Monday, April 19, 2010

Transport Nexus II: The Prince versus the Discourses

Ambrogio Lorenzetti, The Effects of Good Government
Let us imagine circumstances in which space stations, habs, or orbital constellations might become effectively self-governing - thus, belatedly, filling in the starting point for this discussion thread.

It need not be the familiar Revolt of the Colonies. It could even happen without anyone quite noticing at the time. Suppose that major stations, following the prototype of the ISS, are typically joint enterprises, whether of states, corporations or other entities, or a mix. That in itself confers an element of administrative autonomy, since no single earthside sponsor has full sway.

If the station, like the Port Authority of New York, has its own income stream, it gains further autonomy. On the one hand, it has less need to keep Earthside sponsors happy, since they control no purse strings. On the other hand, keeping sponsors happy is easy, because it isn't hitting them up for money.

This could go on for decades, for generations, with the sponsoring authorities Earthside being 'honored but not obeyed, for they gave no commands.' a variation of obedezco pero non cumplo. In the end, everyone could simply agree to redraw the legal framework to reflect long established practice.

For story purposes, we probably want something more dramatic.


But set aside for a moment relations between nascent space cities and Earth, and concentrate on their internal politics. The most basic fact about space stations and habitats, of whatever size, is that they are spacecraft, and in most respects very little different from large 'ships.' Indeed the distinction may often be blurred, with ships in parking orbits providing station-type services, and stations being built where the building cages are, and flown out to their service destinations.

This implies an onboard command structure to assign watch bills, see to necessary operations and maintenance, and take charge in emergencies. For 'ships' this is entirely taken for granted. Even writers of libertarian stripe, from Heinlein on, have waxed lyrical about the Captain's authority.

Heinlein also had no doubt that the same applied to habitats. 'Sam Anderson' was speaking of domed colonies on a planet, not orbiting habs, when he told Max Jones that they have 'more rules than a girls' school,' but the principle is unchanged.

This is pretty stark stuff. For one thing it makes a steaming bowl of irony hash out of the deep rooted connection, at least in 'Murrican culture, between space travel and libertarianism. Yes, with a suitable array of oscillating hands you can have singleships and the like, but it would be far easier to have self-sufficient condos on the upper slopes of Everest or a continental shelf somewhere.

Other things being equal, outer space is not an environment for rugged individualists, or high tech counterparts of Jeffersonian yeoman farmers. [spelling corrected] For that you pretty much need habitable planets. (And for much else as well, a discussion I'll take up in another post.) Space, at Plausible [TM] midfuture techlevels, is an environment that calls for a high level of human cooperation.

It is, unfortunately, all too possible to achieve such cooperation in a dystopian, authoritarian system, but it is hardly necessary.

For one thing, whoever takes command in emergencies is not necessarily the final authority. Indeed, at the beginning they certainly are not: Station commanders are appointed by the station authority, itself initially established by Earthside sponsors.

In the scenario I outlined above, it is the this civil station authority that gradually establishes its autonomy, and indeed a key stage in asserting that autonomy would be appointing and if need be removing the operational commander.

Institutionally this whole process is not unlike the evolution of corporate governance since the 19th century, with the board of directors answering not at all to shareholders in most circumstances, and itself choosing both the company president and ultimately its own succession.

A space station is in very different circumstances from a business, and it is easy to imagine that the rather colorless role of administrative authority being subsumed by the station commander. From that point the story writes itself, and Old Nick Machiavelli provided all the plot tips you need in everyone's favorite work of political porn, The Prince.

But Nick wrote another book, the Discourses, which offered an alternate model of station governance - where the final administrative authority resides collectively in the stationers, exercised through something like a city council. In short, a republic.

A large space station is potentially fertile ground for republican institutions. Its population has a wide range of skills, and is accustomed in everyday life to working in teams where they rely on one another's expertise.

Nor it it hard to see how republican institutions might arise out of the circumstances I sketched above. When station administrators are first stretching their boundaries with respect to their Earthside sponsors, the stationers are their natural allies, while any internal disorder in the station slows the drift toward autonomy, inviting or even requiring Earthside sponsors to step in and clean up the mess.

A station-republic would still have pervasive government and constrained personal freedom by contemporary Anglosphere standards, 'more regulations than a girls' school' being a necessary fact of station life. But many restrictions will be irrelevant to stationers in any case; you can't have a backyard barbeque when you have no back yards. And there is a profound difference between having a say in the regulations that govern your life as against having them imposed from above.

Among other things, station-republics would be laboratories for studying what exactly freedom means.



The image is a detail from The Effects of Good Government, by Ambrogio Lorenzetti: a 14th century fresco in the Siena city hall.

Related posts: teamwork in space, and spacers.

49 comments:

wombatron said...

As a libertarian, I'd like to add in my $0.02 on the "liberty doesn't work in space" argument. Libertarianism isn't a rugged individualist ethic that eschews cooperation with others (a strawman that doesn't even apply to Rand). It just says that no one can initiate the use or the threat of the use of force.

Applying this to a self-contained habitat: yes, there would be rules, and rather strict ones. But these can be handled just as easily with a system of voluntary laws and regulations as with a state-like entity. I'm sure a libertarian hab would have something similar to a condominium aggreement, and probably a participatory governance system similar to the one described above.

Flame away :-)

wombatron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If you grow up on a space station or hab, then it would seem frightfully weird to visit a planet and see open flames or open windows...people who live in space will become acustomed to strick rules that keep them alive, and may even come to view 'normal' life (that on Earth) as being 'abnormal'.

Just because you have non-democratic institutions running the systems that keep us alive, doesn't mean that you can't have democartic institutions in charge of them: obvious example; the U.S. Military and the Federal Government.

Ferrell

Anonymous said...

From Mr. Blue:
We have a similar government system on earth already: condo and homeowners associations. If the station residents are also part owners of the station- a very likely scenario for long term dwellers, then it's also very likely that the condominium model will be used.
Owner/residents vote for a governing board to handle day to day operations, and also for any major decisions- changes in by-laws, annual budgets, ect.
Because the residents are mostly owners, they also have a stake in keeping things nice, safe, and working. Peer pressure from your neighbors to keep your proper pressure is a great social control.
Of course, it's kind of boring to write about proxy fights over common hallway paint schemes...

Z said...

The anarcho-communalism of the Culture in all of Iain Banks' novels was always something he viewed as a natural outgrowth of spacefaring itself, in much a similar vein to this discussion- life onboard a closed habitat of most reasonable sizes is going to be inherently egalitarian- small groups, delegated vital roles and shared resources in a fragile environment. However, life between habitats looks distinctly less rigid, when you can always drive the thing to an orbit with less cops and are inherently sitting on a pile of kinetic armament.

The flip side is of course that large potential weapons platforms tend to get rather rigorous preemptive attention, and that even the largest stations are going to be considerably less independent when it comes to materials than any Earthbound settlement of equivalent size, and one would imagine considerably easier to blockade, or destroy (hard to tunnel to a space station...)

Corey said...

Libertarianism isn't a rugged individualist ethic that eschews cooperation with others (a strawman that doesn't even apply to Rand).

Yes I believe that would be much closer to anarcho-capitalism or even anarcho-agrarianism.


One thing not mentioned is what is the immediate goal of the community in the habitat/space station? That will have probably the biggest impact on the level of conflict/tension within the hab.

Humans perform a cost benefit, risk/reward analysis for just about everything they do. Mostly it is done subconsciously and following 'rules of thumb' and Burkean "prejudices" rather than what modern economists would call a 'rational actor paradigm,' but they still do it.

The application of which seems almost a truism to us, but its worth examining. For example, if you are a merchant and you could double your revenue (without increasing cost) at the risk of losing 10% of your savings, you might do that. (assume the chances of success are basically a coin flip)

However, if the potential downside of doubling your profit is having the hab blow up, you're probably not going to do it.

This comes back to the immediate goals of the hab. If its a new hab and your immediate goal is to survive, with the odds being in the 50/50, 60/40, or even 75/25 zone, then the incentive is too cooperate. The cost of dissent and conflict could very well be your death.

So for example, even if you hate one of the guys who maintains the air recyclers, you're probably going to deal with him. Because if you kick him out of the hab or run him out of business, there might only be one other guy who knows how to do that.

Similarly, if the guy running the supply ship goes out of business, there's vital logistics gap.

Now, if the hab isn't in any immediate danger of starving, running out of air, etc, then probably the most immediate goal will be improving your quality of living. Historically, that's meant two things: more money and more power.

Now the incentive is to struggle, but again not total struggle. For example, you may want to drive one of the merchants out of business so your buddy can get all of his customers. But you probably won't start a shooting war over it.

So while the homeowner association model is valid, its also worth keeping in mind how stable the hab is. If its isolated without any trade routes running through it, then the competition for a merchant making this a stop on the route will probably be with another hab. But if its prosperous, with already existing routes, then competition for a new route has all likelihood of one faction competing with another.

Anonymous said...

@ Wombatron: No one's really arguing that liberty doesn't work in space, just that it's going to have a different meaning in the context of space. And you can call it 'a system of voluntary laws and regulations', but your space hab still needs some form of enforcement mechanism. That makes it a government.

That's not a flame. There's just no difference between a condo agreement backed by threat of fines, imprisonment, exile, or execution, and a government. If you think that range of threats sounds extreme, google 'chlorine triflouride' and imagine what that stuff could do to a space station.

Ian_M

Jim Baerg said...

There will be a *lot* of things you *DO NOT* bring into the habitation section of the space station. Things will be a lot looser in modules a few km away for industrial experiments.

Corey said...

And you can call it 'a system of voluntary laws and regulations', but your space hab still needs some form of enforcement mechanism. That makes it a government.

Well in fairness, libertarians aren't anti-government. That's anarchists. I think most libertarians would define themselves as "no more government than necessary."

Its just in space, the number of laws that are "necessary" go WAY up. Most modern libertarians would probably find that lifestyle a bit too restrictive, but then again perhaps not. Most habs will be smaller and more direct participation in the decision making process, which goes a long way from turning the government into a distant boogeyman that most modern American libertarians dislike.

In point of fact, there will probably be a divergence among Earth based libertarians and space borne libertarians, as the geography (so to speak) imposes different living restrictions & opportunities.

I think a good analogy would be either major US political party circa 1970. You had liberal California Democrats mixing with Great Lakes labor Democrats mixing with Southern Dixecrats. Similarly, you had New England Republicans mixing with Barry Goldwater Republicans.

In short, terrestrial libertarians will probably be more "purists" who look down their noses at how regulated space libertarians are. Meanwhile, space borne libertarians will probably think their earth based cohorts are a "bunch of hippies who'd kill themselves and someone else within a week of leaving The Well."

And also, technically, so long as there's no impediment from emigrating, all legal systems are voluntary to a certain extent. Granted there may be non-legal impediments (distance to another hab and the cost to cross it), but as long as there's no secret police preventing people from leaving then by default it's a voluntary system. And a voluntary system can have penalties for non-compliance to the rules laid down so long as someone can opt out of the entire social contract.

Anonymous said...

A station or habitat administrator's role could develop similarly to that of governors and governors-general in the British Empire and its successor states. Originally a governor (not uncommonly a military officer) was the main source of authority in a colony, with an appointed advisory council. Over time, elected legislatures came into being and grew in power. Eventually, the advisory councils became cabinets, with their members drawn from the legislature, and while the governor retained executive power on paper, the real power was in the hands of the prime minister or premier.

In the same way, a station administrator might start out as the sole decision-maker, but end up taking orders from the elected representatives. However, the administrator could still retain the power to act in an emergency, just as the governor of the British Overseas Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands was instructed by the UK government to suspend the elected government over corruption charges.

R.C

Thucydides said...

The environment shapes government just as it shapes other ecosystems.

The evolution of self rule may be a very interesting topic, based on historical evidence.

The Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta started as a refuge for Roman citizens fleeing the barbarian invasions. Then it was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire as a vassal state. As time passed, the Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta became economically more powerful and independent, until they reached the point they acted as an independent state. At that point the Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta started working as an active rival to the Byzantines, and even sponsored a war against them. (The booty included the Horses of St Mark, visible today on the Basilica di San Marco).

A similar evolution may happen in space. A colony (planetary of free space) will initially be dependent on the founding nation or group. They will become more independent as they close the ecosystem and their economy grows. Will they challenge their founders? If there are enough areas of contention or they are competing for the same markets or resources, the answer might well be yes (the breakdown of the Delian league, Venice and The United States are a few examples).

Internally, I am inclined to see free markets developing regardless of the ruling ideology (either open markets or black and grey markets running under the radar), and of course I would favour a Libertarian colony as my personal residence.

Anonymous said...

I doubt there will be Libertarians in space. It's an extremely American political philosophy, and a minority philosophy even in its home country. Whatever political philosophies evolve in space will probably develop from modern corporate governance, South East Asian ideas of communal living, academic or labour organizations, and the costs of volatiles (Fuel, water, gases). Drawing a straight line between current political philosophy and the governing philosophies of space habs is pretty limiting.

How about a space hab run by a collegial body, with input from the various labour groups that maintain the infrastructure? Or one with a judiciary overseeing a series of mediator panels that enforce contracts, a seperate legislative body responsible for protecting the infrastructure of the hab, and an executive that answers to the judiciary and legislature? Or something run along the lines of a religious commune or kibbutz? A seminary in space, with a lay-population working on the infrastructure in exchange for religious instruction?

Ian_M

Citizen Joe said...

I think that all the stuff we take for granted here on Earth needs to be regulated on a space station and controlled by an appointed supreme authority. So some elective body picks the stability supervisor whose responsibility is to maintain a suitable environment for the station. That includes water, air, heat, gravity, radiation shielding, collision defense, etc. Most of that is probably controllable with automation and probably needs to be to maintain constant monitoring.

Stuff beyond that could use any number of different organizational structures.

Jean Remy said...

wombatron: "It just says that no one can initiate the use or the threat of the use of force."

I think several thousand years of human history (and getting beat up by my dad, and getting bullied at school) tells me that someone will at some point initiate the use or threat of the use of force, and that while the Police are thugs in uniforms there's at least a modicum of civilian control over said application. An environment that explicitly forbids the creation of a Police force seems like a nightmare rather than a dream. Society only holds together when the fear of authority is higher than the feeling you can get away with something. No fear of authority is anarchy, which is not a viable system of governance.

You can't even pick and chose your population. The second generation will rebel against parental authority.

A society without violence is a society without defense. Violence is a normal evolution result, not a corruption of the human soul. It's not "human nature." It's Everything nature. Watch any nature show, I promise you, something violent WILL happen.

Violence, and the threat thereof, are not only natural but necessary.

(I hope you do not think of this as a "flame" it is merely my opinion on said matter)

Corey: "Humans perform a cost benefit, risk/reward analysis for just about everything they do. Mostly it is done subconsciously and following 'rules of thumb' and Burkean "prejudices" rather than what modern economists would call a 'rational actor paradigm,' but they still do it."

I believe the recent situation has had a lot of economist start to really doubt the 'rational actor paradigm'. I don't believe it myself because it requires not *just* self-interest, but also foresight, planning and delayed gratification. While the first one can surely be depended upon, The Prisoner's Dilemma has a tendency to shoot the kind of holes into the other three the size left by 16 inch naval guns.

The problem with any cost/benefit analysis is that this analysis is generally fundamentally flawed. People is general balance benefit of success with cost of *success* because failure is not an option. A criminal doesn't think he's going to get caught. An investor does not think his company is going to fold. They do not even PLAN for the failure, they only plan for the cost of the initial investment, and then don't think further than that.

Go ask anyone in Las Vegas.

==

I have more to say but I need to go for now. More ranting to follow.

Anonymous said...

From Mr. Blue:

I think it's very likely that a good part of the long term resident habitats will be "company towns"- developed by a consortium of companies with deep space interest. But probably not in the late 19th century coal mining town type way. More like Disney's "Celebration" development- very upscale with lots of amenities (shops, resturants, hospitals, schools, ect).
So how does one govern such a place? It depends on who owns what. If the Companies own it outright, then employees would be limited in their participation in governing. Expect lots of turnover, workers organized into unions, and the like.
However, if the Companies sell "parcels" to employees, then it's a bit different. The people will have a say in how thing are run- through direct democracy, elected boards, whatever. The developing company becomes a provided of services (power, air, water,ect), or not.
Law enforcement also depends. Is the habitat "flagged"- part of a terrestial government? Is it "international"? Is it sovreign? A flagged hab may have the authority to levy fines but would ship felons earthside for trial and punishment. A sovreign hab would deal with it on it's own (capital punishment or exile for felonies), and the international ones could be a real mess- deportation to the state of origin?

And all that does lead to some good story fodder.

Anonymous said...

A habitat administrator could also be compared to a city manager in the 'council-manager' form of municipal government, where the elected city council appoints or hires the city manager to oversee the various public departments. On a habitat or station, the public workers running the departments would be analogous to a spacecraft's crew, with the administrator as the captain, appointed by the elected council.

R.C.

Anonymous said...

Ian_M said:
"I doubt there will be Libertarians in space. It's an extremely American political philosophy, and a minority philosophy even in its home country. Whatever political philosophies evolve in space will probably develop from modern corporate governance, South East Asian ideas of communal living, academic or labour organizations, and the costs of volatiles (Fuel, water, gases). Drawing a straight line between current political philosophy and the governing philosophies of space habs is pretty limiting."

Maybe upper case Libertarians...but lower case libitarians might start a station/colony...seeing how they generally think that government is a necessary evil and that anyone who would willingly seek political office is someone that needs to be watched closely...Rules are there to protect people (at least, the fair ones are). Incompetence in running a station/colony (as opposed to governing it), can result in death...either at the hands of an irrate populace or by the utterly indefferant hand of nature...

Ferrell

Thucydides said...

The founding political philosophy and culture will carry on in the colonies, although in different forms than original.

The Spanish settled the New World in the 1500's while their culture was still feudal and medieval in nature, and Latin America's political and cultural evolution reflects that foundation.

America was founded by Protestant dissenters with particular views of religion, justice, the relationships between God, man and the State, and American culture and political philosophy reflects that foundation (read Samuel Huntington's "Who are we" for a full discussion).

Space settlements will therefore be offshoots of their parent cultures. Chinese settlements will adopt the features of Chinese culture that work best in their colonies (respect for order and hierarchy). American colonies will reflect experimentation, adaptability and "out of the box" thinking.

It would be interesting to consider what colonies founded by Russia, the EU, Brazil or India would look like. What features of their cultures are best adapted to a space colony environment?

Rick said...

Welcome to new commenters!

I pick on libertarianism partly because I flirted with it in college, and broke off for reasons remarkably difficult to fully articulate. But mainly because libertarianism has a unique position within space SF. It's pretty much the only explicit -ism you encounter out there. Sure, plenty of center lefty writers write stories reflecting their political views, but not one distinct variation with its own name.

Because libertarianism is so prominent in space SF, it makes a claim to be judged for suitability, somewhat like a drive technology.

My general critique of libertarianism - worth what you paid - is that it underestimates the effects of oligarchic behavior in the monkey house. When the king is weak, the barons act like little kings.

But the problem in space is more fundamental, that spacecraft are natural monopolies. You can do some market things. If a big station has multiple galleys you can bid them out to restauranteurs, but opening an entire new galley involves Engineering and Life Support.

I agree with the point made above, that calling the station authority a co-owners' association or some such does not change the facts. If it can boot you out, AKA exile, it is functionally a government.

So I don't see how libertarian ideas could be implemented to any substantial degree in space. Stationers might call themselves libertarian for historical or philosophical reasons, but running a station, internally, on market principles is as problematic as running a ship on market principles.

There can still be a broad scope of personal freedom, within the physical and technological constraints of station life, but the terms of liberty can only be set by some collective bargain of the stationers with the station administration.

Relations between stations or habs are an entirely different matter, but that falls into a category akin to international relations.

The 'governor general' historical sequence is a very plausible one, especially if the founding entity accepts the drift toward autonomy. Which might be regarded as a feature, not a bug.

Anonymous said...

From Mr. Blue:

Another thought about "condos in spaaace": it's going to be pretty hard to get one. They're going to be very particular about who's going to live up there.
Because face it, one will be seeing a lot of the same faces both at work and around town. There's a big incentive to keep the jerks out.
So, a lot of screening before a job offer is made, a long term probationary period with frequent reviews, and the option to revoke residency with, say a 3/4th vote of the other residents.
The last thing you want is in a hab is an obnoxious, negligent slob in your neighborhood. There needs to be a legal way to get rid of them without spacing them.
High accident rates do tend to reflect badly on one's propery values.

Thucydides said...

"Libertarian if necessary, but not necessarily libertarian?"

Rick may have pointed out a weakness in the arguments for big "L" libertarianism, but much depends on the size and purpose of the structure, and the social context in which it is created.

An aircraft carrier is a top down hierarchical structure both because of its purpose and to ensure the safe and efficient operation of a lot of dangerous hardware in a confined space.

A cruise ship has a free market owner and manager, but is run internally by an authoritarian structure (even the Captain of the "Love Boat" is the master of the ship while at sea). Within and in parallel to that is the ship's own free market economy (shops, casinos, bars), plus whatever stuff goes by on the side between consenting passengers. (something similar is happening on the aircraft carrier, but on a much smaller scale).

A libertarian space colony would resemble the "freedom ship" concept, where the scale is so much larger that the ratio of owner/passengers to crew is heavily in favour of the owner/passengers.

The "crew" must still operate on hierarchical lines, but would resemble the municipal services and agencies in function (i.e. ship maintainance workers=city maintainance workers, ships security officers= municipal police etc.)

Now a "company town" space colony is much more likely to increase the power and authority of the company management over the workers, but will also be much smaller so the ratio of employees to non employees (families, shop owners, support workers like nannies and webmasters in the secondary and tertiary layers of the economy) will also be skewed heavily to company employees. A micro libertarian underground will still exist (even if it consists of a small grey market between consenting adults), but the culture will be overwhelmingly controlled and influenced by the Company. I suspect this means as the population increases, the internal structure of the colony will become more free and fluid (or ossify and die), while as the 3He mines are tapped out, the colony will devolve as everyone moves away, until the final phase is a company only decommissioning crew removing the valuables.

Rick said...

Carriers and cruise ships are a pretty good starting reference point. I would say that the 'free market' on the cruise ship is largely an illusion - the restaurants and casinos are all owned by the cruise company.

Sure, small scale private exchange goes on among passengers (and carrier sailors,for that matter), and these can be plenty colorful, but hardly anyone is making a living from them.

Where the free market really impinges on cruise ships is that if the service stinks or the boat sinks, you probably won't be back for another cruise.


I would suggest that the emergence of a significant internal market would arise out of the political process, specifically labor agitation.

Translation, everyone bitches about the commissary food until and the stationmaster says, 'Okay, if someone thinks they can do better, give it your best shot.'

If I am stationmaster of a transport nexus station large enough to support it, it is entirely in my interest to promote an inboard market. Better food will make everyone happier, and in particular, if people do business here it will tend to bring traffic.

If I'm running a mining station, morale is still an issue, but visitor traffic is not much of a factor. But I think most of that stuff will be highly automated anyway, so the human population will cluster at the traffic centers.

Jean Remy said...

"If I am stationmaster of a transport nexus station large enough to support it, it is entirely in my interest to promote an inboard market. Better food will make everyone happier, and in particular, if people do business here it will tend to bring traffic."

This is always how I'd seen a space station (or outer moon colony for that matter) develop. The first people on location are highly paid super-specialist, starting with scientists to give a reason to be there and the engineers to make sure the scientists stay alive, with a cadre of administrators to make sure everything is running smoothly, monitored by a small security posse under an over-arching quasi-military authority to ensure the safety of everyone on board.

Although the Pyramid of Needs has been debunked (hard) there was still an underpinning intuition that wasn't all that far off. Once the safety of said highly-paid super-specialist is ensured, you want to keep them happy, as well. No one likes to study planetary geophysics for 10 hours then come back to their quarters to do laundry and make dinner.

Enter non-critical, probably sub-contracted services for food, laundry, maybe entertainment. Once the physical comfort of the personnel is ensured, and the safety guaranteed, their emotional health might involve bringing in their families. If the families of the specialists are allowed on-station, then other services must be provided. Schools, baby-sitters, entertainment for non-working significant others and teenagers. Each layer of services needs a new layer of services on top of it.

This is now developing into something akin to US military bases in what used to be West Germany, where a small community develops around a core of specialists.

However because it was from the ground a non-democratic institution, I do not see a democratic system getting a strong toe-hold. There might be councils like the condominium model, but ultimately the decision-making rests in the hand of the corporation that rules over the lot. The people living there own their houses and the association has some limited power, but someone owns the land/additional facilities/building, and they generally keep a tight rein on the rules. If there is security, it answers to the corporation, not the homeowners.

This last point is critical.

In the best of cases a country's military ultimately works for the citizens. In the case of a secure gated community the security force works for the corporation NOT the homeowners.

Citizen Joe said...

On a somewhat different topic...
How much monitoring would be done? I would imagine an almost Big Brother sort of environment. You've got to constantly monitor all kinds of variables for basic safety. When you get into ballast stabilized spin-grav, you might even need to slap tracers on all the occupants.

Thucydides said...

If the homeowners are the owners or shareholders, then the security and other services do indeed work for the homeowners.

How involved the homeowners are or choose to be is the critical question. If the homeowners are content to allow an absentee landlord to set the rules and conditions, then we have a company town in fact if not in name.

If the homeowners are active participants in the running of the enterprise, then we have a republic or parliamentary democracy.

Be an active homeowner

Rick said...

The dominant political institution in space, even more than in postindustrial countries on Earth, is bureaucracy. The quasi military command structure we're discussing is fundamentally a bureaucratic structure.

Bureaucracy has a bad name, at least in Anglosphere culture, but it is the steam engine of social software, a remarkably powerful way to organize human effort. In some cases bureaucracies can compete in a market, but actual space operations are inherently very bureaucratic. ('RTFM' reflects bureaucratic reasoning.)

So governance is really a question of who, if anyone, can step in and overrule the normally governing station bureaucracy. If the station has drifted into autonomy it is not a given that anyone can, and then in effect you have The Most Serene Station. And so long as the Signoria runs things well, it might hardly occur to the general population of the station to question their lack of say.

If some form of democracy takes hold, it would most likely be for one of two related reasons. Either there's an internal crisis, most likely a labor issue, that forces an elected super-authority. Or in order to secure its external autonomy the station authority appeals to the stationers, and makes strategic concessions to win their active support.

These two mechanisms basically amount to blackmail and bribery, respectively.

Anonymous said...

On monitoring: I'd think that on a quasi-republic type staton/colony that only the public and sensitive/dangerous areas would have cameras, thermal sensors, microphones, pressure, and toxic detector; other areas would have enviornmental sensors and fire/pressure sensors. People would be tracked the same way that any other object would...by pressure sensors and an array of 'wobble' sensors; well, most people...some people would be tracked with worn or implanted sensors because of a lack of trust of that person by the powers-that-be.

I'm not sure that ANY form of government will survive intact after only a couple of years in space...mutated by the enviornment it finds itself in.

I still don't see that (within reason and structured correctly), authoritarian and democratic institutions could co-exist...so long as the things that will kill you are directly controled by people who work in one of the authoritorian institutions...who, in turn, could be controlled by the democratic institutions.

Ferrell

Thucydides said...

One potential reason for libertarianism to take root in a station/colony setup is the limited amount of human resources available.

Consider that in Ontario, a small business owner is estimated to need an average of 30 hr/month just to deal with the various bureaucracies that affect his business. In a space environment, that 30 hr/month is far better spent on policing the seals around your house, keeping your household algae pond in working order, doing your low gravity exercises etc. Any authority which tries to steal your time and effort will receive a resounding rebuff, especially if the people on the station see or feel this intrudes on the all important life support efforts. Bureaucrats who can't demonstrate a concrete and immediate value of their presence will be treated as parasites and swiftly diverted into scrubbing the main algae ponds or some other "useful" occupation that does have real and immediate value.

I also question how people will react to 24/7 monitoring. The UK may well become the test case, politicians there have spent decades using "1984" as a "how to" manual, and it is perhaps the most heavily monitored civilization on Earth; yet citizens have come to realize the CCTV cameras, intrusive laws and regulations and overweening State power has affected their lives in a negative rather than positive manner (intrusive policing of property regulations rather than reducing the rising tide of violent crime for example). Their response is perhaps not very positive, real Fascist parties like the BNP now have gained a solid foothold with the electorate.

This provides the potential counterargument; the citizens can vote to oust bureaucrats and suggest they go work for the life support guy (or go home), the libertarian solution; or they could drag the miscreants out of their office and haul them down to the hydroponic farms or airlocks, using force and coercion to achieve the same ends; the authoritarian solution.

Which way this thought experiment will go depends on a large extent on the underlying cultural values. An "Anglosphere" station (and especially an American one) will have a cultural bias towards Rule of Law. Before a flame war breaks out over that one; vigilantism occurred in medieval Britain and the Wild West mostly because there was no effective law enforcement mechanism. If the Sheriff of Nottingham is a corrupt tax collector, or Marshal Stockburn and his Regulators supply law and order to the highest bidder, then the only recourse may well be to go outlaw or become a vigilante for your own protection.

So long as the various protective services and courts act as neutral arbitrators, then all citizens can feel safe and secure in their dealings. If they are seen as corrupt or biased, then citizens have less and less safety and security, and drift towards closed circles of those they trust for protection (tribalism).

Jean Remy said...

"I also question how people will react to 24/7 monitoring. The UK may well become the test case, politicians there have spent decades using "1984" as a "how to" manual, and it is perhaps the most heavily monitored civilization on Earth; yet citizens have come to realize the CCTV cameras, intrusive laws and regulations and overweening State power has affected their lives in a negative rather than positive manner (intrusive policing of property regulations rather than reducing the rising tide of violent crime for example). Their response is perhaps not very positive, real Fascist parties like the BNP now have gained a solid foothold with the electorate."

Unfortunately the resurgence of extreme right movements cannot be simplified to a single factor like this one.

Take France. It is overall one of the most liberal nations in Europe, CCTVs are nearly unimaginable. It has a long history of socialist governments and even a pretty strong homegrown communist party, of all things, something unimaginable in the US. Leftist workers Unions are political powers in and of themselves. Communist Union leader Krazuki wield the kind of political clout Jiffy Hoffa could only dream of. The French take the Republique very seriously. There are more political parties in France than you can shake a stick out. A common American jokes is that if you have 3 Frenchmen in a room you have 3 political parties. Because of this Presidential elections take place in two rounds, the first to eliminate anyone who doesn't have a genuine chance. Only two candidates are left for this second round. Generally those have been the Parti Socialist and either the RPR or UDF (before they merged) rightist parties.

In the 2002 elections, the remianing candidates in the second turn were Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen. Chirac was a member of the rightist RPR, Le Pen is the leader of the unabashedly racist, extreme-rightist neo-nazi Front National. Even heavily left-slanted newspapers screamed NO, and the leader of the communist party hinted (without going so far as to say it) that its constituents HAD to vote for Chirac. Chirac's victory was ensured, yes, but for an openly racist neo-nazi to have reach 2nd turn in the Presidentielle was a wake-up call of frightening proportions.

Republics have fallen before. They have been replaced by totalitarian governments, and what have the people done?

They cheered.

They cheered when Caesar overthrew the corrupt Roman Republic and opened the granaries. The cheered when Napoleon seized control and toppled the First Republic (though it had stopped being a democracy long before). Let's not fool ourselves into thinking Democratic rule is a given, or unassailable. The US even brushed with it not too long ago, accepting restrictions on civil liberties to "feel safe". Democracy is a system that works best when threat is low, but it feels unsafe, and when danger peeks the people rush to the "safety" of a totalitarian regime. I don't think Democracy IN SPACE is a given or even a likely outcome, especially in the closed (and dangerous) environment of a fragile tin can in the middle of absolutely nothing.

Libertarianism, with or without capital letters, is not a natural inclination for people who feel at risk. They are far more likely to surrender authority in exchange for perceived safety.

If you believe that history has taught us different, Santayana wants to have a word with you.

Thucydides said...

Just a pet peeve of mine, but Socialist, Fascist, Communist etc. parties and movements are all parties of the Left, not the Right.

Maybe we need to follow the lead of physics and use more dimentions to describe things:

http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,23744.msg128824.html#msg128824

Jean Remy said...

the hemicircular political continuum is really a complete circle, with the extremes joining back onto themselves. Like good neighbors they abhor each other but while their extreme take on policy share similarities they share enough dissimilarities that I don't call *either* of them leftists or rightists. They are however closer ideologically to their respective "sides" maybe not in terms of policy, but in terms of the reasons for the policy. However, bundling them with their moderate counterparts is rather insulting to both.

On the flip side, allowing for the existence of such extreme opinions *is* a matter of democracy. Their opinions might be distasteful to a majority, but they should be allowed the freedom to feel this way. There should not be limits on political inclusion, and the 2002 french elections did prove that when push came to shove, a more reasonable stance was adopted. Le Pen could simply *not* have won the election. The fact that he reached second term is not really a proof of France's turn to the extreme right (or left or middle or up or sideways into the eleventh dimension) but because the electorate is so evenly spread across all sides.

Rick said...

Here is where political theory interacts with technology:

estimated to need an average of 30 hr/month just to deal with the various bureaucracies that affect his business. In a space environment, that 30 hr/month is far better spent on policing the seals around your house, keeping your household algae pond in working order

In anything much larger than a household sized hab, it will be local bureaucrats, AKA the crew, who are doing the seal checks and running the life support system.

Some fairly inherent technical factors favor larger habs. Blow a seal in a small cabin and the air may be gone before you have a chance to take emergency action. A larger hab takes longer to decompress, and has internal compartments, etc. Generally you can build more redundancy and robustness into larger structures.

Spin favors fairly big structures, and so do considerations like shielding. Long term life support, we don't know, but probably a big rich ecosystem will be more stable and easier to maintain than small algae tanks.

At some point these things hit diminishing returns, and I am skeptical of megastructures, but I'll guess that midfuture habs will typically have hundreds to thousands of residents. I don't really see how anything so big, complex, closely integrated, and to sum it up so ship-like can be run overall other than on bureaucratic lines.

Anonymous said...

From Mr. Blue:

The inner libertatian in me was hoping that bureaucracy might be minimized in a space station. After all, space and resources are limited.
But there's the paperwork. Necessary paperwork. Documentation of repairs. Carefully weighed cargo manifest. Life support logs.
And inspectors for these things. It's probably a good idea to make sure "Thumbs" Menchikov didn't just slap a field patch on that breech.

Of course the more ad-hoc, 'a group of docked ships and a hab' stations probably won't have this level of bureaucracy. Nor will they be particularly safe places to live. But then again, neither is a shanty town near a third world gold rush. One takes their chances.

But back to the other hab. Big 'L' libertarianism as we know it may not exist in space, but there will probably be a strong bias against Non-Producers. Again, space and resources are limited. So, there won't be a much of a welfare system. The un-employed will either be evicted or encouraged to sell and move. The physically disabled will likely be re-trained as 'desk jockeys'. And the elderly would be encouraged to either work part time or volunteer type community work.
Thus this attitude of 'no freeloaders' would put pressure on the governing bureaucracy to keep on site government as low as possible. Most emergency services would be the job of part time 'volunteer' departments (firefighting, ems, ect), with everyone trained in damage control, basic firefighting, and first aid).
But will that be enough to overcome Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy? Only time will tell.

Byron said...

TANSTAAFL.
In case of space colonies, I have to agree that non-production will be seen as a problem, likely leading to a non-welfare state, as any other option is simply untenable. This is because the amount of work required to live is so much larger, meaning that the average worker has fewer productive hours. At a guess, retirement will likely be more of a part-time thing, as was noticed. I don't believe that euthanasia will be common, however. Elderly people will not be shipped to space habs, unless the hab in question is a retirement home. (I don't think that will happen, however. G-forces are too high on launch.) If you have an elderly person in a normal hab, they will have lived there a long time, and likely be respected by the community. They'll probably be expected to work as much as possible, but after a lot of productive years, no one will complain if they can't. I can see a system with the same idea behind it as social security, but with a work as much as you can provision.
That might be a problem, though. If the initial crew/settlers are all in their 30s when they come up, you're going to have a lot of retirees all of a sudden. Also, I don't expect life-extending medical care to be as common. While they won't kill the non-productive, they won't go to extreme lengths to keep them alive.
The same can be said of the disabled.

As to government, I still think that there will be two separate branches, one charged with infrastructure and one with the political running of the station. The infrastructure branch is not concerned with anything that doesn't affect the station directly, and probably has limited enforcement powers, which rest in the hands of the political government.

Anonymous said...

Byron said:
"If you have an elderly person in a normal hab, they will have lived there a long time, and likely be respected by the community. They'll probably be expected to work as much as possible, but after a lot of productive years, no one will complain if they can't. I can see a system with the same idea behind it as social security, but with a work as much as you can provision."

Elderly hab-dwellers may be expected to comment on social/economic/cultural/legal/political/whatever issues...and the rest of the colony expceted to follow their lead, simply through the force of tradition.

Whatever form of government evolves on each of our hypothedical space colonies, you can always put them into two extremes: good/happy/nice to live in and bad/sad/hard to live in; with several others falling in-between the various categories.

Ferrell

Thucydides said...

In anything much larger than a household sized hab, it will be local bureaucrats, AKA the crew, who are doing the seal checks and running the life support system.

At the macro level, yes. However, there will be a lot of intermediate systems running inside the hab, for lots of different reasons. You may see something like the O'Kelly-Davis farm commune on Heinlein’s Luna, where the inhabitants are running a very closed farm economy with lots of local recycling in order to reduce the amount of taxes and fees paid to the authority. Less extreme would be people raising their own gardens or fish ponds for fun or profit (growing rare herbs and spices, perhaps), but who are making a net contribution to the ecosystem with their plants and animals. Just like we (should) insulate and weatherstrip our own homes here on Earth, people in the colony environment probably should ensure their house can act as a temporary shelter or lifeboat in the event something does go wrong.

Some fairly inherent technical factors favor larger habs. Blow a seal in a small cabin and the air may be gone before you have a chance to take emergency action. A larger hab takes longer to decompress, and has internal compartments, etc. Generally you can build more redundancy and robustness into larger structures.

Spin favors fairly big structures, and so do considerations like shielding. Long term life support, we don't know, but probably a big rich ecosystem will be more stable and easier to maintain than small algae tanks.

Which is really the argument I am making. Lots of little interrelated systems operating together provide the rich ecosystem and massive redundancy needed for long term survival. Point failure modes are diminished (but sadly, never eliminated) and many new branching pathways exist to follow if conditions change.

I don't really see how anything so big, complex, closely integrated, and to sum it up so ship-like can be run overall other than on bureaucratic lines.

The Hayek “Local Knowledge Problem” defeats large bureaucracies and other overly large organizations (does the Pope really know what priests are doing in all the parish churches?), so while there are niches for bureaucracies (the people calculating the mass allowances at the port authority), they “should” be strictly limited in size and influence. Suggesting that massive internet connectivity inside the colony or teams of AI’s would be able to do the job runs into the other elements of the Local Knowledge problem; time, attention and bandwidth. There is only a finite amount of time, and even the fastest computers would eventually be overwhelmed by the flood of data from the geometric progression of linkages and second, third etc. order effects. If all available bandwidth is tied up doing this, then there is nothing else which can be done; the system grinds to a halt. (Evil people might suggest this is happening to the modern welfare state). So my conclusion (FWIW) is while central planning might be needed to finance and build the initial colony structure, freedom will flow from the bottom up simply to allow for survival.

Rick said...

Pournelle's 'iron law' just sounds like timeless line versus staff bitching. To the people who fly space liners, top management is a bunch of groundhogs with no understanding of practical space operations, and don't even get them started on the marketing and finance jerks.

A 'producerist' bias among space dwellers would be unsurprising, but I can think of a couple of complicating factors. To have a true permanent society (i.e. including children and the old), the cost has to come down to a manageable level. Otherwise space remains a place people go, not where they live.

More subtly, as on Earth the political culture of a research station may be very different from that of a mining base. The mining base is a classic producerist environment - most jobs have a pretty direct connection to keeping the ore moving.

But a research station is full of people whose contribution is much harder to measure, and in fact they are the dominant social stratum, the obvious producer types being in fact essentially support staff.

In a big, socially complex station, especially one like a transport nexus where there is a lot of coming and going, a certain number of people will learn to game the system, including freeloaders abusing Travellers' Aid. No doubt their presence will periodically cause demands to Do Something, and station administrators will bundle a few onto departing transports. But they are really no big factor in industrialized countries on Earth, and won't be much of one in space, either, given a space tech capable of supporting full communities at all.

Anonymous said...

From Mr. Blue:

Heh, human society is always complicated. And when do people ever allow facts to get in the way of a perfectly good prejudice? It's a great issue for demogogery, for both tyrants and democrats. So expect lots of popular agitation in that direction, and lots of political lip service about reducing the non-productive sectors, but little done.
You know, politics! I also imagine that campaign commericals there will have canidates shaking hands while wearing spacesuits instead of the ubiquitious blue oxford shirt. You know, to appear as 'a working man of the people'.
But I'm pretty sure that producerist bias will be there- especally if resources are limited or rationed. Human nature is to resent those gorram bums lazing around and eating up the food of good working people.

Rick said...

A point Ferrell made is relevant here - slack tends to be cut for locals. It is always those other shiftless people who are a problem. So the issue might hardly arise in the archetypal mining station. A different story in a transport nexus with a varied and fluid population.

Large stations with lots of internal complexity have plenty of scope for internal market relations of various sorts, but to the extent that the station is a spacecraft it has to be operated like one, on essentially bureaucratic lines.

But there's the paperwork. Necessary paperwork. Documentation of repairs. Carefully weighed cargo manifest. Life support logs.
And inspectors for these things. It's probably a good idea to make sure "Thumbs" Menchikov didn't just slap a field patch on that breech.


I think this will be a fairly pervasive feature of life in space, at least this side of a Really High techlevel.

Anonymous said...

From Mr. Blue:

Ah, big cities and small towns.

Small towns being the more isolated habs with a small population. Everybody knows everybody, and what everybody is doing. Very little law enforcement, but a whole lot of peer pressure.

Then there's the big cities- the really big habs, the transport nexus. There one can find both ritzy upscale neighborhoods with great dining and low rent, short term anonymous areas with lots of flop houses, shady taverns, pawn shops, and the like. This is where you can find the Mos Eisley area- ship captains willing to smuggle a little contraband for the right fee. And other types of neighborhoods in between- maybe even a suburban area or two if the hab is big enough.

Lots of story potential there...

Rick said...

Yep. The mining camp trope has deep roots, but my guess is that mining stations will be like offshore oil rigs, pretty boring except when they get way too exciting. The regular flow of action will be where people are coming and going.

I did not get into the whole '3 Gen' rule here, because it is a discussion in itself. But I think slums in space are very self limiting. This is a place where the bureaucratic functionality of the station has to assert itself. You just can't have whole sections in yellow tagged status.

The shadow side is a somewhat different matter, and any big urban station will have some. If you are allowing some degree of internal 'market' latitude, and there are good reasons to do so, a shadow side will grow up. Good supply officers depend on it.

If the lounge with the best pilots is seedy, it is because that's the desired ambience. Count on it, the lady who runs the place keeps it well above code. She can afford it, and it keeps everyone happy all around, including the administrators who have this booth reserved on Friday evenings.

Anonymous said...

Casablanca in space! Yes, and the upstart newcomer inforcer who comes in to 'clean up' the seedy areas will wind up mysteriously floating just outside the wrong side of an airlock...or sent home in disqrace.

Ferrell

Rick said...

Note that Rick's in Casablanca may be a dive, but it is no dump, and the local police chief is a regular. Technical details aside, as good an image of the shadow side as any!

VonMalcolm said...

Citizen Joe touched on Big Brother: I was curious on Big Brother as it pertained to relationships and sex. The space stations that have been discussed here allude to long term habitation, likely generational. Entertainment, I imagine, could potentially be a serious problem: How far away from the reality of living in a sardine can can virtual reality take you? How close would everyone on the station be to be going batnuts?

That being said, I imagine there would be temptations aplenty during potentially boring off times. What kind of dangers could these potential dalliances pose and what, if any, regulations would be imposed on the relationships of a station's denizens: There was a reason (good or not I am not sure) why females hadn't been allowed to serve on submarines until recently: imagine Elin chasing after Tiger with a driver toward the shuttle bay! Would marriage become an autocratic institution in space?

Anonymous said...

VonMalcolm said: "That being said, I imagine there would be temptations aplenty during potentially boring off times. What kind of dangers could these potential dalliances pose and what, if any, regulations would be imposed on the relationships of a station's denizens: There was a reason (good or not I am not sure) why females hadn't been allowed to serve on submarines until recently: imagine Elin chasing after Tiger with a driver toward the shuttle bay! Would marriage become an autocratic institution in space?"

One: the reasons for not allowing females on submarines until recently was a little chavinism mixed with the fact that plumbing and privaticy are major concerns in submarine design!
Two: I believe that marrage counciling would be manditory on any spacecraft where missions lasted more than a week. A (very) well equiped gym, game-deck, and/or rant-room would also be good to have.

Ferrell

Damien Sullivan said...

producerist bias: likely early on, in the base or company town stage.
OTOH in the mature, paid-down phase of a station with permanent residents... I wonder. Power comes in from solar panels, nice and steady. Intensive agriculture provides food, and that or redundant machines clean the air. It's all very capital intensive. You'll want lots of inspections and monitoring -- though much of that can be automated -- but there may not be much that needs to be done for production. Expectations on people working might be a lot more part-time: put in a few hours watching the screens, or checking that on-the-spot readings match computer monitors, weed the gardens and pick your food.

One regulation y'all didn't bring up: population. Having sex and getting married is one thing, having kids in a measurably finite carrying capacity is another.

"weird to see open flame": Clarke's Imperial Earth. Duncan was from Titan, but yeah, closed environment to open, big shock.

Rick said...

I'm inclined to agree that 'producerism' won't be a major issue, outside perhaps of mining bases, because so much human activity in space will be 'tertiary' - scientists, administrators, and such, whose productivity is not necessarily obvious or easily measured.

Anonymous said...

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