Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 04-09-2024, 11:09 AM   #6461
GreatWyrmGold
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

I had a random thought about monopolies.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the famed Sherman Antitrust Act lead to lawsuits against major corporations seeking to control this or that corner of the economy. This was bad for both the big companies and the capitalists who grew wealthy off their success. Monopolies broken up by this law significant enough to be listed on Wikipedia include:
  • the American Tobacco Company
  • the National Linseed Oil Trust (linseed oil used to be more important)
  • the Northern Securities Company (which owned a bunch of railroads)
  • the Sugar Trust (and later the American Sugar Refining Company which emerged from its reorganization)
  • the Western Union Telegraph Company
  • And of course, Standard Oil

What if it hadn't? What if pressure, bribery, or melodramatic violence from the American bourgeoisie class prevented the law from being implemented, or weakened it to the point of irrelevance? Obviously, more monopolies and trusts would form, but that's hardly all that would happen.


It is the nature of the capitalist machine to try and make lines go up. Eternal growth of sales, or revenue, or stock price, or whatever. Stability is failure, decline is absurd. If Standard Oil owns all the oil derricks, it might start buying coal mines to maintain its growth. If Western Union owns all the telegraphs and can't buy more, maybe it'll invest in businesses which benefit from rapid communication. If the National Linseed Oil Trust already controls farms growing flax everywhere it's economical to do so, it'll enter the cotton market or the olive oil market or something.
If one sector of the economy can't be directly monopolized, monopolize its inputs or outputs. It doesn't matter how many people grow wheat if they all have to sell their grain to the same mills; the owner still gets to dictate terms. The company names are different, but the socioeconomic effects are basically identical.

And once every corner of the American economy is monopolized, there are only two ways a business can grow. Big monopolies can absorb small ones—either driving them out of business or buying them outright—or they can claw their ways into foreign markets. This might mean setting up foreign subsidiaries in Europe, or it might mean convincing the US to invade some dinky tropical country and installing a dictator friendly to US interests. Most likely, both would start happening long before America ran out of un-monopolized economy.

It's true that capitalist dreams of lines that rise eternally are just fantasy. But ordinary economic downturns won't curtail the monopolies. Big businesses have the resources to resist and rebuild from disasters that would torch local ones. Tony's sandwich shops and Tammy's general store withered under COVID-19, but Subway and Wal-Mart are still in business. Monopolies often expand their business as a result of economic downturn; someone has to serve sandwiches in Tony's place.

There's only one thing that can consistently stop monopolies once they form: The proletariat. Sometimes indirectly, by electing politicians friendly to their interests; sometimes directly, through strikes and protests and direct action. But these actions have mixed results, especially in the USA; sometimes you get OSHA, sometimes you get shot by the National Guard. In a timeline where Rockefeller and his ilk made monopolies legal, the latter outcome would be more likely.


This scenario appeals to me because it's a dramatically exaggerated version of what we see happening in our world. Corporations and their shareholders are consolidating wealth, accumulating power. Sometimes it seems like the dominant political ideologies are "pro-big-business, anti-worker" and "pro-big-business, anti-worker, and also racist". The cyberpunk genre was invented in part to comment and speculate on those trends, but this monopoly timeline would let you write that kind of story in a historical setting instead of a futuristic one.

On the other hand, the timing means you'd be writing in the World Wars era, and that **** tends to suck the air out of the room. You can't write a 20th-century alternate history without someone wanting to know how this affects Hitler and D-Day. There's more to history than wars, you know!
GreatWyrmGold is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-09-2024, 02:49 PM   #6462
patchwork
 
patchwork's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

I use a pretty similar world that I call Rockefeller; Sherman Anti-Trust Act struck down as unconstitutional in 1910 as a violation of the right of assembly. Does not materially impact WWI. I have basically a secondary POD with Lenin's murder and the collapse of the Bolsheviks in 1920, though, which (perhaps ironically) increases support for revolutionary socialism in the West, since the Bolsheviks never get the chance to discredit it. Set in the early 60s, world-girdling Trusts vs Marxists, dieselpunk but played a lot like most people play cyberpunk (technologically and socially innovative gutter trash vs megacorporations, TL6+1).

A version that kept the Soviet Union and went some decades further would be an ambitious but interesting project.
patchwork is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-09-2024, 10:03 PM   #6463
PTTG
 
PTTG's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
I had a random thought about monopolies.
As the kids say, based.
PTTG is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-13-2024, 06:54 PM   #6464
Astromancer
 
Astromancer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: West Virginia
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

King Mongkut (the historical man behind the King in The King and I) was one of the most historically important monarchs in the history of Thailand. His portrayal in the book Anna and the King of Siam is highly distorted because of serious cultural misunderstandings by the author.

It's largely because of King Mongkut that Thailand never became a colony. This also allowed far more stable government and prevented Thailand from having the same kind of traumas as Cambodia, Burma, or Vietnam. Several parallels have King Mongkut be far less successful but one Q6 parallel has him be far more successful.

In this low mana parallel, Anna
__________________
Per Ardua Per Astra!


Ancora Imparo
Astromancer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-13-2024, 07:14 PM   #6465
Astromancer
 
Astromancer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: West Virginia
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Astromancer View Post
King Mongkut (the historical man behind the King in The King and I) was one of the most historically important monarchs in the history of Thailand. His portrayal in the book Anna and the King of Siam is highly distorted because of serious cultural misunderstandings by the author.

It's largely because of King Mongkut that Thailand never became a colony. This also allowed far more stable government and prevented Thailand from having the same kind of traumas as Cambodia, Burma, or Vietnam. Several parallels have King Mongkut be far less successful but one Q6 parallel has him be far more successful.

In this low mana parallel, Anna
Phone issues again.

In this parallel, Anna H. Leonowens actually understood the King fairly clearly and respected what she saw. She was able to explain certain European cultural issues and social patterns to the King. Thus allowing King Mongkut substantial practical advantages in his diplomacy.

She also introduced the King to several Japanese scholars involved in the modernization of Japan. Mongkut made shrewd use of what he learned. And King Mongkut's heirs did as well.

In this parallel's 1950 (the present day) Thailand is an industrial nation much like Japan. They stayed neutral throughout WWII (they did give surreptitious aid to the Allies). The Thai people are rapidly gaining influence in southeast Asia in the decolonisation period. This makes Bangkok a nest of spies.

Basically, it's a new exotic cold war front for spy games. Not only the basic Cold War factions typical of most echoes of Homeline, but also the the interference of Homeline, Centrum, and the Cabal.

Note: as befits a low mana world there are active and largely secretive magic users in this world. Use Path/Book magic and have magic just now becoming a serious academic study.

Also, due to a brilliant Thai inventor (in Homeline history the man immigrated to France and died young in WWI) the Tech Level is about five years ahead of Homeline's 1950. This isn't a clean metric, some things are as they were on Homeline at the same period, some things are close to TL8. It averages out.
__________________
Per Ardua Per Astra!


Ancora Imparo
Astromancer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-14-2024, 01:33 AM   #6466
fchase8
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: New York, NY
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Astromancer View Post
In this parallel's 1950 (the present day) Thailand is an industrial nation much like Japan. They stayed neutral throughout WWII (they did give surreptitious aid to the Allies). The Thai people are rapidly gaining influence in southeast Asia in the decolonisation period. This makes Bangkok a nest of spies.
I would think that Thailand would still have been a Japanese ally during WWII, just based on Japan's power and anti-Western feelings. Perhaps it would have been more of a benign neutrality, akin to Franco's Spain or Salazar's Portugal - not directly contributing to any side, minding its own business and staying off the radar, but rife with WWII intrigue.

Intrigue that would have continued post-war. Obviously would have been directly involved in decolonization of the region - would seem to be anti-communist just based on being a monarchy. Indeed, perhaps the likes of Paris would have been more accommodating to set up local monarchies and decolonize rather than hang on (also British in Malaysia).

This could have a 1950s where southeast Asia is full of European-backed monarchies (even the likes of Burma and/or Indonesia). Washington would actually be rather out-of-sorts among the monarchies, but wouldn't have Vietnam War (have JFK live to make it weird to Homeline). There would still be Communist insurgencies, of course.

A strong, anti-communist southeast Asia could also push Maoist China closer to the USSR, even after Stalin's death. And then there's India, with its Thai-inspired princes contesting with the new republic.


Infinity would be in a quandry, wanting to neither support monarchies or Maoism (and hearing mountains of criticism from Homeline southeast Asia). If Centrum-accessible, Interwold would also be divided - liking socialism but not revolutionary Maoism, monarchies are easy to influence but ultimately anti-meritocratic (that's if Interworld even notices the region).


What would worlds that diverge with Thailand be named by Infinity? "Thai" or "Siam" would be too simple. Maybe something like "Indochine" for timelines centered on the region, but would seem to need a non-colonial term.
fchase8 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-14-2024, 05:55 AM   #6467
johndallman
Night Watchman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by fchase8 View Post
I would think that Thailand would still have been a Japanese ally during WWII, just based on Japan's power and anti-Western feelings.
I think you're right. The Japanese very much wanted to win their war with China, so as to free up the bulk of the Japanese army and its air force, which were tied up there. One of the things that made that so hard was supplies going to China over the Burma Road which had been built in 1937-38. To stop those, they need to take Burma. To do that at any reasonable cost, they need to be able to move troops through Thailand.

They could try an initial seaborne invasion, and then negotiate for passage rights through Thailand, as the Germans did to move troops through Sweden to Norway. But the Germans were uncertain of their ability to conquer Sweden quickly, and the Japanese were, historically, confident of their ability to take Thailand rapidly. They were proven right about that, and Thailand joined the Axis afterwards.
johndallman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-14-2024, 09:21 AM   #6468
Astromancer
 
Astromancer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: West Virginia
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

While I have little doubt that the political elites of Thailand strongly favored Japan in WWII, in fact they made multiple statements to that effect. In the parallel I've set up, where Anna actually understands King Mongkut as well as she thought she did in our world, the Thai political elites have a clearer sense of the situation. They realize that a Japanese victory is unlikely. So, although they strongly favor Japan, they remain neutral and work to convince the Western allies they are on their side.

Basically, the Thai political elites chose to come out of the general crisis intact. It is not unlike similar choices made by Sweden, Turkey, Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland. Now of this list, only Turkey came chose to true neutrality. Sweden and Ireland favored the allies but needed to stay out to survive. Spain favored the Axis, but couldn't lose American grain imports. Switzerland deeply feared Germany and didn't want to be annexed. All these nations wanted to stay out of WWII for survival's sake.

Thailand in Homeline history did ally (weakly) with Japan. But in this parallel they've a better sense of their own interests.
__________________
Per Ardua Per Astra!


Ancora Imparo
Astromancer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-14-2024, 10:24 AM   #6469
TGLS
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

I dunno, I think it's plausible that Thailand pulls a Finland, joins the war, doesn't really lose anything, and aligns with the US because the Soviets are far away and uninterested.
TGLS is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-19-2024, 06:39 PM   #6470
Astromancer
 
Astromancer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: West Virginia
Default Re: New Reality Seeds

Try this one. The Ottoman State was aware that Western Europeans were sailing around Africa to get to the Markets and goods of Asia. There are records that show that within a year of the Portuguese getting to India the Sublime Porte was aware of both the trade mission and who captained the ships. It was proposed at the time that the ancient canal between the Bitter Lakes and the Red Sea in order to both undercut the Western traders on price and to allow Ottoman warships to sail to India.

What does the group on this board think would have been the outcome of an early Suez canal?

I also wonder who in the struggle between Homeline, Centrum, and the Cabal would have a motive to push against the Religious Scholars (the main opposition to the plan of reopening the canal) to get the Sultan to build the Canal?
__________________
Per Ardua Per Astra!


Ancora Imparo
Astromancer is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
ideas to share, infinite worlds, infinity unlimited

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 12:57 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2024, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.