Universe Building the Empire: Step Two

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The prior step ended with the realization that not only did government have to be minimalist, and consciously so, it had to be composed of people who would be paying a personal price if it - or they - failed.

How do you do that? One constant of the people who make country- and civilization-killing decisions here on Earth is that they know they'll be long dead when the chickens come home to roost. This has happened time and time again, from the Greeks and Macedonians through the Romans, and probably back to the dimmest mist of prehistory, although it's hard to find such records before the Romans.

In fact, these killer decisions often come well before a nation or civilization's point of greatest power or influence. For really strong nations and civilizations, it takes several. It took at least three we know about to actually kill Rome, the first of which happened in the time of Julius Caesar, if not before - contrast how many at the pinnacle of power left by violence before Julius, as opposed to after. I'm not blaming Julius personally, in fact my understanding is that his enemies put him in a situation where his choices were to die while having it happen, or fight it and by fighting it feed it. I'm not as familiar with Imperial China, but the number of nation-killers there there is also at least three. Was the civilization and people any less powerful, no technological resurgence could have brought them back as a world power in less than a century since the Imperial mandarins fell.

These killer decisions also serve to limit the peak power of a civilization. If the political changes of Julius Caesar's time had not wounded Rome to the heart, where would their equivalent of Hadrian's Wall been built? Norway? Samarkand or Lake Victoria? Panama? Suppose the killer decision had been avoided entirely, because the person making it knows they will be around when the chickens come home to roost?

What does that require? Well, given the amount of time large forces take to play out, it takes significantly extended lifespans. About 160 years separates Julius from the building of Hadrian's Wall. That's two full long human lifetimes under standards then extant - a man is born at the first event, dies of old age at the same time his heir is born, and his heir dies at the time of the second.

Longevity researchers these days believe we'll have the ability to make at least 140, and at least one says a thousand. I think they're both conservative - the 1000 figure was derived from a less than 1 in a 1000 chance of dying in a year available to certain groups today. It takes no consideration of increases in skill or judgment based upon increased experience. If means are found to prevent or reverse deterioration, why should 1000 be an upper limit?

So the second consideration would be a political class that sees the consequences of their actions not simply in terms of what happens today, but what will happen to them centuries from now, if not millenia.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 26, 2013 7:00 PM.

Universe Building The Empire: Step One was the previous entry in this blog.

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