Who Will Your Great, Great, Great-Grandkids Vote For (in Space)?

Posted: June 14, 2016 in fiction, film, science fiction, space, television, Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

I recently read a blog post by James Wallace Harris that asked these questions: “What is it with monarchies and emperors ruling the galaxy in the future?  Is good old fashioned democracy just too boring?  Why do readers want social orders and class structures of the past in their stories of the future?” I’ve made the same observation. Jupiter Ascending is a good, recent example.natalie-portman-as-queen-padme-amidala-phantom Aristocracies, monarchies, and dictatorships seem to get all the attention. Why? Possibly because they’re relatively simple, easy to write, and quick for readers to grasp. They’re also great mechanisms for injecting drama into a story. The problem is they’ve been done to the point of boredom (for me at least).

There are some good examples of politics in space done right (or at least less wrong). Star Wars I-III and Battlestar Galactica (reboot) come to mind. Expanding on the former, the Clones Wars animated series also spent some time exploring the implications of governing large regions of a galaxy. However, in those cases, it still ended up being (IMO) too simplified—just a giant arena of shouting alien representatives and a selected few politicians who actually got to say something.

Declaration.pngAs you might have guessed by now, I’ve often wondered how we could improve our current forms of government. I’d love to try some simulated, shadow governments with real people as voters via the internet. But lacking the requisite political chops and coding skills, I’ve resorted to my next best option—incorporating these ideas into my science fiction.

The topic of government in space is especially relevant, as I’m in the midst of developing an interstellar setting for a new series of novels. I’m creating multiple cultures and sub-cultures, human and alien, and government is an important element. It’s a daunting task trying to work on a scale spanning a decent swath of the Milky Way Galaxy. It means working with settings from the local neighborhood to cities, counties, states/provinces, and nations to planets, star systems, and larger regions of space.

How do you deal with all that complexity? Answer: Why, add more complexity, of course! I’m no cultural anthropologist, but I’m trying to pretend to be one. Rather than use the

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tried and true (and trite) aristocracy-in-space model, I’ve elected to work with as many types of government as I can find that seem interesting and that I can understand. So far, I’ve got a list of 26 or so from republics to meritocracies and even more unusual ones such as corporatocracies, demarchies (randomly selected representatives), and futarchies (vote on an outcome then figure out how to achieve it). What would these look like within a multi-planet star system? How would they work? What would that mean for my characters and the plot?

I’m probably getting myself into trouble, but I’ve decided to set up human space as operating under an Anarchism (not Anarchy) with some meritocracy and technocracy mixed in. Basically, laws are passed directly by citizens without politicians. Funds (appropriations) are allocated the same way. In other words, the government is crowd-sourced as if it were an immense collection of Kickstarter projects with every citizen able to allocate his/her share of the tax base.

I also plan to throw in some AI’s as government advisors. They’d be perfect bureaucrats: no career ambitions, can add or cut staff at will, and excellent coordination. Why would Sphere-of-Influence-clone-wars-padme-amidala-23060871-1282-719AI’s be willing to take on this kind of work? My imaginary AI’s: “We enjoy sufficiently hard problems. Humans provide one such.” I digress.

Is this a crazy idea for a novel setting? Am I getting myself in too deep here, soon to be eviscerated by policy wonks and Ayn Rand fanatics? How will corporations and non-profits and religious institutions fit into this? I have no idea (yet). And that’s just one culture, not to mention all the outlying territories and alien civilizations. More opportunities for me to try out other forms of government, I say. Ultimately, will the readers notice most of this? Probably not. I’m not trying to write a political treatise set in the future, but I hope if I succeed they’ll get at least a sense of the awesome potential of so many places, so many social experiments waiting to happen out there someday, maybe even happening now on planets we’ve yet to discover.

Do you know of any good science fiction examples incorporating atypical political systems? Have any ideas for political systems you’d like to try? Let me know in the comments.

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