Positive Externalities

All income earned, by individuals other than the Imperial Service or duly contracted security providers where the activities in question are within the scope of their contract, in the course of:

  • Defeating or preventing existential, species-level, or Imperial security threats, whether global or local;
  • Repelling raids or invasions;
  • Preventing acts of terrorism or exceptionary crime;
  • Preventing or ameliorating ongoing natural disasters or technological accidents;
  • Or otherwise engaging in activities falling within a reasonable definition of ‘saving the world’;

And all income deriving from technologies or other intellectual properties or physical properties developed or appropriated (when duly condemned by a prize court) during such activities, for a period of twelve years subsequently;

Shall not be subject to general taxation.

– Imperial Revenue Code, Vol. 2 (Special Exemptions) § 17.

You Can’t Save The Worlds

“If you’ve come here to save the Galaxy, my innocents,” I said, “if you’ve come here with the illusion that you can save the Galaxy, or even so much as one single world, leave here right now. Cross the road, find the recruiting office, and join the Navy. They get to save the Galaxy from the kind of easy threats it’s possible to save it from.”

“Yes, the easy threats.  We all know what to do with pirates and slavers and tyrants and wanna-be conquistadors and misbegotten seed AI demon-gods. Give ’em a taste of the railgun, dust ’em lightly with relativistic antiprotons, and the problem is solved. So if you want to be a hero, head over there – or go see those maniacs at the Sanguinary Enforcers of the Liberty Ethic – sign up, and shoot some bastards. Then you can go home and feel good about yourself.”

“That’s not what we do here.  We have to wrestle with rather less tangible problems. And we are the absolute worst people in the entirety of known space to try and fix them, because we, gentlesophs, have our shit together.  We have fixed our problems. We think poverty is defined by insufficient bandwidth.  We can’t empathize with poverty and disease and oppression because the rawest immigrants aside, we’ve never seen it and can’t imagine it.  Disabuse yourself of the notion that you can right now, if you please.”

“And even more so, you are used to how things work. In a civilized environment in which you have millennia of institutions backing you up, in which discussing things in a calm and rational manner virtually always works, and in which no-one would dream of treading on anyone else’s prerogatives, never mind anything else.”

“If you come to work for us, you are going to spend your career wrestling with every kind of shit the backwaters of the Worlds have to offer.  You will hear so much insanity that you’ll wonder if there’s any reason left in the universe.”

“You’re going to see worlds in which they think they can become rich by robbing the rich.  Hell, you’re going to see worlds in which they think they can become rich by robbing the poor.  You’re going to see worlds where they look at cornucopia machines, self-replicating machines that can make anything from micros-worth of feedstock and power, and demand that they be banned because they’ll cause mass poverty!”

“You’ll come to know species whose xenophobia makes them hate all offworlders. Whose xenophobia makes them hate their own species if their scales are a shade off-color, or whose bones are a little differently shaped, or who are the disfavored sex or clade or caste. And you’re going to meet some of those who hate some of their own but love offworlders, and if you’re anything like me, spend weeks wondering how the hell that makes sense.”

“The back-Worlds have it all. A million different kinds of perversion commanded in the name of a thousand gods.  Ephemeralists for naturalism, or social stability, or inheritance.  Democrats who think justice is defined by headcount. Baseline supremacists demanding the right to be inferior. Egalitarians who think free will is a small thing to give away for equality. Major political movements fighting over who people can have sex with.  People who, in an age of pervasive automation and roboticization, keep it out of their worlds because it pleases them to lord it over their fellows.”

“And even the ones who want what we have hate the ways that we acquired it, for not fitting into their notions of how the universe ought to work – and of their exalted planning position in it.”

“In short, you are going to spend your life pointing at the one big shining example of how things can work, and have people tell you, to your face, that they’re impossible!

“And unlike the Imperialists of old, you can’t make that change!”

“You won’t save the Galaxy. You’ll work, the way the rest of us have worked, for decades on end and probably not even save one single world.  But you might nudge their path a little, and you might help a few people along the way.”

“If that doesn’t scare you – and if that’s enough for you, because it will have to be – come back tomorrow and get to work.”

 – Valëa Andreth, introductory lecture at Golden Suns Benevolent Association