Monday, October 24, 2016

The Immoral Equivalent of War Pt. 2

The most densely settled area of Zaonia was called the saddle, a fertile valley between two spurs of a mountain range. the frates River ran through the valley. The Tech Knights and ultra wealthy (the dozen or so) lived in villas on islands or on the riverbanks. The fertile banks of the river held farms. The foothills on either side of the river had hunting lodges and summer homes for the more important regular citizens. The Mayor had a hunting lodge at the foot of one hill, secluded and the scene of many a backroom deal.

It was a bitch to reach by car, unless your car flew. Jorge Pierre Guttman's car flew. The beat up aero came down precisely in front of the cabin. Jorge jumped out to hold the door for his passenger who annoyedly waved him off and hooped out on her own. She was no fragile flower.

"Well what do you think?" Jorge asked.

Ranna regarded the cabin a moment and asked, "Were there any survivors?"

Jorge bristled a little at that. He had found the cabin and persuaded the Mayor to buy and renovate it. "Sheesh, you're not here a minute and you already insult the place."

"Did I break the record?"

He showed his annoyance by holding the door for her. "Dame Morrigen," he snapped clicking his heels. She snorted.

"I'm under censure. It's just Ranna."

"Cowards," Jorge snorted.

"Expedience. I can continue managing Project Venture as a private citizen and my fall from grace will make me less of a target." the door was unlocked and she slipped past him and into the lodge. Rain began to fall.

There was a roaring blaze in the fireplace inside and two men with pistols. they both rose from their seats and motioned for Jorge to come inside with gun barrels.

"Good day to you. Ms. Morrigen We'll make this brief," the smaller man said.

"Good. Relax Jorge. No heroics. This meeting was expected," she cautioned.

"Ms. Morrigen, you have a trade embargo begun by the bankers on Inerze. they've styled your planet as a backwater run by feudal drug lords. They've threatened every ship owner they hold a mortgage on and changed the subsidized merchant ship runs. You're sitting on hundreds of tons of hemp products, timber and some luxury items," he began.

"Yes. I can speak exposition. Go on." she answered sitting down.

"... Yes. Well I represent a number of people who can move your products for you," the man continued.

"I see. You're smugglers?"

"Think of us as entrepreneurs ... "

Warships are not the only weapons in an interstellar war. Money, influence and politics can combine to make a thriving world a backwater or to destroy the promise of a new settlement if people are upsetting the status quo. Trade embargoes are one major weapon. Find a reason, or make one to place an embargo on a world and you can choke off trade if you're important enough. Your trade partners will follow your lead or face sanctions.

For that matter trade can keep high tech items rare to retard local progress and keep worlds as backwaters that can only earn revenue by gathering natural resources or agriculture and remain a ready market for your manufactured goods (no tablets please!)

Traveller among other games paints a picture of a number of worlds at different levels of technology. Some justifications were that Earth's progress in the last hundred years or so was not typical of human society and evolution and a fluke, that some societies do not seek technological progress or that conditions are so harsh survival slows progress.

It's often been said that we now have sufficient technology to automate most jobs and usher in a non-working layabout utopia. It hasn't happened because the powers that be are not big on sharing. There's no reason to assume that will change anytime soon. Many businesses in history made a fortune trading to less technological people (remember Manhattan Island?) Assuming cheap interstellar travel (and shipping) the model could be extended to entire worlds.

The homogeneous worlds empire is built for trade. A factory or office might have to junk its office computers and replace every few years if they are on a thriving progressive world. Rather than taking the loss or selling locally they could trade them to a lower tech world for full price.

If an economic system is making someone money they will attempt to preserve that economic system. People who can't make money under that system will find work arounds or starve. Smugglers are usually regarded as criminals but they may be a lifeline to a world with embargoes.