Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Turning Points II

See here and here.

2400  Council of Hiawatha, a futile attempt to reform the League.
-Sandra Miesel, "Chronology of Technic Civilization" IN Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), pp. 663-672 AT p. 664.

(ii) Although, by its constitution, the Polesotechnic League is merely a mutual-help association, its wealth makes it stronger than any one state. Officials usually dislike it because it:

excludes governments from decisions affecting domestic trade;
displaces their currencies with its credit;
subverts or ignores their regulations;
gives wealth and power to some individuals but, inevitably, not to others;
upsets voters who want either security or support for worthy causes.

The League also has internal problems:

scale, diversity and information overload impede organization;
contracts degenerate into indentures;
populations and resources are exploited;
spaceships and nuclear weapons are irresponsibly sold to barbarians.

A new Commonwealth parliament enforces existing laws and also passes and enforces many additional radical measures like:

a central banking commission;
control of interest rates;
income tax;
an antitrust rule;
compulsory arbitration of some disputes;
state loans to failing companies;
subsidies to critical industries;
production quotas.

In response, the League Council of Hiawatha:

enacts some more humane and considered policies;
debates its response to the Commonwealth measures;
shouts down hotheads wanting armed resistance;
decides against expensive, ruinous boycott of the Commonwealth;
instead acquiesces within the Solar System;
thus, overrules those who argue that the principle of the League is liberty.

Some of the new laws are pro-mercantile.
By acquiescing, companies retain influence.
Regulatory commissions, controlled by the regulated industries, stifle competition.
Taxes hit the middle class.
Bankers create money and welcome inflation.
Union leaders, investing vast sums, cooperate with managers to control working conditions.
Antitrust rules, quotas, tariffs, wage and price limits and preferential contract policies penalize efficient management.
Welfare programs generate votes to maintain the corporate state.
Home Companies magnates merge with politicians and bureaucrats, bringing geographical, cultural and professional interests under closer government control.
Excluded companies, developing markets outside Commonwealth borders, encourage declarations of independence by extrasolar colonies, which they then control, and limit competition between themselves, thus becoming the Seven in Space.
Lesser companies become the independents.
Thus, the League splits and, much later, disintegrates but, before that, has a brilliant age of expansion and discovery.

Similar Previous Ages
the Chun-Chiu;
the Delian alliance;
the Renaissance.

I have summarized Anderson's summary and it feels like writing an essay in European history.

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