Universe Building The Empire: Step One

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In the late 1970s, it became fashionable to bash the large scale stellar states that featured so prominently in science fiction. It was "plainly impossible" and exhibit A was always the writer's preconception of what government did: Social work and industrial boards of this and that and regulations concerning the use of typewriters and television and all sorts of other technologies that have since become outdated.

In other words, overhead.

The overhead becomes bigger and more complex with each successive layer of government, as for some reason they feel a need to coordinate for complete uniformity. It quickly gets to the point where parasitic overhead, or the inherent load on the system, far outstrips any actual benefit received.

But that's assuming you buy into that particular vision of government. Understandable enough - that has been the trendline of every government in recorded history. Government tends to grant itself ever greater powers. It turns out that this is a major reason why they fall apart, either internally, through external factors, or most often, both. The Huns and Goths that destroyed Rome did so because they saw a rich, tempting target inadequately defended, but I have severe doubts as to whether they could have done the same to the Empire of Augustus' time or the Republic of a hundred years earlier, despite the fact that both were smaller and controlled fewer resources. Ditto the Mongols that invaded China, and any number of other invaders elsewhere on the globe.

But there is another philosophy, with a long history, even on Earth: The minimalist government. It was most clearly articulated in 1776 and 1787-9, but there have been other articulations. We in the US have fallen from it since for several reasons (which are subjects for another time) but we were still close enough to it as the nineteenth century closed to make for a valid study.

So the obvious response was to postulate a minimalist government. But in order to be stable, there has to be a reason why a minimalist government stays minimalist. The incentives for the individuals involved in government all run to grasping ever greater powers for themselves. So there has to be a reason why they do not engage in that practice. A self-interested, long term, reinforcing reason. Better yet, more than one reason. People are inventive at following what they see as their self interest. World history can be viewed from this vantage. Indeed, it's the vantage point that tends to make more sense than any other.

This was the germ of the first tenet of the universe: A government composed of individuals who have an understanding that their individual self interests lie in keeping anyone else in that government from acquiring more government power than they absolutely have to have

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 6, 2013 7:30 AM.

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Universe Building the Empire: Step Two is the next entry in this blog.

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