Snippet: Compromise

(As usual, a snippet that doesn’t have anywhere to fit.)

“The League’s democracy is an excellent and reliable example of its class; indeed, it is as close to the theoretic optimal case for a generative engine of political compromise as anything I’ve seen.”

“So the problem is…?”

“That if asked to choose whether two and two make four or five, it will reliably answer four-and-a-half.”

 

Odious Sovereign Debt

MirrorField asks, with regard to Author’s Note: Sovereign Debt:

If this is the case, I’m left to wonder on their opinion on the concept of “odious debt”, ie. debt incurred by government *not* representative of it’s constituents. Basically, do the eldrae believe that it’s a-ok to hold joe average responsible for debts run up by government he didn’t support (and possibly actively worked against)? Or is it a simple credit risk associated with lending to dictators? Or would they simply consider members of said regime *personally* liable for debts thus incurred? Inquiring minds want to know…

Well, the first thing to note at this point is that *there* , the concepts of what one might consider a legitimate government are somewhat different to begin with.

For the Worlds in general, as I mention in today’s out-of-order trope-a-day People’s Republic of Tyranny, unlike Earth, there is no general consensus in favor of representative democracy. (And, heck, the Accord has members for whom the entire concept would be meaningless – hive minds, say, in which The Man would have The Vote – or would need a lot of revision – sophonts with specialized castes, like those of many Earth insects, in which all sophs are definitely not created equal and some subcastes may not even be sophont.)

Now, where the eldrae, the Empire, and the Directorate of Gilea & Company in particular are concerned, the thing to remember is that they’re libertists, and pretty hard-core ones by our standards. So far as they’re concerned, governmental legitimacy can only come from the unanimous consent of the governed, not the “representative consent of the governed”, or the “implicit consent of the governed”, or whatever other excuse one might cobble together. That’s what defines a Society of Consent. All other forms of government are necessarily based on the coercion of the unwilling, and therefore korasmóníë, “force-states”, all of which are mighty obnoxious in the sight of the Freest of the Free.

Representativeness as we would define it, therefore, doesn’t exactly cut much ice with them. In an autocracy, one man is wearing the jackboots. In a democracy, >=(50%+1) men are wearing the jackboots. Neither of these cases is equivalent to an absence of jackboots, but both of them are suspiciously near-equivalent to a gang of nasty little slaving thugs who probably pull the wings off flies and engage in dubious sexual practices.

Now, on the specifics of odious debt, I suspect what matters to them is continuity. Recall, so far as they’re concerned, a government is just another type of business. If your revolution just happens to be a change in management, or a takeover that still lays claim to all the assets of the business – well, corporations don’t get to conveniently forget about their liabilities just because the shareholders fired the board for making deals they wouldn’t have approved of and replaced them. You don’t get to claim the assets, the name, the infrastructure, yadda yadda, without the liabilities that come attached to them. (Although we might be willing to talk about restructuring. Maybe. If it improves our chances of getting our money back.)

If, instead, it’s the equivalent of buying the company’s assets at the liquidation sale – well, fine, then, you don’t get the liabilities (they aren’t holding Joe Average responsible, you see; they’re holding the corporate governance responsible, in short). But you also aren’t necessarily the seniormost creditor in that liquidation – if the overthrown dictator borrowed a few billion exvals to spend on battlecruisers and palaces, and you don’t want to honor the loan under these circumstances, that’s fine, but you can’t have the battlecruisers and palaces either. We have a lien and a legitimate claim on the assets of the former regime. You can’t disavow the legitimacy of a transaction and simultaneously claim ownership of the assets that transaction paid for. That’s double-billing, and pretty odious double-billing at that.

This is, of course, arguably rather a harsh position to take – but should you point that out to them, the average Imperial will shrug and point out that:

(a) As long xenohistorical experience has taught them, The Revolution Was Not (Will Not Be) Civilized, and should this turn out to be the rare exception where the new regime isn’t a bunch of equivalent thugs wearing differently colored hats, someone will probably offer to help them out with their debts later on – and if they are, why exactly do they deserve a freebie?

(b) That in any case, there’s an established precedent for being oppressed, and it worked for them, and they are deeply cynical, therefore, about this supposed “lack of support” on the part of the many.

And finally:

(c) In any case, that loan is not the bank’s money to give away. It’s their customers’ money, their investors’ money, the people to whom they have a fiduciary responsibility, and it is absolutely not their place to decide to give away their customers’ money without their customers’ joint say-so. No matter who might claim otherwise.

(Every note, after all, has two ends – and that some governments are often happy to order the wiping out “odious debt” without so much as mentioning that the other end of that note is coming right out of a bunch of pension funds, small investors’ funds, etc., that don’t particularly deserve to be stiffed is another one of those things that the average Imperial would find headbangingly dishonest. If exactly what they’d expect from a korasmóníë.)

Trope-a-Day: People’s Republic of Tyranny

People’s Republic of Tyranny: Mostly averted, if only because the Associated Worlds, unlike Earth, has no consensus that democracy is the awesomest, shiniest form of government ever, and so there’s no particular urge to genuflect in its direction by way of obfuscating your actual government type.

(There is the People’s State of Bantral, but you’ll note that it doesn’t claim any kind of democratic/republican credentials.  It is a brutal oligarchic tyranny, but the only justification it feels the need to make is that it’s acting in the name of the People – not that the people get a say, necessarily.  Others – say, the Equality Concord and Hope Hegemony – go similarly, but more honest and less self-conscious brutal tyrannies like, say, the Gazkas Autocracy don’t bother with even that fig leaf.)

Sédármódan

Having used the word, guess I should define it, huh?

sédármódan (pej.):

  1. Democrat.
  2. Voter.
  3. Mutual slaver (lit. “owned owner-of-sophonts”); compare dármódan (“slaver”).

It should be noted that the definition of this term reflects Imperial local attitudes and political taxonomies, in which any governance apparatus not meeting their definition of a Society of Consent (i.e., which non-consensually subordinates the individual to the group, e.g., by regulating its citizens’ non-externality activities, violating the fundamental rights in accordance with the Fundamental Contract, etc.) is deemed a korasmóníë (“force-state”) and equivalently illegitimate, if not equally obnoxious in their sight, as all other korasmóníë, regardless of their actual internal construction as a democratic, cyberdemocratic, republican, consensus-based anarchy, etc., system.

Outside the Empire, the term coríalqarr (“thought-counting”, used within the Empire to refer only to consensual voting-based decision systems) and its derivatives are more commonly used to refer to democratic systems of governance. It should, however, be noted that within the libertist Empire and to a lesser extent within the Consensual Cultural Region as a whole, this usage is considered at best a euphemism and at worst an apologist’s shibboleth. The wise speaker should endeavor to be aware of local political attitudes before selecting terminology for effect.

– Dictionary of Trade Eldraeic, min Sarthall, League Press

Trope-a-Day: Democracy Is Bad

Democracy Is Bad: This is the Imperial consensus view.  Partly for the fairly obvious reason that in democracies like ours, where just about everything or everything minus a small list is up for grabs by vote, it’s just a tyranny with more tyrants.  (See, thus, the Drowning of the People.)

Even for what they consider the legitimate purposes of government, they’d claim that democracy is an idiot’s way to run things.  If you’re building a bridge, or operating a power grid, or developing software, or performing orbital maneuvers, or whatever, you use experts to solve problems.  You don’t leave the decisions in the hands of a straw poll of whatever unqualified randoms are around at the time, unless your plan actually is to waste untold amounts of money and kill a whole bunch of people.

And it doesn’t magically become a better plan when you apply it to, say, managing the commons, administering the infrastructure, or controlling the currency.  Sorry, no.

These are technical problems with technical solutions, and that means they’re the province of technicians.  Or technarchs, rather.

The Drowning of the People

“No, we’re not a democracy, or so they say.  They, of course, ignore that the Senate’s Chamber of the People is randomly selected from all our citizen-shareholders, and also ignore planets like Viëlle, that uses the totality of the population as its planetary Assembly, or Meryn, where ever-changing proxies, rather than one-time votes, determine whose policies hold sway.  There’s only around 38 billion people on them, after all.  But they don’t have the final word, so they’re not sovereign enough, or not representative democracies, and so they don’t count.”

“But we were – well, the lands that later became the Empire were – almost a democracy once.  How long?  About seven hours.  That’s how long it took us to decide we didn’t like the idea.”

“Tell y’all the story?  Well, gather round.  Now, once upon a time, a few millennia ago, in the region that is now called the Old Empires but was then the Old Kingdoms, there were the korásan.  And the korásan were a warrior aristocracy, and ruled by the sword, and in exchange for their services in keeping off bandits and wild beasts and their fellow korásan who took it into their heads to expand their domains, they felt themselves entitled to certain traditional perquisites of the people with the biggest swords around when other folk have none.  Which contrary to the madder stories people allege to be alleged were not blood sacrifice and baby-eating and demanding people’s fairest wives and daughters for their beds, but rather such things as taxation – without asking if it pleased people to pay it, first, more to the point – and demanding labor for their initiatives and men for their wars, and that people should bow before their gods, and putting their eyes and hands into people’s homes and lives and insisting that their ways to live were the right ways to live and all should abide them, or else.”

“The years passed, and the people of the Old Kingdoms grumbled and groaned under the demands of the korásan, and all the while, hid wealth and food and swords in secret against a later day when they would need them no longer.  And when that day came as a new year dawned in the coldest part of the cycle, whether by chance or by hidden messengers, the people rose up together, and there was blood and smoke and clash of arms from Icemark to Crescenthold and Iselené to Eävalle as the korásan found out that ruling by the sword isn’t nearly as practical when the ruled also have swords, and a general distaste for the way you’ve been going about it.  And as, over that year, the korásan fell, leaders emerged among those who cast them down, and some thoughts turned to how things should be in the future, when it came to protection from bandits and wild beasts and strangers from beyond the Old Kingdoms who might have similar notions.”

“The last korásan to fall were those in Leirin, in the Crescent, for the Crescent is a cold and bitter land of mountains, with cities carved into cliffs and bounded by wild rivers, and filled with natural fortifications that could only be reduced slowly, and with the greatest effort; and so when the last one fell, at Leiri itself, the City of Mists, a great discussion was called there among the leaders of this revolution, to determine how things should now be.”

“And so this was held in the old thronehall at Leiri, and from the midmorn hour – for there were stragglers – those who had come with the leaders sat around in drinking-halls throughout the city, supping hot mead and speculating on the outcome of the discussions.  And others, who had led in one place or another but had not been invited to this grand discussion sat and drank with us, but with more brooding than excitement.”

“And at dusk, the bells summoned them to the square before the thronehall, and those leaders came out and explained to the gathered people their grand plan, that now instead of self-named korásan they should compete for the people’s favor, and they should choose from them the best to lead, and they would sit in the places of the korásan and protect them from the bandits and the wild beasts and ambitious foreigners.”

“And the crowd murmured at this, but it didn’t sound too unreasonable.”

“Then they continued, and explained that they would have to have just a few of the perquisites of the old korásan – not all, no, and certainly not the ones that had been found the most burdensome in the past, but that they couldn’t protect – that there was no way people could be protected – without just a little taxation, and some conscription, and a few other things, but nothing like the bad old days.  And, of course, if their efforts were too much to bear, the people could replace them, at the appointed time, and let someone else sit in their place.”

“And that was when my great-great-grandfather, who was Muireth Andracanth-ith-Cyranth Múrchárn, Nighthunter – and was thereafter Muireth Andracanth-ith-Cyranth Velkorálakhass, Slayer of the Manyfold Tyrant – stood up from the crowd, and in a great voice declared that he’d spent the last year killing damned tyrants until the rivers ran with blood, and that he was damned a dozen times over if he was going to come back and do it again.”

“Adding to the crowd, while their speaker – whose name is lost to memory – was still framing his reply, that being able to choose his master didn’t make a slave free, that having taken up the sword and overthrown the korásan that they could bloody well do the same to any bandits or beasts or invaders who came along, and finally, by way of a final point, that they clearly weren’t done yet and some last tyrants needed to die, here and now.”

“The crowd rose up, followed him, and they grabbed everyone who’d come up with this grand plan, and flung them all in the river.  And that was the end of the one and only eldraeic experiment with representative democracy, seven hours after they first started talking.”

“Later?  There was no later.  This was the Falthrang, in the middle of deep winter.  They probably all froze to death before they had a chance to drown.”

“Well, that, and the Leirfalls are 400 feet high and just downstream.”