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Old 09-19-2013, 10:40 PM   #151
sir_pudding
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Space tourism has to be pretty expensive but someone like Kim Strickland (middle class?) can afford it on savings at 20.
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Old 09-19-2013, 11:13 PM   #152
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Space tourism has to be pretty expensive but someone like Kim Strickland (middle class?) can afford it on savings at 20.
It's moderately expensive if you have an income in a highly developed economy, eye-wateringly expensive if you have an income in a mid-development economy, and fabulously expensive if you have a income in an underdeveloped economy. The thing that really sucks about it is the difficulty of keeping up your high-tech income when you are away from work for months. Take into account the opportunity cost of wages forgone and interstellar tourism is prohibitive: the higher the DL of the economy you work in the less the fare matters and the more the time does.

That makes interstellar travel in FLAT BLACK broadly similar to travel by ocean liner. It was expensive, yes, especially if you wanted at least a minimum of comfort. But the thing that excluded the middle class, that really made it a status symbol to travel for pleasure, was that the time cost sucks unless your income comes without the need to work. (Or unless you can work for income on an ocean liner, as the officers and crews did, and sometimes writers such as Somerset Maugham.)

So if you have the bug, and are prepared to quit you job and live cheap while you travel, it's surprisingly affordable. But Strickland is probably not strictly middle class.
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Old 12-14-2013, 02:42 AM   #153
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I'm writing up a planet for FLAT BLACK, and I'd like to do a reaction check for the suspensibility of disbelief.

The sociological idea for the planet is based on the sacred kingship as copiously described by Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough. Basically, kings are sacred and everyone's prosperity depends on the continuance of their divine powers. If the king gets weak or sick things will go very badly. So the old king is shuffled off to the afterlife to sort things out with God, immolating himself or herself, or being sacrificed by a successor or torn apart by a mob, and a new king takes over. The old king's body may be eaten or used as a miraculous fertiliser.

In this case the planet in question is stagnating at late TL4 industrial development and productivity because it has lousy government, deficient infrastructure, bad schools, etc.. There are 1.4 billion people and at least tens of thousands of kingdoms that barely co-operate. It is in contact with a TL10 (advanced) interstellar economy, but no-one except the ruling families can afford much in the way of imports, and they use their imports to support their masque of divinity. Young aristocrats are sent off-world for training in management, agronomy, civil engineering, jurisprudence, medicine, forensic science etc. While they are away that are modified using biotech to have divine features such as beast's heads, blue or green skin etc. When they come back they are inducted as gods and take up posts in the government of their kingdoms in which they use their education and imported tools to work the routine miracles. Those the do well may be promoted by the local king. When the king gets the chop (or defects) the gods elect one of themselves to be the new king.

It's very hard for a visitor to tell whether the peasants really think that the gods are divine, or whether that's just their word for "aristocratic technocrat"; whether they think that their everyday gods work miracles, or whether that is just their term for "use fantastic high-tech skills and gadgets"; whether they think it is a dreadful sin to strike a god, or whether that is just their term for "capital crime". They certainly know that gods bleed if you prick them and die if you kill them, but say that that is normal and expected for gods.

Is this plausible in FLAT BLACK? In particular, is it plausible in the Core after a century of contact with the Empire? Would the gods flee, or reform themselves into a revolution? Would the Empire put up with it, of set the Public Education Service, Economic Advisory Service, and Social Engineering Advisory Service onto the place to fix it up?


In short, how's your SoD-meter taking this? Are you all like "Wow! That is so sick!"? Or are you all like "No way! That wouldn't last fifty years in the FLAT BLACK I know."?
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Old 12-14-2013, 03:21 AM   #154
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Are they a member with representation in the senate ? If yes, how do tens of thousands of kingdoms select a senator ?
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Old 12-14-2013, 03:32 AM   #155
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Are they a member with representation in the senate ? If yes, how do tens of thousands of kingdoms select a senator ?
They certainly aren't going to get a senator each. The Empire could declare the place ungoverned and get the Senate to appoint a Protector. Or it could organise a league of kingdoms and supply comms gear for the kings to constitute a virtual council, that would hold parliament-like control over a weak executive that deals with such functions as appointing a senator, appointing judges, investigating border raids, passing futile motions of censure and so forth. Like the UN.

In the Core the latter is going to be more likely, and this place got right royally done over in the Age of Piracy, so the Foundation will have wanted its moral support at teh Lunar Conference, if anything creditable could be presented.
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Old 12-14-2013, 06:00 AM   #156
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There are 1.4 billion people and at least tens of thousands of kingdoms that barely co-operate.
It sounds like a whole planet of Holy Roman Empire. That might be a useful model, actually: an Emperor who is elected from among the kings and gods, who lacks power other than that of his own state, but has influence.
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Old 12-14-2013, 07:31 AM   #157
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I think it could probably be made to work. In effect it's a lot like a caste system, with very overt caste markers, as seen through the eyes of Jack Vance.

On the other hand, it's not obvious to me that the entire planet will be homogenous in political culture. What prevents the young nobles of some one kingdom becoming fascinated not merely with offworld technology, but with offworld ideas about public choice and sound administrative design, and implementing, oh, an Adam Smithian reform program in their kingdom? This needs a clear answer to avoid "It was raining on Mongo that night," I think.

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Old 12-14-2013, 01:58 PM   #158
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Is this plausible in FLAT BLACK? In particular, is it plausible in the Core after a century of contact with the Empire? Would the gods flee, or reform themselves into a revolution? Would the Empire put up with it, of set the Public Education Service, Economic Advisory Service, and Social Engineering Advisory Service onto the place to fix it up?
The Empire is pretty schizo especially in this time period. I'm willing to accept that they can't actually form a clear policy and implement it yet. Especially since this is only one planet of a whole class of messed up low-tech colonies near the core.

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Old 12-14-2013, 03:39 PM   #159
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It sounds like a whole planet of Holy Roman Empire. That might be a useful model, actually: an Emperor who is elected from among the kings and gods, who lacks power other than that of his own state, but has influence.
Good. I'm trying to get it not to turn out as a whole planet of India.

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I think it could probably be made to work. In effect it's a lot like a caste system, with very overt caste markers, as seen through the eyes of Jack Vance.
Yeah. I don't want it to look too much like caste, because this is Navabharata, which was once the official national prestige colony of the the Republic of India, and I don't want to suggest national atavism. The reason it keeps turning out like this is that during the Age of Piracy it is accessible and vulnerable, which draws in a large number of high-tech invaders setting themselves up as kings.

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On the other hand, it's not obvious to me that the entire planet will be homogenous in political culture.
This is of particular concern to me because it is a large planet with short days and high surface temperature, which makes the equatorial zone uninhabitably hot and windy. With late Renaissance industrial technology there's no connection between the north polar habitable zone and the south polar habitable zone. And I know that really I ought to write up two quite different colonies.

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What prevents the young nobles of some one kingdom becoming fascinated not merely with offworld technology, but with offworld ideas about public choice and sound administrative design, and implementing, oh, an Adam Smithian reform program in their kingdom? This needs a clear answer to avoid "It was raining on Mongo that night," I think.
Same thing that kept India in a state of developmental stagnation for forty years, and is still doing the same for Africa. War, political and economic fragmentation, bad roads, internal tariffs and import restrictions, plutocracy, rent-seeking, power-hunger, slow and unreliable courts, sovereign immunity, under-developed markets for labour and capital resistance to change….

To Smithise a kingdom on Navabharata you would first have to be elected king by the other gods, which means either persuading your elders to support a liberalising program or dissimulating your liberalising agenda. Then you have to create a competitive market for labour, which means (a) giving up your power to assign your subjects to the work you see fit and (b) creating competing employers. Then you have to create a competitive market for savings, which means (a) giving up enough of your divine income that the workers have a saveable excess and (b) creating a number of competing entrepreneurs to bid for capital. You probably have to abolish a lot of people's customary rights. Then when you do it it doesn't work very well because your pocket-handkerchief kingdom doesn't have sufficiently extensive markets to supply an industrial revolution and consume its output. Conservative neighbours declare you heretic and invade to stop you from upsetting the social order that they are kings and gods under. If anything goes badly, if there are uncomfortable transition phases, you are executed and fed to the mob while your family elect a new king.

And al this so that you can give up being a fabulously wealthy monarch receiving divine honours in favour of making other people prosperous.

The system is obviously going to develop in some way. Probably one of the larger kingdoms, one with a bit of economic scale will go first, probably near the Imperial enclave and with access to a spaceport. Perhaps the Empire will build a sea-port and international rail network centred on the main spaceport. Shipping magnates will accumulate capital not in royal hands, and the royal family might get big enough and of wide-enough responsibilities that it develops multiple competing nobles each with enough capital to found separate enterprises and compete for labour. That kingdom will industrialise, become powerful, and establish a commercial empire. That will either provoke a series of wars or gradually drag the planet (well, one polar region) through an industrial revolution.

That could easily take centuries, though.

Anyway, I'm not especially troubled about the plausibility of comminuted Balkanisation or economic stagnation. I reckon that they are sufficiently often found in example. The thing that I was afraid might set off people's fertiliser detectors was the God-gambitting aristocracy subject to the restrictions of sacred kingship. And that has passed without comment. Good.

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The Empire is pretty schizo especially in this time period.
Oh, Navabharata as described above is certainly compatible with the feeble Empire of 532 PDT. But I'm doing the write-ups for 606.

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I'm willing to except that they can't actually form a clear policy and implement it yet. Especially since this is only one planet of a whole class of messed up low-tech colonies near the core.
True. Of 35 colonies in Central Sector I'm getting eighteen that you might kindly call "pre" industrial, and they have populations from twice to thirty times that of the whole Imperial Service. And that's not even considering the demands of six hundred-odd colonies in the outer sectors.
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Old 12-15-2013, 01:11 AM   #160
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The rulers are educated so that helps the local productivity. If the local wars aren't constant, the gods don't want human sacrifice, famine and plague are uncommon because of the education etc. I can see it being low on the list of places to try to fix. Being that divided they aren't going to try and throw the Empire out so that won't move them up the list.
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