claiming false attachment, assumption of false identity, etc., etc.; the freedom of speech is not the freedom to deceive). But inside those limits —

On the one hand, it’s a mature information society. Information is everywhere, from a million sources which have their own point of view on everything except the facts. Learning to sort through this for truth and picking out the intentional memegineering is a basic life skill; failing to do your due diligence and just believing any damn thing you’re told, especially if you outsource your cognition to one particular source, is a kind of wilful stupidity that receives absolutely no cultural respect whatsoever. (This is why, say, advertising is the way that it is *there*.)

On the other hand, of course people and their coadunations will try to persuade you of things, and dress up their ideas in the nicest possible attire. That’s how you get things done in civilized society when you can’t force people to do things your way; sell the product. Persuasion, advertising, memetic engineering, a little manipulation – these are the polite tools of a society that’s renounced compulsion, and are refined accordingly.

Incidentally, this is where some of those grayer eikones come in: the intrigant who can persuade people into an extended series of individually positive-sum interactions and, by doing so, achieve a greater goal is greatly respected for their social-fu. On the heights, this is how the Great Game is played.

Conveniently, it also encourages the play style in which everyone wins.

So let’s say that you’re a rookie vigilante righter-or-wrongs out on your first day. And let’s say that on your very first case, you honestly interpret the scenario in entirely the wrong way, and thus botch things in the worst way possible. Maybe the “thief” you caught red-handed was actually some sort of contracted retrieval specialist hired by the property’s true owner to recover it, and the building they were trying to break into was where the thief was storing it. Or maybe those robed thugs you blew away with gusto after you caught them accosting a defenseless old man were actually actors in a public performance of *Julius Caesar*.(*) Either way, while you can safely say that you acted without malice and with the best of intentions, you did exactly the *wrong* thing given the situation. What’s most likely going to happen to you once you go through the Imperial justice system?

Contracted retrieval specialists – or to give them their local name, asset repropriators – have v-tags and bonds, so that’s not a mistake you should make.

Anyway: assuming that everything is as it seems on the surface (i.e., you genuinely tried to do the right thing, you just fucked it up, and you weren’t negligently incompetent), you’ll have to pay the reparation – just not the weregeld. There won’t be meme rehab, either, because there’s no homicidal tendency to correct.

(This is standard procedure for cases whose intent is adjudicated as error in judgment/non-wilful negligence.)

((As a side note, this sort of thing is very unlikely to be someone’s career choice, given the local crime rates and Constabular efficiency. If you want to make a career out of unlikely scenarios, you’d probably be better off hanging out your shingle as a professional unicorn hugger, or some such. They’re much more likely to exist.))