Dan Melson: February 2020 Archives

While Viceroys (Primus-in-fact and above) are the most important government officials, there are others which wield some amount of governmental authority

Investigators are actually the most common. Their job is to investigate and report facts in both criminal and civil cases. It is rare for them not to be operants, while most are full-spectrum Guardians. The nature of the job requires a lot of operant work, so selecting an Investigator who isn't operant typically means they'd have to hire out a second person to do the Investigator's operant work. Investigators do have law enforcement authority and should expect to experience some violence in their work, but it is not their primary function. Most Investigators are contracted at the Secundus-in-fact level, although pretty much every Viceroy Tertius-in-fact or higher will have at least one Investigator. Investigators earn a basic one service point per year.

Police or Enforcers (names are interchangeable) enforce the peace. They are dispatched to quell actual violence taking place and turn the matter over to Investigators. They need not be operant, although more than half are. This is a dangerous and well-paid profession - although most of the time the violence is over by the time they arrive, the exceptions make for a high casualty rate. Their job is not investigative; it's simply to stop the violence, and once that has been accomplished, their job is essentially done. (Note that while duels are legal, they are also rare). Enforcers have limited law enforcement authority, and generally wear combat armor the same as military issue on duty. They are contracted at the Secundus level, and there will typically be about twenty on duty in a given Secundus district (appx 60^5 residents) at any one time. Police earn a basic one service point per year.

Adulthood Services: These are the people who handle administration and care of those who are not adults and have no legal parent responsible for them. The vast majority of their charges are those who have lost their adulthood due to some failure to observe their legal responsibilties towards others. Even in those cases, both the Empire and the individuals concerned would generally prefer willing individuals to step forward and assume responsibility. The Empire is willing to subsidize willing individuals to raise actual children, and therefore actual children in custody of Adulthood Services are rare. The lives of physical adults in their custody are highly regimented and lacking in privacy. Adulthood Services has some necessary legal authority over those in their custody. Adulthood Services is contracted at the Secundus level, and while there are small numbers of civil service points involved for the contractor (who must risk civil service points on contract performance), individual Adulthood Service providers typically do not earn service points.

Engineering Contractors: Are retained for one specific project. As siphons and converters render most utilities unnecessary and others are performed commercially, most government engineering projects deal with flood control channels, fire nuisance abatement, and similar concerns. They are contracted at the appropriate level, and service points are per the individual contract. They have no governmental authority except to complete their project.

Economic Contractors: Sometimes a viceroy may believe their district requires a certain type of mercantile activity and if needed, execute contracts guaranteeing those economic contractors certain levels of activity or revenue. This is rare, because the viceroy personally is required to be the ultimate guarantor of the contract nor are they allowed to grant monopolies or hinder competitors, but it does happen. Far more common are informal persuasions or even viceroys who personally gather the resources required in their private capacity as individuals possessing the necessary wealth. Economic contractors have no governmental authority

Matthew Carter followed in his father's footsteps to become an auctioneer on Earth. Not that he really wanted to, but because he didn't have any other options. When his father died, he became an auctioneer to support himself, and is offered a job by an alien looking to hire an auctioneer.

The author, plain and simple, needed more research and a better understanding of finance, as his set-up might work for the story but fails for any resemblance to reality.

A little bit of a Golden Age-y tale. Enjoyable, but not satisfying

The tale is told from a politically correct modern sensibility, and that's enjoyable enough in that I don't think anyone really wants sentient beings or inhabited planets being offered for sale. However, the author falls well short on his understanding of what auctions can accomplish and how auction bidders make money off resale of items after curing them of certain features that are often unattractive to other buyers - making the item or property more valuable. Nothing unethical there - yet he treats it as a cardinal sin. He also falls well short in his understanding of borrowed money and leverage - something galactic super-traders would be extremely conversant of.

He ultimately does get one thing right - which I won't spoil, because naming it leads inevitably to a unique solution in who the real baddie is in the story. Unfortunately, the ending feels contrived and forced because he doesn't understand how money and finance work.

I'll give this a rating of six out of ten stars. By Amazon's standards, a four star rating (I did like it).

Amazon link

Service points drive rank in the civilian government as well as ability to bid on government contracts.

They are earned in three ways. Members of the Imperial military on active service earn three service points per year, regardless of rank. Certain members of the civil government also earn service points, albeit at lower rates than members of the military.

Successful government contracts - for services or for construction - also earn points. The drawback is that you have to put up points equal to at least five times the value of a successful contract in order to be eligible to win the contract. These points - as well as monetary penalties for failure of execution - can be forfeit in order to fix deficiencies in your performance of the contract. For this reason, people with service points can make a reasonable amount of money renting out those service points to potential contractors seeking government contracts.

Finally, special awards for special circumstances or contributions for deeds of public benefit can also be made by responsible officials.

Points can also be lost for irresponsible, reckless, or damaging behavior, as well as the potential to lose your legal adulthood.

Sufficient numbers of points earn you a grade 'in rank'. In ascending order, these grades are Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quartius, Quintus, Sixtus, Septimus, and Octus. These grades earn you theoretical eligibility for appointment to actual office at the equivalent grade or lower, save in the case of Octus-in-rank. Octus-in-rank is the only 'in rank' grade with any general authority at all, as it carries not only theoretical eligibility for Octus, Nonus, and Guardian rank, but earning the points for Octus-in-rank carries with it appointment to the Great Council, which is the highest body in the Empire even though the Great Council is too large and unwieldy to be used for anything but the most basic questions of policy (the exact number of members is not general knowledge, but since there are currently at least 6000 Octuses-in-fact and 60 Nonuses, this number is an absolute minimum size for the Great Council).

Earning points for an 'in rank' grade does not mean you have to accept the relevant title. A Quintus-in-rank (or higher) is subject to legal assassination if they have any active appointment, even as a Primus-in-fact. For this reason, most people do not accept promotion to Quintus-in-rank (or higher) even though they may have the service points until it is required by the selecting authority for a prospective appointment. This generally occurs when seeking an appointment as Tertius-in-fact, as a Tertius-in-fact is generally the most senior civil official in ordinary systems of the Empire.

An Octus-in-rank, being a member of the Great Council, always has an active appointment, and is always subject to legal assassination.

'In rank' grades are entitled to wear a small equilateral triangle (two isixths, or just over 2 centimeters on a side) of the appropriate color on civilian or military dress. Primus-in-rank wears blue, Secundus gold, Tertius red, Quartius green, Quintus white, Sixtus purple, Septimus gray, and Octus orange.

An 'in rank' official may apply for 'in fact' grades less than or equal to their 'in rank' designation. Service points are not by any means sufficient qualification for actual appointments - most selecting officials consider education and other executive qualifications and other experience and generally, accumulation of sufficient assets to make good on any potential losses you may cost the government. Appointments to actual 'in fact' Imperial offices almost never take place without at least one successful term of at least ten Imperial years in the military. Nor are appointments typically made to higher offices without at least sixty to a hundred twenty years successfully holding the next lower grade. Despite this, there are generally more than enough fully qualified applicants for offices Sixtus-in-fact and below that the selecting official can be as picky as they want to be. Septimus and Octus-in-fact are generally less applied for, and officials who have been successful at those levels have other options that make as much money for less risk, so competition among successful Septimus and Octus candidates is somewhat less but selecting officials are generally less able to eliminate strong candidates for reasons of personal distaste.

A Primus-in-fact is the sole magistrate and primary economic advocate for a district of approximately 12,960,000 people (60^4). They wear a blue triangle four isixths on a side, with a smaller triangle denoting higher 'in-rank' status embedded within (inverted, vertices to midpoints of the larger triangle). They are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of a Secundus, who is generally responsible for sixty Primuses. Most Primus-in-fact are Tertius- or Quartius-in-rank.

A Secundus-in-fact wears a gold triangle 4 isixths on a side, with higher 'in rank' designation indicated the same way as a Primus. Most ongoing service contracts (law enforcement, investigation, and care for legal children) are awarded at the Secundus level. A Secundus-in-fact is also the primary appeals court for the Primus subordinates. Like a Primus, a Secundus-in-fact serves at the pleasure of their superior Tertius-in-fact, and is expected to be an economic advocate for their area of responsibility.

This pattern continues for higher levels with some differences, especially at the Quintus-in-fact level and higher.

Since there is no 'Nonus-in-rank' or higher, a Nonus is simply a Nonus. Their triangular insignia of rank is brown and always solid since all Nonuses are Octus-in-rank Similarly with the Guardian (the office formerly known as Emperor), whose insignia of rank is black.

The Imperial population has reached two thirteenths (2x60^13, or roughly 260x10^21 people), which is roughly twice the number this system was designed to work with. Most Nonuses are currently overseeing roughly twice the subordinates in the next two echelons down that the system is designed for. Debate is ongoing in The Great Council, with the most favored solution thus far being the addition of a new rank of Decius between Nonus and Guardian, which will allow the Empire to expand by a factor of roughly thirty from its current size before reaching theoretical capacity.


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I do apologize that I've been three weeks since my last entry. I had a health issue that sapped my energy pretty severely, and it took a couple weeks to begin recovery.

I do have a new article set to go in the morning. Good night.


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