So you’ve been attacked in the Rim Free Zone…

“So you’ve been attacked in the Free Zone…

“…you had a security provider, right? At least I hope you had a security provider, given the giant ‘THE RIM FREE ZONE TRAVEL FACILITATORS’ ASSOCIATION RECOMMENDS THAT YOU GET A SECURITY PROVIDER’ banner hanging in the starport with maybe a thousand different security provider advertisements stacked fog-thick around it in the augmentality.

“But maybe you didn’t take that advice. Or wanted to save money. Or plain didn’t have the money, or the rep, or anything else worth exchange-value.

“And no-one was around at the time? ‘Cause, I mean, not having a security provider doesn’t mean that no-one’s watching your back – it just means that no-one’s being paid to officially watch your back for you, and what you mostly have to watch out for are con artists and other relatively subtle kinds of fraud. (Well, maybe not that subtle, if you played the shell game with that dude who hangs around by the startown maglev.) But we all believe in non-aggression here on Hopamar, and if someone tried to attack you on the main drag, half the people around’d shoot him on general principles, and the other half’d shoot him for what the judge’d award them once she got done stripping the assets off his bones.

“But maybe some kveth-licker fresh off a ship from the Yaffish Marches got to you in an alley when no-one was around, took your terminal and foldcase away from you, and stabbed you cleanly in the left kidney.

“That’s when you call us.

Triple-G Eleemosynary Redistributionists, Inc.

“We make crime not pay.”

“For now, though… do you consent to emergency medical treatment and agree that payment for it can be added to your legal claim against your assailant?”

– a Triple-G advertisement-drone, to a prospective customer

Trope-a-Day: What Do You Mean, It’s Not Political?

What Do You Mean, It’s Not Political?: It is, I suppose, only in the generic sense of fiction featuring utopias or near-utopias, which is to say, only insofar as it’s therefore automatically a Take That to all those other, lesser, civilizations.

As for more strictly political issues: well, if you’re willing to draw moderately inexact analogies, the Isliar Primarchy is a Take That to traditionalist conservatives, the Magen Corporate to corporatist conservatives, the Annik Sodality to liberals, the Voniensa Republic is one to moderates/statists, the People’s State of Bantral and the Equality Concord to communists (more anarchic and more static, respectively), the Iltine Union to fascists, the Theomachy of Galia to half the Middle East and arbitrarily-selected other religiously-dominated states, Valturak and Nal Kalak to warlordism, the Rim Free Zone to anarcho-capitalists and especially dogmatic Rothbardians, and every single-system backwater polity ever to humanists and Luddites. (Feel free to select whichever combination of acknowledgement and/or ignorance will produce the spin you want on my personal opinions.)

Imperial political scientists clionomists have a The Reason You Suck speech ready for all of these, and by extension, for just about everybody on Earth with a political opinion at all.  Which is appropriate, since by and large, that everybody has a loud and profoundly ignorant reality-immune political opinion is one of the major reasons why, to steal a perfectly quote, it would be their considered opinion that “All you of Earth are idiots!

Question: Great Powers

It’s question-answering time again:

Would you mind if I request a list of “great powers” and their overall internal/external policies? I am very curious about major powers other than the Empire and the Republic.

Well… maybe not all of ‘em. There are some whose revelations I would prefer to save for story purposes, and I must leave myself some breathing room for the sake of future creative freedom, and all. But I can give you a bit of data.

Hyperpowers

There are two that stand notably above the rest:

The Empire of the Star

Well, as everybody knows, the Empire and its 300 worlds don’t have an internal policy, except possibly the policy that people who think that they ought to get an internal policy should be thrown off 400’ waterfalls.

…well, okay, that’s not entirely true. The governance’s internal policy is to benignly umpire matters such that everyone can enjoy their liberties howsoever they wish, which leaves it largely up to the people. What the people want is a measure of laissez-faire mixed with a measure of laissez les bons temps rouler, served over the gospel of libertism-technepraxism and garnished with a sprig of Gilded Age – excuse me, Solid Gold Age – excess. And so that’s what they get.

In official foreign policy terms that translates out to a relatively passive “free trade (unilaterally), free people (by shooting slavers with KEWs), and free gifts for anyone who wants to join up”, plus general peacekeeping in the sense of demonstrating force majeure to anyone whose brushfire war might turn into something more serious. Oh, and striking down with great vengeance and furious anger anyone who might try and stop the good times, of course. That goes without saying.

This leaves the rest of the foreign policy to be determined by corporations, branches, and individuals with an agenda, which resulting policy coheres only rarely with anything else.

Voniensa Republic

Internally, just like their Expy original, they’re basically a paper federal republic that the technocracy (in the literal sense) behind the scenes wears as a figurehat. You don’t need me to tell you what their domestic policy is like: “moneyless” society, working to better ourselves, replicators and asceticism, a societal fear of augmentation, biochauvinism and carbon chauvinism, yadda yadda etc. all packaged in a chewy idealistic shell. We’ve seen lots of episodes of it each week at 7pm Central Time, only with shaved monkeys instead of four-armed lizards.

Or, at least, that’s what the Core Worlds are like. Life is somewhat different in the Shell, because of certain uncomfortable economic necessities, but… tum-te-tum-te-tum, saving that for later.

Their external policy is determined more or less entirely by their one major external contact, their border with the Worlds, which they regard with fear, loathing, and a general sense of existential threatenedness. They’re not wrong, either, but especially in the wake of the Core War, they’re not at all sure what if anything they can do about it.

The Other Four Presidium Powers

Consolidated Waserai Echelons

The Consolidated Waserai Echelons are a hierarchical military oligarchy located towards the coreward-nadir region of the Worlds, controlling approximately 100 systems. Which sounds terribly dictatorial, except given the militant character and inborn public service ethic of the waserai, they aren’t for-the-sake-of-it assholes about it, and their government form actually suits them very well indeed, which even the Imperials would admit. And it means they don’t have to run a “socialized” economy, since the social institutions they built ab initio were strong enough that they didn’t have to socialize it. (They actually get along reasonably well, except for the few elements of compulsory collectivism and a general sense that the waserai should, y’know, pull the stick out from time to time.)

Externally, they’re upstanding galactic citizens who look out for the status quo and the general enforcement of galactic law, such as it is. They’re somewhat more interventionist than the Empire, albeit not by much, and do like to think of themselves as galactic peacekeepers – which is largely true, and makes the IN happy, since they’re glad to accept help when shooting them as need it. The Waserai Star Brigade, of course, takes the same basic view the other way round, a subject of much friendly debate in naval bars.

League of Meridian

The League of Meridian is a democratic federal republic of approximately 80 worlds to trailing, moderate and centrist in its politics, and pragmatic in its approach to them.

Or, depending on how you look at it, a bunch of smooth-talking weasels who wouldn’t recognize a moral principle on a nice, bright day and rewrite their policies every couple of years just to be extra-annoying. But in general, if there’s an issue, they’re somewhere right in the uncomfortable middle ground, scrabbling to find compromises.

Yeah, they’re basically just like us and them. IN SPACE!

Photonic Network

The Photonic Network is a pure-AI polity controlling 80 worlds or so to acme. Since their forms of identity are generally unfamiliar to protein intelligences, it’s fairly hard to say anything about what their internal policies look like, except the general statement that they mostly deal with resource and priority allocation among, and arbitration between, teleological threads.

Its external policies can be summed up as “keep our back yard quiet, and try not to get hopelessly entangled in organic affairs”. The few deviations from that are usually attributed to some cunning negotiation on the part of some other polity’s superintelligent AI population, or for reasons amounting to “we wouldn’t understand the answer if they told us as plainly as they could”.

They are, however, a reliable Presidium vote in favor of expanding sophont rights as far as possible, which is probably for nobler or at least more intellectually complex reasons than “sticking it to the carbon chauvinists”, but that’s as good a reason to suppose as any in the meantime.

Under-Blue-Star League

The Under-Blue-Star League, is, alas, the weak member of the Presidium right now. They used to be much more active (they were a founding member of the Accord, in fact), but their sixty-world polity has grown old, moribund, and rather grumpy these days.

Their external policy has, correspondingly, become rather isolationist, and their Presidium votes often slanted towards “what will cause us the least trouble”. Internally, though – well, the problem these days is that their external policy makes it correspondingly difficult to tell what’s going on within the League, unwelcoming to visitors as it has become. They used to be a family/clan-centric loose confederation with few centralized policies other than promoting trade, genetic diversity through exogamy, and technological development… and maybe they still are, or at least they’re not obviously not.

A great deal of time, newsbytes, and occasional violence swirls around, however, the contentious question of just who might replace them on the Presidium if this decline continues.

Other Notable Players

Equality Concord

The Equality Concord and its dozen worlds share the dubious distinction of being the galaxy’s only genuinely functional, non-corrupt, decent-standard-of-living-enabled, etc., communist state.

(As opposed to genuinely non-functional communist states, like the former People’s State of Bantral.)

That’s because the Concord’s founders recognized the fundamental problem of Real True Communism requiring a whole set of instincts and drives and incentives and desires that are not commonly found among sophonts as nature made them. So they studied the gentle art of sophotechnology, and they built themselves some nice bionic implants to fix that problem, and create the perfect collectivist people for their perfect collectivist utopia. And then, and this is the important bit, they avoided the classic trap by applying the implants to themselves before applying them to anyone else.

It works. It may not be the most innovative of regimes, or the wealthiest, or up there on whatever other metric you choose to apply, but it does work, and self-perpetuates quite nicely.

Pity about that whole “free will” thing, but you can’t make an omelette, right?

External-policy-wise, it’s quite active both in a missionary sense (for itself) and in general do-goodery to burnish its galactopolitical image. (Both of these tend to work mostly on the desperate of one kind or another; the mainstream still thinks they’re creepy as hell.)

They do have a strong defensive military, but avoid using it in most offensive roles – probably because its collective intelligence knows that if there was even a slight suggestion that they were expanding by forcible implantation, they’d be on the wrong end of a multilateral fleet before you could say hegemonizing swarm.

Rim Free Zone

The Rim Free Zone isn’t, technically, a polity. It is, however, 49 worlds scattered through the rimward end of the Shadow Systems, the biggest bloc in that location, and so it has to be called something.

It’s not a polity because it’s 49 worlds all adherent to anarchocapitalism, of one strain or another. Which strain you get depends on exactly where you are, ranging from polite and civilized as the North American Confederacy, through somewhat less reputable but still perfectly reasonable places like, say, New Hong Kong, all the way down to pits of scum and villainy like Jackson’s Whole. You pay your money – no, you literally pay your money – and you take your choice.

But they are a big and ugly enough bloc to figure into the interstellar political calculus as a Great Power because it turns out that you don’t need to be a government to be mighty troublesome for one. That, and 49 worlds full of anarchocapitalists have a lot of guns, belike.

Trope-a-Day: Proud Merchant Race Guy

Proud Merchant Race Guy: This and the next couple of tropes are difficult, because, well, it’s just not all that hatty a universe.  The Imperials are notorious for their pro-commerce attitudes (see: Blue and Orange Morality) and – especially on Seranth (Imperial Core), one of the Worlds’ largest tradeworlds (see Merchant City, but if you stick to the flying cities, basically it’s like an entire planet of Wall Street/The City/Hong Kong/Singapore) you can walk along the plutarch-crowded Exchange and reasonably consider the Seranthines to be, although of multiple species, a kind of Proud Merchant Race – but even there, they need people to run the restaurants and keep the cities flying and generally provide all the other aspects of society. Of the Empire’s species, well, the eldrae plutarchs can be very mercantile without too much trouble, and the ciseflish, even more so. All the money may flow through Seranth, but an awful lot of it flows to Ólish.

There a number of other species who are known for being very mercantile – the d!grith, for example, have a much larger merchant fleet and trade volume than one might expect from the other statistics of the 22 planet D!grith Association, the codramaju are also vigorous traders even beyond the Worlds (having a speed/mass advantage in their lighthuggers, due to their innate radiation resistance), and of course, in the Rim Free Zone, absolutely everything is for sale.  But it’s not like any of them don’t require enough non-merchants around to keep the hat from fitting all that tightly, either.

Trope-a-Day: Liberty Over Prosperity

Liberty Over Prosperity: Outright inverted, from most perspectives.  The Empire with its tiny apathetic example of The Government is also, by any reasonable standard, the polity with the largest amount of cashy money sloshing around at all levels of its economy, while its economists mutter smugly about ‘deadweight loss’, ‘artificial scarcity’ and ‘regulatory barriers to innovation’.  With the exception of certain rule-proving anomalies (true Hive Minds, new colonies, active war zones, and such), the correlation between liberty and prosperity is almost universally strong.

The perspective which might not invert it is that the Rim Free Zone, which has no governance, is not as prosperous as the Empire, or even some of what its economists might call “first-tier economies” – but really, that just shows that to make this be true, you have to go right to the most extreme example and try hard not to look anywhere else.

(Of course, it is not helped by being the go-to polity for the anarchists who are too disagreeable to accept the Contract or the Principles of Consent and Obligation, those heart-principles of enlightened libertism. It would undoubtedly work better without the Societies of Consent disproportionately siphoning off the non-jackasses.)

Refuge Cities

In today’s random postage, something I just wrote on the worldbuilding mailing list, in response to the following:

Do your worlds have a Peace town [city of refuge], where people can go in order to avoid the law?

Not as such, or at least not officially. (Certainly people, like, say, the Imperial State Security Fourth Directorate – whose explicit mission is tracking down anyone who flees the law and introducing them to the stealth gyroc bullet of justice – wouldn’t bother complying with any such requirement even if there was one.)

If you need to flee from the law in the Worlds, your best chance of doing so is change your name, change your body, and head at once via a suitably circuitous route – changing them another couple of times on the way – to some appropriate wretched hive of scum and villainy like, say, Nepscia, where the locals all have enough dark secrets and dodgy business going on that they tend to look askance at anyone wandering around carrying alethiometers or mindprinting equipment even if they don’t actually look like The Law. Of course, while this can be fairly effective in hiding from even rather competent law enforcers (such as the aforementioned Fourth Directorate), the drawback to fleeing to Nepscia is that you subsequently have to live on Nepscia for the rest of your personal ever, which in many ways is its own punishment.

Depending on if you might have pleased or annoyed the right people, you might be able to find refuge somewhere else, too. If you got into trouble helping their fellows escape, for example, the liberated AIs of the Silicate Tree will offer you sanctuary, because they don’t give a bit for meat intelligences in general, but they do understand gratitude. Or if you can find some way of making yourself more useful to them than any trouble you might bring with you is troublesome, of course, although then you should understand clearly that your sanctuary will last precisely as long as your utility.

The Empire, of course, provides a comfortable retirement for all manner of smugglers, free-thinkers, authors, scientists, philosophers, and transsophontists who got into trouble with assorted restrictionist laws, and even some of the right kind of revolutionary (“the People’s Extropian Front”, “Technicians Against Unnecessary Work”, “Citizens United for Liberty and Immortality! Down with DEATH AND TAXES!”, that sort of thing), because of (a) their steadfast refusal to ever extradite anyone for something that isn’t against Imperial law, and (b) because the modal Imperial citizen-shareholder thinks annoying the sort of people responsible for the laws they got in trouble with is downright hilarious.

The Rim Free Zone also serves in this role quite a bit – after all, they’re actual anarchists, and so there’s no-one there you could ask to extradite someone even if you wanted to. Of course, since there’s also no-one who’s paid to prevent anyone else from turning up and dragging you off in chains, etc., you’d better be able to afford PPL coverage suitable to defend you against whoever wants you if you exercise this option, or at least to make yourself too expensive to come get. This should be unavailable to actual criminals, inasmuch as the Free Zone does hold to a sort of rough-and-ready version of natural rights that PPLs won’t defend you against other people if you violate ’em, but if you have enough money, you can probably find a slash-trading PPL that’s willing to do it anyway.

And, equally of course, you’d better be careful that you don’t commit your special crimes against people in the Free Zone once you get there. To steal a perfectly apposite quotation from Buck Godot – just because there is no law in the Rim Free Zone, that doesn’t mean there are no rules.