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:


…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.


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:


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.


A Question Grab-Bag

Clearing the decks on a scale that is large…

So after many back-and-forth sessions involving questions and answers, I’ve gotten the impression that in eldraeic morals and ethics, there’s essentially a continuum with “coercion” at one end, “ideal enlightened self-interest” at the other, and in between a fairly broad space of behavior which, while certainly unpalatable to a large number of people, technically isn’t forbidden as such.

This might be a useful point at which to discuss the difference between ethics and morals in their terms, for which it would be useful to invoke RFC 2119 terminology.

Much like that, it’s a three-level system.

  • There are matters of the fundamental deontology, which are MUSTs and MUST NOTs;
  • There are matters of arêtaic ethics, which are SHOULDs and SHOULD NOTs;
  • And there are matters of morals, which are MAYs and MAY NOTs. (Well, sort of: in the sense that morals are personal and supererogatory rather than essential and obligatory, if you will.)

Such unpalatable behaviors generally fall into the second level.

It’s also rather apparent that the eldrae themselves (and other people like them) probably occupy the extreme high end when it comes to wisdom and foresight with all the technological powers they’ve essentially gifted themselves with. Among those powers comes, essentially, something that would come eerily close to precognition to those not similarly gifted.

With that in mind, a few additional questions:

1. How do those who advocate the principle of non-coercion account for the fact that some people can better predict another’s most likely response to a particular stimulus better than the target themselves can, or have different willpower and self-control reserves?

By and large, on the former, they don’t feel the need to. Your consent is not vitiated by your merely being predictable. (If it was, it’s hard to see how dull people could be interacted with at all.)

On the latter…

2. In particular, what’s the eldraeic take on temptation? Obviously you’re ultimately responsible for your actions and yours alone, but is willfully, continually, and deliberately expose someone to a stimulus for your own ends while knowing that their indulgence may destroy them or end with them in an exploitable position — even if it only comes about “by their own free choice” on the surface according to a technicality — recognized as a form of coercion in and of itself?

…only if it’s a targeted superstimulus, such as something exceeding voluntary persuasion thresholds, or the sort of thing used by a certainty-level persuasive communicator, because those amount to ways and means of rooting your brainz.

Mere weakness of will is a personal defect, not a cause of action. You should work on that, or failing that, go see a psychedesigner and have that fixed.

(After all, you can always walk away. They have the freedom of speech, not the freedom to make people listen to them.)

3. Roughly where does the dividing line between “coercion” and “acceptable-if-pernicious exploitation of another’s flaws and failings” lie?

The bright line is very clear: it’s coercion if it violates the principle of consent, specifically, to quote:

No sophont may act upon the person or property of another, except through the other’s memetically-shared consent, in response to an action-correspondent memetically-shared request.

For legal-ethical purposes, a meme is considered a unit of information expressed through symbols: e.g., writing, speech, farspeech, infographics, Uniglyphics, or other symbols with a broadly published, specific meaning enshrined through law, contract, or long-standing custom, such as the knotted club or spacer’s marlinspike that identifies a brawler’s bar.

Imperial law distinguishes this, thus, from direct or indirect manipulation of another’s mind by mechanisms which do not pass through the cognition, ethical function, and self-awareness of their mind, and thus deprive them of the ability to act accordingly; this constituting choice-theft.

Imperial law further requires that the memetically-shared request correspond accurately to the action consented to, and therefore communicate the request properly to a reasonably informed listener; non-informed consent, in Imperial praxis, is no consent at all. Likewise, implicit consent, based on extrapolations of meaning and/or symbols whose meaning the reasonable person would not be aware of, is not considered valid.

…that sets the limits of MUST NOT. There are any number of things that you SHOULD NOT do that you can still theoretically persuade people to let you do (assuming they weren’t that bright, slept through Bad Ideas 101, ignored their pocket obligator software, and didn’t subscribe to any reputation networks) but this is the limit of MUST NOT.

To finally sum up this line of thought along with related ones raised elsewhere: Ignorance, inattention, uncompensated Dunning-Kreugerism, careful avoidance and/or bypassing of the mechanisms designed to cull bunco artists out of civilized society, et al. et seq. will let people determined to screw you, screw you.

Insofar as people think about this particular issue, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

On the grounds that anyone this careless about their talcoríëf is a walking disaster just waiting to happen any way you slice it, and therefore it’s better that it happens to them sooner rather than later, and consequently, on a larger scale and with more other parties involved.

…oh, one last side-note:

After all, full sanction only truly works against those who depend on others to supply their own essentials — and we are talking about a universe where, even if your support staff up and quits on you because you’re under sanction, you could (with enough resources, fabricators, and knowledge base at your disposal) simply replace them outright with self-forks, greenjacks, and non-sophont automatons that you own outright. And even full sanction amounts to little more than a mutual recognition of the status quo when you’re the one who owns the food, the ore stockpiles, the roads, the utilities, etc.

If being placed under sanction makes annoying, dysfunctional people wrap themselves up into a tiny little autarkic bubble where they can basically live off their existing capital so long as it lasts while playing happy-happy games with themselves and not bothering anyone else…

…that is a win for the social enforcement mechanism. You’ve taken your ball and gone home; hope you enjoy playing with yourself; don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

One: Do the eldrae have any sort of concepts analogous to “pay it forward”? Is stipulating that an obligation can be discharged not by direct compensation, but by instead performing the same or an analogous action for a future (and often unspecified) third-party beneficiary, something they recognize as valid? If so, how common (relatively speaking) are exchanges of this sort in the Imperial / Associated Worlds “contractual ecosystem”?

You can contract that, sure. (Under Imperial law. From aspects of various questions, I get the impression that you think that contract and other law across the Worlds is much more harmonized than it actually is: apart from the basics defined in the Accord on Trade which concentrate on letting different systems interface with each other, they can vary quite radically between polities, and thus choice of law is important. Certainly, a lot of entities from outside the Empire like to specify its law as their choice of law regardless, since it manages to be both flexible in definition and rigorous in application where contractual matters are concerned, but it’s by no means equivalent to a galactic standard.)

It’s considered quite useful, as a self-replicating means of having one’s will done, although the wise contractor will include some sort of appropriate termination condition and a smart-contract monitor, inasmuch as for the former, few things remain relevant indefinitely, and for the latter, one should remember that a party undefined at time of contract cannot enforce said open-ended contract, because they aren’t party to it yet.

I have no idea how common they might be; the contractual ecosystem is a seething mass of arbitrarily many arbitrarily defined types of contracts, so that would be nontrivially quantifiable even if I had a basis to quantify it. There are “some”.

Two: On a semi-related note, how common are (for lack of a better way of putting it) self-replicating contracts? Can a contract stipulate specific terms, conditions, and forms that are encouraged or prohibited when subcontracting part of the obligation out, including a recursive replication of the subcontracting restrictions clause itself? (To keep it short and sweet, can a contract essentially say “All subsidiary contracts made in pursuit of the terms of this contract must be devised according to the same format and with similar stipulations as this one”?)

Sure. That’s basically standard form for things like, say, non-disclosure clauses which you wish to bind not only your contractee but whoever they might contract with in the course of execution also. (Naturally, the more you bind the means, the less appealing your contract is to potential counterparties, but that’s a negotiated-reasonability issue that’s easy for reasonable sophs to work out between themselves.)

I also feel that I may save some time here by stating outright that the default answer to questions of the form “Can a contract…/…as valid?” is Yes for essentially anything that doesn’t directly contravene the Contract (or, by virtue of previous contract, the Charter). Exceptions to this are very rare indeed.

When it comes to saying things that need to be said but that you know the listener isn’t going to want to be hear, is it better to be polite or to be frank — inasmuch as there may be situations where adherence to the formal protocols of politeness may obscure the (real or perceived) urgency of your message?

Be polite. This is for two reasons:

First, the notion that you can’t be polite and frank/urgent at the same time is one of those products of having a tragically inadequate language, that doesn’t have evidentials and attitudinals and other features designed to convey exactly this sort of information.

Second, while not strictly true in a logical sense, it is heuristically true that rudeness is strongly correlated with poor argumentation and outright dark-side epistemology, and as such it is generally accepted throughout the Core Cultural Region that it is rarely worth listening to anyone who cannot comport themselves with appropriate propriety.

Which is not to say that you cannot be cutting, snarky, or indeed Sophisticated As Hell, as well as simply purveying unwanted truths, but the sophisticated part is not optional.

Does Imperial law have anything analogous to our “Son of Sam” laws?

No, principally because there’s never been a need. People who would otherwise be in a position to make money from publicizing their crime are generally either (a) too dead to do so, or (b) not prone to do so because they’ve been through meme rehab. Either way, it’s not been a significant issue.

The eldrae’s perspective on causes of action related to fraud and physical coercion have been expounded on at length, but what about mental and emotional coercion? Does Imperial law have anything analogous to “negligent” and/or “intentional infliction of emotional distress”?

No, for two reasons. The first is that what they might see as legitimate applications of our tort by that name are already covered. To use a couple of examples from Wikipedia’s article, there is “The common law tort of assault did not allow for liability when a threat of battery was not imminent,” a defect which the Imperial law’s tort of assault does not suffer from on at least two different grounds; and “An example of an act which might form the basis for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress would be sending a letter to an individual falsely informing the person that a close family member had been killed in an accident,” something which there is illegal under the tort of falsification of information, and possibly a species of fraud. Other things might fall under, say, defamation, anharmonic indecency, etc., etc.

Those things that aren’t – i.e., don’t have an actual tortuous act at their core – well, they’re fluff. You don’t have a right not to be outraged, and you certainly don’t have a legal remedy for anything that isn’t unquestionably mala in se, not just mala in percipi.

A pair of somewhat related questions pertaining to the eldrae and their Blue and Orange Morality:

One: What would the eldrae think of the “seven deadly sins” and the corresponding “heavenly virtues” if they were introduced to them? Much has been said directly about their takes on pride and greed, and there’s plenty of indirect evidence for their probable takes on lust and sloth, but I’d be interested to see an in-depth treatment.

(I’m also curious as to whether they might actually see certain “opposed” virtue-vice pairs as actually being complementary, not conflicting.)

Well, let’s see. (And in short, obviously, because there would obviously *there* be a lot of written thought about such things, not all in agreement and suitable to ready summarization in a single in-depth blog post.)

First, it is perhaps worth listing the Nine Excellences, which are the closest equivalent to the virtues, although not all that close. These are: Unity (or self-integrity, perhaps); Honor (including within its scope the minor virtues of justice, truth, and clemency); Duty (including the minor virtues of liberality and tenacity); Courage; Harmony (including the minor virtues of beauty, courtesy, refinement, and the appreciation of excellence); Right Action; Liberty; and Dignity (including the minor virtues of pride, propriety, and temperance). There is no equivalent list for the vices; the Antithetical Heresies are manifold, inasmuch as there are always many more ways to be wrong than to be right, and in any case, are mere defects in the virtues. (As we’ve covered previously theologically speaking, evil, or Entropy, rather, has no essence of its own; it’s merely a distortion of a thing’s true essence.)

Second, it’s also worth mentioning a key philosophical note as expounded here: the empowering balance of passion and reason, talcoríëf and valxíjir, and the ideal encapsulated within, that of dispassionately and cold-mindedly choosing a course of action, and then carrying forth that action with absolute passion.

That done, let’s examine the sins in pairs with the virtues, as is often done:

Gluttony and Temperance: Now, temperance is also among the Nine Excellences, but with not quite the same meaning. After all, as the Word of Cinníäs puts it, “Lack is the greatest intemperance.” Ain’t nothing wrong with pleasure: eat, drink, be merry; sate yourself with all the world’s delights. These are the proper rewards of prosperity earned.

Temperance, if you ask the Prince of Wine, is defined as avoiding harming yourself or others (don’t be a mean drunk!), becoming a slave to addiction, or losing the proper joy in your pleasures. Abstemiousness for its own sake or for the sake of some notional “moderation” is pointless.

Greed and Charity: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge, has marked the upward surge of [sophontkind].”

– inevitable quotation at this point

Because, well, obviously. Greed and its handmaiden ambition are the spurs from which greatness and achievement in general come. Were it not for greed, desire, and ambition, people would still be living in caves and shitting in the woods. The Empire, great and glorious beyond all greatness and glory, didn’t achieve its current exalted state by modest means through modest ends – it achieved it by the starkly rapacious pursuit of awesomeness.

Or, to put it as one of the more colorful books addressing the topic might:

“What do you get if you disdain greed an’ ambition? Bunch of jackasses sitting around on their planet flippin’ each other off, writin’ smug little tracts about the naturalness of mortality and the moral superiority of poverty, wastin’ perfectly good extropy while the future passes them by. Their home biospheres must be so embarrassed to give rise to such perfect, unadulterated wankers.”

– Fíërí Lariantinos,
author of Fuck Me, Would You Look At These Assholes?
(approximate translation)

Now, sure, greed may inspire some people to wrong actions various, but that’s not greed’s fault, now is it? There is pretty much no notion in the world that can’t inspire wrong actions if misunderstood, and people who turn to theft and fraud and suchlike are not wrong for being greedy, they’re doing greed wrong.

So far as the charity side of things is concerned? Imperials do not approve of charity in the traditional theological sense, inasmuch as that sense implies self-sacrifice (not a popular notion; you can buy things with yourself in their praxis, but it’s an unfortunate and unavoidable necessity to be avoided whenever possible, not a virtue!) and other aspects of Comtean altruism. And, indeed, the nearest local equivalent of the Parable of the Widow’s Mite ends with the lesson that it is unwise to give away that which you need to take care of yourself, and that the eikones do not expect it of you.

On the other hand, you will note liberality listed among the virtues of the Nine Excellences, and indeed, liberality, generosity, and open-handedness are very much considered laudable. On the gripping hand, they are also considered to form very much the complementary pair with greed, since one’s capacity to be generous depends very much on one’s capacity to generate. They are two virtues, therefore, best practiced in conjunction.


tl;dr Rarity is best moral exemplar.

Lust and Chastity: Yay, lust! (See gluttony for pleasure and greed for desire, basically.)

Well, okay. Imperials are also very keen on some aspects of chastity. Discretion, which is the excellences of Dignity and Harmony. Honesty in relationships, as elsewhere. Commitment. The bounds of one’s obligations.

But within the bounds of obligation, commitment, and discretion, it’d be a sad and sorry thing if there weren’t some lust, now wouldn’t it? This is one of those talcoríëf-valxíjir each-in-its-place scenarios.

Sloth and Diligence: Sloth is spiritual Entropy, period. Often, specifically, the Antithetical Heresy of the Deedless Cripple. That’s a terrible, terrible sin indeed.

As far as diligence goes, though, they would say that that doesn’t go far enough. Diligence is merely doing what one ought do. By contrast, the excellence of Right Action implies not only that one should do what one ought do, but one should also strive to do more. Being content to only do what one ought do is itself a minor kind of, well, slothfulness.

Wrath and Patience: The only sinfulness of wrath, an Imperial would say, is that if you haven’t had your neurochemistry properly adjusted, wrath makes you stupid. Typically in ways that cause one to strike the wrong target, cause collateral damage, wander off into evil areas like torturing your enemies to death or harming innocents to hurt them indirectly, and/or get your damnfool self killed.

But once you have cold-mindedly ensured that you have the right target and have done the proper strategic and tactical planning, then go ahead and strike down upon those who attempt to poison and destroy your brothers with great vengeance and furious anger, and other colorful metaphors. It is… appropriate. Empowering one for such unpleasant necessities is what wrath is for.

As for patience: this depends on the aspects involved. They are very keen on those aspects such as “Building a sense of peaceful stability and harmony rather than conflict, hostility, and antagonism; resolving issues and arguments respectfully, as opposed to resorting to anger and fighting,” where possible, as you can see from the Excellences. That’s just good positive-sum sense as well as virtue.

On the other hand, it’s not an absolute virtue. As they’d point out with regard to us specifically, he who turns the other cheek has to put up with a lot of… cheek, and one of our more common tragedy-of-the-commons social failure modes is the way that a lot of bullshit persists because no-one’s willing to call the perpetrators on it.

They also notably prefer the virtue of clemency over that of forgiveness/mercy, because indiscriminate mercy tends to leave a lot of enemies at your back, sharpening knives. Clemency is more discriminating. Also, and they are very clear on this, that means you get a second chance. Key word: a. You do not get an arbitrary series of nth chances, because just as nice is not cognate with weak, kind is not cognate with stupid.

Envy and Kindness: Not a whole lot to say here. They are against envy and pro kindness.

(They would go so far as to say that they’re a lot better at spotting envy, given how much our society reeks of it and even promotes it as virtue under another name, but that’s what one might call an implementation detail.)

Pride and Humility: Ah, yes, pride. Pride is a virtue, on the one hand, because self-awareness is a virtue, and pride is self-awareness of your own awesome. It is a virtue on the other hand, symmetrically, because it creates the ideal version of yourself that you are compelled by it to live up to. Mirror and goad in one.

Hubris, though, is not a virtue, being a way to lie to yourself and to others – but, one should note, it’s never hubris if you can back it up. (Nor is arrogance, per the excellences of Harmony and Dignity, although steering away from unconscious arrogance is a hard, hard task.)

But humility is not a virtue for the precise same reason. It amounts to telling yourself that you aren’t as good as you are – which is also lying to yourself and to others. (And if even you’re accurately humble, it amounts to a claim of “I’m afraid I kinda suck”, to which the universal response of your annoyed colleagues *there* is “Well, stop it!“)

(ObSophontology: This may play better for species with hierarchical instincts where a lack of humility in subordinates may be perceived as a threat to the position of the leader. In eldrae, the reaction is more likely to be that a lack of pride in colleagues may be perceived as a gap in the competence of the group.)

Two: Much has been said about how eldraeic morality looks distinctly alien from human eyes, and how ours would accordingly look deficient in theirs — but is there such a thing as “taking it too far” on the opposite end of the pendulum swing? How would the eldrae criticize those whose particular deviation is not (metaphorically) a famine, but rather a surfeit?

Not deficient. Different, yes, and often plain wrong, but that’s as often because of too much as too little. See temperance above, for example, or the moral weight that many human moral systems place on purity or authority.

As such, that critique is likely to be along the lines of:

“Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others because they are excessive, in feelings or in actions, while virtue finds and chooses the mean.”

(That was Aristotle in “Nicomachean Ethics”, but it would fit just as well in the mouth of any dozen Imperial ethical philosophers.)

(And on a related note, what’s the typical reaction to those from criticized cultures whose reaction is to take the criticism to heart in such a way that they end up becoming “more eldrae than the eldrae” (in the sense of perhaps-superficial aping of behavior without apparent understanding of the underpinning psychology)?)

“They understand. They do not comprehend.”

(I mean, technically that’s the Heresy of the Thoughtless Churl, but, to steal another quote, “The very young do not always do as they are told.” In this case, it’s childish zeal. They’ll grow up in time and with a good example.)

What is the general attitude towards the idea of the “Socratic gadfly” or the “Devil’s advocate” — those people who advance arguments for controversial and unpopular views and measures less to seriously advocate their implementation, and more to encourage interesting discussion and / or get people to seriously think about why they are committed to the things they believe and espouse?

Annoying, but useful.

(Useful enough that people have devised Socratic questioning-daemons to run on your personal mindware, mark you, but still. Even the Intellectual Integrity Movement can only impress people with Socrates’ utility and get them to respect and listen to him; they can’t make him loved.)

So does the Imperial legal system lean more towards adversarial or inquisitorial procedure?

On the one hand, you’ve mentioned before that every citizen is expected to be able to argue their own case on their own behalf, which may imply an adversarial element. On the other hand, the whole notion that legal judgments should always be based on clearly enumerated principles in a comprehensive legal code as opposed to having the judiciary effectively legislate through case law precedent is very much a civil law idea, and most civil-law judiciaries tend to favor inquisitorial procedure.

This is a case where drawing too-close analogies to Earthly practice is likely to lead one into error, especially as the two concepts are only bound together by historical accident.

To address the latter point first, bear in mind that the comprehensive legal code exists for one reason: namely, you can’t reasonably expect people to follow the law if they don’t know what it is, and that means that there has to be somewhere they can go and look it up.

But the original Imperial Codex of Law was written as a codification of the very-much common law-like codes originally generated during the Ungoverned Era. And more relevantly, while it can be added to by legislation, it is also added to by binding precedent in the traditional case law manner. But, since the ability for people to check what the law is is still necessary, and there’s a limit to how big a precedent search you can expect a layman to perform, every dodecentury a commission goes through the last 144 years worth of case law and transmogrifies it into statute law, such that the Codex remains definitive – and then new precedent starts building up again, and the process repeats.

Which on the whole may be closer to the common-law model, but ain’t exactly it.

As for the former, it hews closer to the inquisitorial model. The justices of a Curial court are empowered to investigate anything they please, and do so once the case has been presented. There is typically an Advocate for Innocence and an Advocate for Guilt, who concentrate on the case from that particular perspective, but both are first and foremost officers of the court, whose primary oath-sworn goal is to find the truth, and never to win the case for my client, as is the case for any other contracted advocates, for that matter. (Forgetting this is a very quick way to end up out of the bar and into the dock.)

So you can think of it as a common-law system with a mostly-inquisitorial procedure for short, but that’s not an entirely accurate picture.

Given the prevalence of space dwellers, sustainable closed habitats, sophisticated in situ resource harvesting techniques, and the quasi-magical Clarkean matter-energy cornucopias underpinning it all, are there any particularly notable groups that effectively make the on-the-go, take-your-home-with-you approach into their way of life? Are there any especially notable large-scale nomadic or itinerant movements, whether in the old sense of communities like the gypsy caravans or Central Asian steppe hordes, or the subculture-sense like the “RV lifestyle” or the traveling hippies whose home is their beat-up VW bus?

There are nomadic space travelers in canon, yes, including some entire species.

Speaking specifically for the eldrae, there are the Traveling Houses, who have embraced the on-the-go lifestyle since the Bronze Age-equivalent with various tech and scale updates as they go, and some of the Variosotec maintain their plains-dwelling nomadic heritage into the modern era, along with some other cultures…

…and that’s all I’m going to say about that for now, because I may/will want to do something with them in the future, and so am not going to spill the details in advance. 🙂

You know, after doing some thinking, it strikes me that, at times, there’s an awful fine line between qalasir and “pernicious irrationality” — fine enough to make me wonder if any outsiders have ever accused the Empire of practicing some form of doublethink by alternately exalting as a fundamental virtue and condemning as a fundamental vice the same thing under two different names.

And, if so, what the Empire’s philosophers and moralists response would look like.

“Category error.”

…approximately. I mean, that’s getting your supergoal drives and your volition dynamics all mixed up with your cognitive methodologies. Comparing whats, muches, and hows. You don’t want to do that. Nothing but confusion will ensure.

(Although there is a slight asymmetry inasmuch as while reason can’t tell you what to want, it can tell you what not to want. And yet.)

This may also be further illuminated by contemplation of the empowering paradox of passion and reason, as discussed above.

A few queries on language:

1. What is the Eldraeic language’s name for itself and its speakers?

The people are elen eldra informally, or el eldaratha more formally. (Which, as is traditional, means “the People”, or literally, “the thinking ones”.) The language, therefore, is el traeldra laranlír (“eldrae-type-of language”, where laranlír ‘s roots could be glossed “song-of-words”.)

2. Is there a central regulating body / “language academy” that mandates proper language use (whether formally or informally), or is the situation more like English where there’s simply a broad consensus with lots of room for variation? (Or, given the free-wheeling “emergent order” attitude the eldrae take to nearly everything else, is is sort of a mix of both?)

A mix of both.

The version published by the Keepers of the Language, themselves part of the Conclave of Linguistics and Ontology, in turn part of the Eupraxic Collegium, is definitive. Of course, since they also train professional logotects, eonymics, and sphragists, it’s also innovative.

This doesn’t prevent unofficial linguistic innovation, of course, but at least it generally keeps it to innovation, and holds the line on meaning-degrading changes and other forms of linguistic entropy. Since, yes, emerging order and the professionals can’t predict all the innovation that is required, the Keepers include several departments whose function is to harvest unofficial linguistic innovations and roll them back into the next release of the canonical language.

3. Are there any particularly strong examples of fixed expressions or collocations in Eldraeic?


(Not really equipped right now to pull some out randomly, but I know there are several seen in various back postings here.)

4. You’ve mentioned elsewhere that the language has a diverse array of honorifics. Are there any particularly common (or otherwise good-to-know, such as when addressing Their Divine Majesties or the local runer) ones beyond daryteir?

Leaving aside titles, a non-native speaker without special requirements probably should be prepared with respectful-address, to-a-professional-in-their-context, to-an-[Excellence|Exquisite|Perfect|Paragon], to-an-[exultant|praetor|runér], from-one-who-demands-by-right, from-one-who-acknowledges-fault, and to-one-whom-one-does-not-know.

If invited to anything out of the ordinary, ask the symposiarch. That’s what they’re there for.

5. Given the heavy focus on logic in constructing the language, how tolerant is Eldraeic of paraconsistent logic? (For that matter, how comfortable are Imperials and the eldrae themselves with paraconsistent logic in the general case?)

The language supports it as another tool in the auxiliary set.

(It’s only a tool, mind. It’s a way of handling lack-of-knowledge problems, since reality itself cannot be inconsistent, only incomplete.

And the general view of things is that multi-valued logics, especially probabilistic and specifically Bayes-descended logics have proven themselves a superior way of dealing with these problems, but there’s no particular objection to it. Unless you assert that it actually reflects reality, at least.)

On the subject of the Equality Concord, we know that they make heavy use of mind-state manipulation and memory redaction. But what level of self-awareness do the members have? Are there any members who are completely non-self-aware?

All the equalitarians are fully sophont. It wouldn’t be nearly as creepifying if it was just one of those bizarre p-zombie cults that crop up from time to time.


Questions: Sleep, Implied Contracts, Twinning, Pandeism, Cascading Default, The Drowning, Deals with the Devil, White Elephants, and Stargates

Random thought: Do eldrae sleep?

Yes, except for a few unconventionally modified clades. Specifically, it’s necessary in order to dream – because bio-brains get very unhappy when they don’t get their maintenance downtime. The nowline doesn’t need as much as the baseline (being quite happy to sustain three to four hours a night, or go without for several days if given an extended rest period thereafter), but that’s about where the diminishing returns set in.

The unconventional modifications tend to each come with their own disadvantages.

Do Imperial law and common custom acknowledge the validity of implied contracts, whether implied-in-fact or implied-at-law?

Not as such. The Curial courts have no particular desire to have to invent the terms of contracts and try to parse out the meeting of the minds that may or may not have been.

Instead, to save time, they have form contracts, which are basically library functions in contract law that can be invoked by various things: purchasing over the counter, entering a brawler’s bar, and various other legally defined social rituals. That ensures that the terms are defined, and contracts are always entered into intentionally.

You mentioned that sometimes someone can acquire a backup twin if their incarnation insurer mistakenly believes them to be dead. How is this resolved legally? Is property and assets split evenly? How about debts and obligations? Relationships? Can one arrange in advance what will happen and are there established precedents and norms?

When one person becomes two, the basic legal rule (in the absence of any specific agreements between self and self otherwise) is that various things attaching to them instead attach to the corporate body of both of them. So their property and assets, rather than being split, are jointly owned by both of them; they are jointly and severally liable for all debts and obligations; like any other contracts, they are jointly and severally attached to any relationships they’re in; and so on and so forth.

If it happens accidentally, such that there isn’t any previous agreement, it’s up to the new selves to exchange rights and obligations and buy each other out. Or, y’know, remerge and become one person again.

How are disputes resolved (for those foolish enough not to be able to come to an agreement with themselves).

If all else fails, they can always call on the Curial courts to make a division for them. (This is not recommended; the Curial courts dislike having to referee this sort of thing that reasonable people should be able to work out between themselves, so doing that guarantees that you’ll get a solution that neither of you will like.)

So what would the eldrae make of the idea of pandeism — that the Universe as we know it came about when a Creator of necessarily immense power and knowledge (though explicitly not an omnipotent and omniscient Deity in the classical Abrahamic vein), for whatever reason, ceased to be a unitary consciousness? How compatible would such an idea be with the precepts of the Flamic faith if someone were to make an effort to reconcile the two?

On one level, it has very few compatibility problems – the Flamic faith expends much more time on ethos than cosmos, as evidenced by its existing multiple creation myths which don’t trouble themselves particularly with consistency. And it’s no stranger an idea than many of those creation myths are, particularly in these days of mechanimism and pervasive nanoecologies.

It may, however, somewhat troubled by the pretty clear notion among the Flamics that the creator is a schmuck, for making (or in this case, becoming) such a fundamentally broken universe in the first place. So it would need to be a school of pandeism that can cope with the idea of performing invasive surgery on a blind, idiot, possibly suicidal deity.

And perhaps more interestingly, if said Creator were to have left behind some sort of “last will and testament” (or some other analogous set of injunctions) in the fundamental fabric of the Universe’s structure for its possible beneficiaries to decode and implement, what sort of considerations would the Imperial Curia have to take into account in deciding whether to accept it as a valid and enforceable document?

A contract with only one party is no contract. (Leaving aside the special case of contracts with one’s future self, which is the form many oaths take.) Nor can a creator bind their sophont creations, because they’re independent of will. So between those two alone, it’s not looking good for enforceability.

And the content is going to affect how seriously anyone might take it as advice, even. As mentioned before, the creator is a schmuck. No-one’s going to take the word of the entity responsible for either screwing up and creating entropy, or worse, deliberately creating entropy, as particularly ineffable.

When there are just two parties involved, debt and obligation seem to be pretty straightforward: Once you undertake an obligation, you assume liability for discharging it, and if you default, Bad Things Happen.

However, how do things work out under Imperial law and eldraeic practice when, for instance, A’s default on their obligation to B causes a “domino effect” where B is unable to fulfill their obligations to C as a direct result, causing C to default in turn on their obligations to D, who then has to default against E, etc.? Is each party still responsible solely for its own obligations, or is there some mechanism by which part or all of their liability in this matter can be assigned to A for their role in knocking over the first domino?

“You, and only you, are responsible for yourself,” as the old legal maxim has it.

Contract arrangements delegating risk notwithstanding, you are responsible for all of your obligations. If you choose to subcontract some of your obligations, well then, you’ll want to be confident you have a backup, can cover a potential default yourself, or otherwise hedge  it (using subguard insurance, say, or surety bonds, just like in our system, or guild backing of the subcontractor).

(The courts do have systems to stack cases and process them together for optimal handling in the event of cascading defaults, but that’s merely a convenience feature.)

1. So what’s the “Big Picture” historical view on the Drowning of the People? The “It all happened in seven hours” tale makes for a good yarn to tell around a campfire or kitchen table, but I’m sure that there must have been plenty of preexisting movements, trends, and ideas well before the event itself that all came to a head in that moment.

Actually, that’s more or less accurate for that part of it.

As indicated, the preparations for the revolution took place over years, and the overthrow itself took about a year from start to finish – and afterwards, it took more years to establish the start of what would later be known as the institutions of the Ungoverned Era, to put them on a proper philosophical grounding with the existing ideas floating around (including but not limited to this particular philosopher), and even more time for those to coalesce into the first things resembling a modern Society of Consent…

…but the part where the revolution decided that the democratic faction of their leadership were trying to be the new boss, just like the old boss, and chucked them over a waterfall? That happened pretty much as described.

2. While we’re on the subject of the days of yore, does eldraeic folklore or mythology have any tales in the same vein as the “deal with the devil” plot, where an ambitious yet impatient and shortsighted individual makes some kind of pact with an unsavory sort that (to put it mildly) ends up putting them at a disadvantage, and has to find some sort of loophole to escape their obligation or else risk eternal damnation (or some other equally sordid fate)?

I haven’t written any of them yet, and they are obviously somewhat different inasmuch as most Eldraeic belief systems have/had no adversary/negative-principle personification, merely a negative cosmic force, but it seems quite certain that there are plenty of fairy tales with morals relating to incautious pledges, yes.

(Many of them do probably relate to Úlmiríën, the Necessary Chaos, eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, trickery, epiphanies and unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts, but hesh’s not a evil deity, but a trickster deity whose bargains, while often painful, teach. Hesh is, after all, the Necessary Chaos.)

Does the Empire have an equivalent of the proverbial “white elephant,” either as an idiom or as an actual “gift”?

The concept exists, as does the social maneuver, although as yet I do not know their names.

After reading that the Empire sends out automated stargate deployment ships, and so there are systems with stargates in them that are otherwise largely unexplored, a thought struck me. How would the Empire respond if they sent a scout through one of these stargates and discovered that there was another non-Imperial, non-Voniensan stargate already in that system? Has that, in fact, ever happened?

By doing SCIENCE to it!

(Carefully and respectfully, of course, certainly. But it’s an obvious scenario that leads to seeking out more of that knowledge and friendship that the Exploratory Service is so keen on.)

And, per below, it has happened…

Also, regarding stargates in the Worlds, the Empire and the Republic are the only folks with the capability to make them, no? I know you’ve said before that Ring Dynamics made most of the stargates in the Worlds, but you never really hinted at anyone else having a weylforge (other than whatever it is that the Republic’s been mining), so I assumed that the non-RD gates were of Imperial manufacture too, just technically by different companies or maybe state-owned.

Ring Dynamics is the only Imperial company in that business, and owns and operates all of the Empire’s gates, under one contract or another, as well as leasing gates and selling gate services elsewhere.

The (rare) non-Ring-Dynamics ones, for the most part and subject to the author’s better-idea privileges, are almost all either rediscovered ancient paleotech relics (many of which are administered by Ring Dynamics under contract because, well, they have people who understand the tech), or belong to local Vingean Powers who figured it out on their own.


Questions: Leonine Contracts, Illusory Promise, Resurrective Eidolons, and Intentional Communities

I might be jumping the Trope-a-Day queue a bit, but do the eldrae recognize the validity of the concept of a Leonine Contract?

In particular, how would they analyze the situation in the Chesterton quote at the top?

Well, fundamentally in ethics, there ain’t no such thing as a Leonine Contract in that sense.

(I say “in that sense” because there are fraud, coercion, and things that look like contracts but aren’t1, none of which count, along with mixed forms like good old Vaderian “altering the bargain”, some of which are classed with leonine contracts even though they aren’t, technically speaking.

Most relevantly, though, there’s no doctrine of unconscionability – i.e., the notion that a contract is unenforceable because no reasonable or informed person would otherwise agree to it – on the grounds that all people legally competent to sign contracts are by definition reasonable persons capable of informing themselves, which classifies those who do not inform themselves as bloody stupid2. And inasmuch as the Empire has a social policy on that sort of thing, it’s to not protect people against the consequences of Being Bloody Stupid, because that’s how you end up with a polity full of helpless, dependent chumps.)

But leaving aside all such instrumental considerations, the fundamental ethical reason why there ain’t no such thing as a leonine contract is that the concept of one necessarily implies that you can compel the service of other sophonts (or their property – say, their food – which is part of them by the principle of el daráv valté eloé có-sa dal) without their informed consent and no, just no, even if you are starving. Not even a step down that road of treating sophs as instrumentalities. That’s how mutual-slave-states end up rationalizing all their bullshit. So not happening.

That being said, in the latter situation given in the aforementioned Chesterton quote, what an Imperial citizen-shareholder trying that one might run into are the Altruism Statutes, which are basically the statute law backing up Article V (Responsibilities of the Citizen-Shareholder), para. 4 of the Imperial Charter:

Responsibility of Common Defense: Inasmuch as the Empire guarantees to its citizen-shareholders the right to, and the means for, the common defense, each citizen-shareholder of the Empire is amenable to and accepts the responsibility of participating in the common defense; to defend other citizen-shareholders when and wheresoever it may be necessary; as part of the citizen militia and severally from it to defend the Empire, and its people wholly or severally, when they are threatened, whether by ill deed or cataclysm of nature; and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our ancestors and our cultures both common and disparate.

…which makes doing so in itself a [criminal] breach of their sovereign services contract, belike, because they voluntarily obligated themselves in the matter.

(Although I should also make it clear that someone rescuing you from a situation they themselves did not create is owed recompense by the principle of mélith. If you value your life (which people who are still alive presumptively do), you owe the one who preserved it in due proportion.)

Plus, of course, this sort of thing is basically fuelling your extremely unenlightened self-interest with a giant pile of burning reputational capital, which apart from being bad for you in general, is likely to be particularly bad for you the next time you require the volunteered assistance of your fellow sophs…

Given the central place sacredness of contract has in Imperial society, what do Imperial law and eldraeic ethics have to say about illusory promise?

(And as a follow-on, even if there aren’t any legal, moral, or ethical obstacles as such, what will the neighbors tend to think of someone who’s constantly hedging their bets by resorting to them whenever they try to enter into a contract with someone else?)

Well, the first thing I should say is that there are far fewer examples of it under Imperial contract law than under most Earthly regimes I am familiar with. The obvious example that constitutes a lot of it is “lack of consideration” *here* – whereas Imperial contract law, being based on the ancient-era laws and customs of oaths, doesn’t require consideration at all, and simple promissory statements to the effect of “I promise to give you one thousand esteyn” are legally binding in a way that “I promise to give you one thousand dollars” isn’t.

Of the remainder, some things are similar (the Curial courts will impute meaning on the basis that everyone is assumed to be acting in good faith, for example, and a contract to which one does not agree – the website terms and conditions changed without notification, say – is no contract at all, as mentioned above.) But in other cases – say, the promise of the proceeds of the promisor’s business activities, where the promisee doesn’t specify any particular activities and thus leaves open the option of ‘none’ – the Curial courts will point out that that is a completely legitimate outcome within the contract and so there’s no cause for action. Read more carefully next time.

So far as people who try to deliberately play the sneaky-weasel with this sort of thing – I refer you to my above comments about unenlightened self-interest and giant piles of burning reputational capital. Getting a reputation for doing this sort of thing without a damn good reason for so doing, preferably explained up-front, tends to rapidly leave a businesssoph without anyone to do business with…

Is it possible, even after the loss of a particular personality pattern in death, for a “close enough” pattern as to be effectively identical to the original person to be forensically reconstructed from secondhand sources (such as archived surveillance footage, life logs, individual cached memories and sense-experiences, and the like)?

Theoretically, you could make an eidolon (technical term for a mind-emulating AI based on memetic analysis) that would meet that standard – which is what makes them useful for modeling purposes – then uplift it to sophoncy; but in practice, “effectively identical” would require the kind of perfect information that you aren’t going to be able to reconstruct from the outside. The butterfly effect is in full play, minds being the chaotic systems they are, especially when you’re trying for sophont fidelity (which is much harder than just making a Kim Jong Un eidolon good enough for political modeling): you miss one insignificant-looking childhood incident in your reconstruction and it swings personality development off in a wildly different direction, sort of thing.

And it certainly wouldn’t qualify for legal purposes, since the internal structure of that kind of AI system doesn’t look anything like a bio-origin mind-state.

In split-brain scenarios, would each half of the brain be considered a separate, independent mind (regardless of whether or not they’re the same person) under Imperial law?

That depends. It’s not strictly speaking a binary state – and given the number of Fusions around of different topologies and making use of various kinds of gnostic nets, there is pretty extensive legality around this. The short answer is “it depends approximately on how much executive function is shared between the halves, much as identity depends on how much of the total mind-state is shared”.

Someone who has undergone a complete callosotomy is clearly manifesting distinct executive functions (after all, communication between the hemispheres is limited to a small number of subcortical pathways), and as such is likely to be regarded as two cohabiting individuals (forks of the pre-op self) by Imperial law.

And if they do eventually diverge into independent personalities (or originated as such upon the organism’s conception — say, if it began life as a single body with two separate brains with minimal cross-communication), what are the implications for contract law and property ownership?

That’s pretty much by standard rules. In the split-brain case, you’ve effectively forked, and those rules apply: property is jointly owned (with various default rules in re what is and is not individually alienable) and all forks are jointly and severally liable for the obligation of contracts until and unless they diverge.

In the polysapic (originating that way naturally) case, or the post-divergence case, they’re legally separate individuals who just happen to be walking around in the same ‘shell; ownership and contracts apply to them separately. That this sets up a large number of potential scenarios which are likely to be a pain in the ass to resolve should be sufficient incentive not to pursue this way of life unless both of you can coordinate really well with each other.

Could one mind ever possibly evict another?

Only if the other signed over his half of the legal title to the body to the one, which would probably be a really bad idea if he wasn’t planning to depart forthwith anyway.

Are there any particularly good examples of successful intentional communities in the Associated Worlds?

(Not including the Empire itself, even if it counts on a technicality; looking for more things on the smaller end of the scale.)

Oh, there’s lots of ’em, at least if you allow for a rather broader scope of purposes than the Wikipedia article would suggest. Within the Empire, the most successful example would be the metavillage or metahabitat phenomenon, which is exactly what it says on the tin – a village or hab designed specifically to appeal to people with common interests, and to memetically, architecturally, functionally, etc., synergize with those interests: a writer community will have large libraries, many coffee shops, plentiful sources of inspiration, and lots of quiet walks and nice places to sit and write, for example. A space enthusiast community might even have a community launchpad! And the lifestyle is spreading elsewhere, too.

There’s also the First Distributed Exclavine Republic, which again, is exactly what it says on the tin. Planned habitats designed to Imperial social norms scattered all over the Worlds. And then there’s the various monasteries, retreats, and the like of the Flamic church.

I haven’t a huge number documented elsewhere in the Worlds – and in any case wish to save the ones I have for spoiler-free future use – but there are a lot of them. Remember the Microstatic Commission and its thousands of tiny freeholds? Well, those tend to exist because of the ease of anyone with some idea they want to build a community around being able to launch a hab into some chunk of unclaimed space and set one up. They’re very popular ideas in this particular future, both affiliated with larger polities and entirely independent.


1. The obvious thing here being software EULAs and other such instruments which you don’t get to read before implicitly consenting to. The general reaction of a Curial court to that sort of thing is “haha no”.

2. Which is why the law does permit contracts – like, say, many of *here*’s credit card agreements – that permit one party to unilaterally alter the terms, provided you give your informed consent to them as per normal.

Granted, it is also widely held *there* that no-one capable of anything resembling functional cognition would ever sign such a thing, so it’s not like they show up very often.



[an excerpt from]

A Contract Written
Under the Fundamental Contract and the Seal of the Guild of Formal Obligation,
And in Accordance with the Traditions of the Stellar Empire,
Between and Among:

First Distributed Exclavine Republic (Holdings), ICC, their successors, or assigns, hereafter the party of the first part,


Three Elements Habitability Services, ICC, their successors, or assigns, hereafter the party of the second part,

In the Matter of Operating Life Support Services and Associated Systems for

Cantervale Drift, Golden Groves (Principalities), hereafter “the Drift”,

…blah, blah, blah…


In order to provide necessary sureties for the ongoing safe operation of the Drift, the party of the second part undertakes the following:

22.1 The party of the second part will operate all life-support services and associated systems in such a manner as to fulfil all requirements of the IOSSs defining environmental conditions for warm-blooded oxygen-breathers, specifically:

22.1.a The environmental conditions of the Drift shall remain within the parameters therein defined as optimal for no less than 99.9% (“three nines”) of the system’s duty cycle, computed on a rolling average basis.

22.1.b The environmental conditions of the Drift shall remain within the parameters therein defined as acceptable for no less than 99.99% (“four nines”) of the system’s duty cycle, computed on a rolling average basis.

22.1.c The environmental conditions of the Drift shall under no circumstances whatsoever be permitted to deviate from the parameters therein defined as minimal.

22.1.d Exceptions to the above shall be permitted for individual compartments open to space, on fire, containing hazardous chemical spills, or otherwise suffering emergency situations at the discretion of Damage Control Central or the safety officer on the scene, provided that these compartments have been isolated from the life-support services in such a manner as to prevent cross-contamination.

22.1.e Provision for monitoring current environmental conditions in real-time using the associated sensor systems shall be provided to the party of the first part by the party of the second part.

22.2 The party of the second part will ensure that all life-support service equipment installed by them shall be up to common industrial (IOSS) standards where relevant, except as agreed in writing with the party of the first part, and that all such equipment shall both support and implement spacer “triple-triple” redundancy standards, and that any deficiencies in this requirement, of whatever kind, shall be made good at the party of the second part’s own expense.

22.3 The party of the second part will ensure that, in the day-to-day operation of the Drift, life-support service reserve supplies, spare parts, and sufficient essential support technicians under contract exist at any time to provide for continuous operation for no less than one year (Imperial Standard) or three times the journey-time to the nearest transit point, whichever is greater.

22.3.a Provision for monitoring records of these supplies, parts, and contracts shall be provided to the party of the first part by the party of the second part, as shall provision for random periodic audits of stocks held by the party of the first part.

22.3.b For the purposes of this clause, the party of the second part will operate under the assumption of a 12% permissible population variance per year, in either direction.

22.4 The party of the second part will post a reflux bond and contract insurance with an banking and insurance institution, approved by the party of the first part, sufficient to provide for full habitat evacuation and resident compensation, per scale, along with any necessary salvage work, in the event of lifesystem collapse or contract default.

22.5 The party of the second part agrees that in addition to the one year of notice specified for contract termination above, they will continue to provide life-support service operation for up to an additional twelve months and/or necessary evacuation time in the event that the party of the first part is unable to contract with and commence receiving service from a replacement life-support service provider within the notice period.

22.6 Both the party of the first part and the party of the second part agree that, in declared emergencies, full command authority devolves upon Damage Control Central and/or the safety officer on site, and shall provide them with their full cooperation and access to technical assets.

22.7 The party of the second part agrees to participation in the recognized habitat mutual-aid organizations of the System in which the Drift is located as a condition of the contract, and shall:

22.7.a. Comply with the requirements of membership of such organizations in addition to the specific requirements of this contract; and

22.7.b Make such supplies, parts, and contracts available to such organizations as are necessary to fulfil obligations to other participating habitats of such organizations as can be made available without compromising the operation of the Drift’s life-support services.


Questions: On the Fundamental Contract

[Regarding this] So what happens in those cases where a soph finds that their qalasír demands them to do something that goes against the Fundamental Contract? (More specifically, what’s the moral obligation in those cases where their only possible choices are “Commit an unspeakably heinous crime” and “Repudiate your entire reason for being,” with no middle ground or “third option” conveniently available — and they’re morally aware enough to know that it’s a serious problem?)

Well, if you find yourself in that situation, then you’ve got yourself a difficult problem to solve. The kind of problem that’s likely to end with a corpse of you.

(Civilization as a whole would prefer that it reached that end through your honorable suicide, belike.)

For what it’s worth as a consolation, future composers of tragic operas will consider your story excellent source material.

(From a comment here) Which leads me to a question that’s a little tangential to the original post, but in one form or another has been haunting the back of my mind for a while: Would a contract where one party waives their rights under the Fundamental Contract as part of their contract obligations — and does so voluntarily, and not through fraud, duress or coercion — in lieu of the other party’s discretion be considered a valid contract? (For the moment, let’s ignore whether it would be moral to draw up such a contract in the first place and assume that the relationship is already a fait accompli.)

Or, to put it another way: Can a mentally and morally competent soph willfully choose to surrender their right to choose?

Legally, yes –

(Except that you’re really not, because those rights protect you from things done against your consent, and so contracting them away is isomorphic to giving your consent, so. You can’t give consent for something to be done without your consent, because the Law of Non-Contradiction will come and both slap the stupid out of you and not slap the stupid out of you.)

– that’s how such things as indentures and the Declaration of Situational Mental Incompetence and even some parts of the Imperial Charter work, for example – but with certain provisos; primarily, that as with contract law in general, one must have the legal capacity to contract to make one in the first place, and one of the things that impairs said capacity is everything included in the category of “being bugfuck crazy”.

(Now, it’s not like they’re going to pull an unconscionability doctrine out of thin air and decide that no-one could possibly have intended to sign any contract like X – rational sophonts are expected to grow a quad and pay attention – since even selling yourself into lifelong slavery, excuse me, perpetual uncompensated indenture [distinguished inasmuch as you can’t sell a property right in yourself because you’d have to alienate yourself from yourself to do so, and you can’t] may be less a case of “being bugfuck crazy” and more a case of “being bloody stupid”, from which latter the law does not protect you. Although, in fairness, the former is rather more likely.

But it does give probable cause for the Guardians of Our Harmony to run their checks to make sure that you are not, in fact, bugfuck crazy, and invalidate the contract if it turns out that you are.)

((This probably does not get you entirely off the hook, as such a judgment – while much more likely to save your ass *there* than *here*, due to a rather broader definition of what constitutes unacceptable irrationality – is also going to lose you your tort insurance and demote your legal standing right back to minor-equivalency. Which will suck.))



2016_G(Alternate words: googolplex, goods, grill.)

The two free traders at the back table in Katry’s Bubble considered each other over untouched drinks. A 70/30 shot slowly warmed to room temperature; a glass of finelle kept its chill, as its fumes ran across the tabletop in a thin haze.

The taller of the two, an eldrae, loosened the fastening of her spacer’s leathers, flicked shaggy, mint-green hair back out of her eyes, and finally spoke.

“Why’d you come to me with this?”

“Because you can do it. You’re the only one on station with a blockade runner. Or with the skill to run the Palnu border. And -” the blue sefir flushed purple “- I hoped I might have earned some credit back by now.”

“Your little gift earned you enough that I didn’t shoot you. Not much more than that.”

“And the offer of a Republic Navy transponder isn’t enough for you?”

“Too much. I know how much that’s worth on the open market. Either it’s not genuine – and my little friend here tells me that you believe it is – or this is another one of your schemes I can smell from five jumps away, slash-trader. No deal. I know you too well.”

“At least consider -”

“I know that one, as well.”

The sefir pushed itself upright, schooled its face to blankness.

“You wouldn’t have come here if there wasn’t a deal you might accept. What is it that you want?”

The eldrae pulled a round flask out of an inner pocket, stared at it a moment, and set it on the table between them. The sefir stared at it, blue readiness-light glimmering above the seal of the Obligators, as if it were a vial of poison. “No,” it said. “You can’t ask for that. Please.”

“I can and I do. I know you, Sev Firn, with your grifts and plots and trail of broken contracts. You can have my help for old times’ sake and that transponder, but your stock with me’s low enough to plow the dirt. So you can drink the geas of our contract, for my surety, or else I walk away.”