Radio technology, as well as chemical technology and better armour doctrine, had quite a bit to do with it.
For Traveller battlefield mercs, this is actually useful information. Mercenaries are expensive, so they need to put all their punch, their impact, right up front as soon as possible.
But this also means that such mercenaries must avoid being out-waited, delayed, tripped-up, bogged down, and evaded by smart opposition forces until they run out of juice. If they can’t land the killing blow before the juice (money/gas/reinforcements/repair & resupply) runs out, they’re gone.
High-intensity/high-impact/fast tempo warfare ain’t cheap.
Miles Negrete, former Rifleman, Corporal at U.S. Marine Corps (2012-2016)
Alex Mann wrote a good answer, but I want to focus on something specific that the Germans got more right than anyone else.
The Germans insisted on putting radios in every tank they could afford to. They showered the infantry with them. And it’s not hard to understand why.
Hitler, in WWI, was a runner, which means he was well aware how crucial fast and secure communication was on the modern battlefield. The biggest reason why WWI became such a deadly affair was not only due to advanced weapons, but also stalled communication equipment. With no radios and field telephones that would fail at the slightest problem, commanders needed runners, a “technology” that goes back to the literal dawn of civilization. With such slow communication, a unit could take an enemy trench, but by the time command could gather enough resources to exploit it, the enemy already counterattacked and retook it, meaning the entire effort was wasted.
With radios that problem was almost eliminated, and commanders could respond almost instantly to changes on the battlefield, making it look to French and British commanders that entire formations would seem to just teleport across the map because they were relying on older methods of communication that were much slower. It’s why I say that the Historical Tank community is wrong when they say that French Tanks early in the war were better than their German counterparts; French tanks didn’t have radios, except maybe the company commander, and thus they couldn’t communicate effectively, which cost them dearly when it came time to actually fight.
The Germans further upped their comm game with ENIGMA, enabling them to communicate without fear of being overheard(one of the reasons the French didn’t put radios in many of their tanks).
Later in the war the Allies got wise to this and started showering their own troops with radios, which is one of the reasons the Germans early war advantage was drastically reduced.
Yes, it’s rather basic and elementary information 3,500 years in the future. But you’d be surprised how much warfare is based on “who makes the least idiotic mistakes”. If nothing else, at least remember just how important communication is!
Hitler did — he was a trench runner, after all — and that fact, coupled with that newfangled radio technology, enabled a massive level of battlefield success. For a time, until the opposition caught up.
I can imagine a similar deal with the Japanese and their aircraft carrier groups. But for them, the happy times lasted for six months, not two-three years. Picking a tech-based fight against a tech-based powerhouse is an unwise decision.
First Lesson: one new, complex, nifty technological leap can have fantastic results for the short term. But you’d better have more than that, if you’re in an attritional fight.
Even the US — with a vastly superior technological and economic standing against the Taliban (…and the Vietcong…), even at the end of the conflict — simply ran out of time. After two decades of fighting (…or one decade…), waiting for the client government to grow strong and stand on its own two feet.
Note that in both cases, the enemy had somewhere safe to run and resupply: Pakistan and North Korea/China, respectively.
Second Lesson: a safe zone can nullify a whole ton of advantages. (Bonus points if the safe zone is a huge and wealthy continent, like North America during World War II.)
So, could the PCs with one (or a few) starships/aerospace craft and maybe a few hundred TL 12 troops create a safe zone, all by themselves? It depends on the money and resupply, but maybe…
Third Lesson: the enemy is going to learn. Win before the lessons you taught him start showing up on the battlefield.
Unless it’s the “US vs insurgents” game, where the insurgents have a safe house. Then no worries: the US leadership — civilian and military — simply refuses to learn.
This is in contrast to the Imperials. They stick with owning the starport and forget the rest of the world, if it just isn’t worth nuking the planet properly. “Limited goals, low running costs, long-term presence/residency” is an affordable position for an empire to take.
Then again, many, many Imperial Nobles have front-line military experience, on the ground and among the stars. They merely drew different — and better — lessons than Hitler did.
This post is mainly about art: but in the footnotes, a bit about Imperial honour, and massive disasters that damage little.
“If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound?”
Traveller-types prefer to use “scout” rather than “discoverer”. Still, that’s more of a quibble than anything else.
The grav belt is small enough so you can’t even see it. Maybe TL 17/18?
I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is a dual-purpose oasis: not only to grow food, but also to transport useful microorganisms via steam dispersion.
But if the water is being so freely evaporated, something needs to be replenishing it. Maybe a clapped-out starship, partly gutted, and tasked with just hauling ice fragments into orbit, to be further broken up and distributed to the artificial oases.
There really are monsters out there, lurking in the dark.
Most of the time, it’s just a low-profile patrol or a training exercise, and nobody will worry much about some stray civilian getting an eyeful.
Sometimes, it’s not so easy.
The Navy believes that it’s the Imperium incarnate.
The bulk trader disagrees.
The mind-breaking immensity of the Cosmos is usually not a direct factor in a Traveller game.
But if you ever get lost, or are trying to find a needle in that haystack?
“Good luck, Captain.”
I doubt if the locals step out of their huge habitats very often.
When they do, it’s probably due to a major ceremony.
“The Imperium is always bigger than you think it is.”
“Oh yeah? Can you even find our 11,000 stars in a galaxy of 200,000,000,000 systems?”
“The Imperium is tiny compared to the galaxy… but it’s still far, far bigger than you think it is. To visit the 400 systems in a typical sector – not all the worlds, just the systems – you are going to need about seven and a half years. If things go very well. And that’s if you never spend a minute on-world: just jumping in, refuelling fast, and immediately jumping out. If you want to spend just one week on one world per system, you’re now talking 15 years, just like that.”
“These alien space stations always freak me out.”
“If you wanted to play it safe, you should have stayed home.”
You can’t find Grandfather’s home – that’s in a pocket universe – but you can always stumble onto another ancient (not Ancient) artifact, a heated half-orb world, far from any world.
One thing about the Solomani: they like their starships sleek and beautiful.
“But STILL not as advanced or as capable as OURS!”
…millions and millions (and millions and millions) of Imperial Patriots cry out in response.
The man makes good Star Wars art: but this is something a bit different.
More elegant… more regal…
Dare I say, more Imperial…
Well, it’s a different Imperial aesthetic, for a different Empire. Less brutal/utilitarian/fascist, more romantic/artistic/exalted.
Less fear, more hope.
Also: as shown, the city looks to be the starport/residence/Imperial showcase of a local Noble, structured to fit the environment. But if this is post-virus, the gleaming city can be a deathtrap, with all the robots and anti-life AI.
If the time is long past the Imperial Era — where the robots will have run down, the spares run out, and entropy eats at the programs — I can see a well-spoken, economically- and militarily-skilled dreamer catch a glimpse of what once was, and what he will bring about again.
The Dark Fleet arrives.
This is typically a bad sign.
But the PCs won’t know for sure, until they send a signal and say “Hi there!”
“Ah yes, the alternate-universe Solomani.”
“Is this a good thing or a bad thing?”
“We’re sure to find out, and soon!”
Or, it could just as easily be a splinter group of the mainline Solomani Party.
If you want a more pro-Imperial group, replace the top star with the Imperial Sunburst. And expect the forces of the mainstream Party to make crystal clear their hostility to the idea of Imperial Supremacy.
I suspect that these vessels are built in-system: it’s just too expensive to construct a jump-capable version.
He would make a good Householder: most family men-at-arms are tasked for defensive, protective, and bodyguard work, after all. Offensive assets1 tend to be expensive… and attract unwelcome attention from suspicious minds.
A Solomani Noble who remembers the classics may well go for the background lighting arrangement.
Distant stars shine over the cattails.
I wonder if the Solomani brought over the mosquitos?
Great beauty and great danger isn’t only the trademark of Imperial noblewomen. The Solomani always did like their tigers and panthers and lions, after all.
And mosquitos are very useful vectors, for certain forms of biowar.
Traveller was never geared to 90s’-00’s cyberpunk.
There are too many impossibilites for Traveller to be modern hard (or even mid-tier) sci-fi, from FTL travel to antigrav to a plentitude of alien life.
Oh well. That’s the kind of big canvas stories I’m interested in, so Traveller it is.
Mars is quite hostile to life. But, even if it was a typical “tainted atmosphere” world, where only a pollutant was causing problems — not a lack of atmosphere or poisonous soils or radiation — I can still see lots of sealed cities and buildings. Even out-and-out domed cities.
“At least these big dumb objects feel, well, human.”
“Just because they are symmetrical doesn’t mean they were Solomani-designed.”
“But they thought much like we do.”
“You can’t make that kind of conclusion based on just one set of artifacts.”
“If their sense of beauty and grace is a close match to our own, I bet we’d get along just fine.”
“Like Cain and Abel? Or even Solomani and Vilani?”
Sometimes, it’s just a bad day to be a man.
But I’m fairly confident that humaniti will win the war, if not this particular engagement.
It takes time for disease and the environment to take its toll… and, in the meantime, the bullets and explosives are able to kill immediately.
But, at the end of the day, the invaders can’t breathe the air, need to be sealed from the environment, and are far from home. And armies more typically die more from disease, bad supply chains, and lethal environments than from enemy bullets and explosions.
Dangerous invaders, with basic tactical awareness… but still, not nearly as dangerous as the Aslan, who are stronger, face fewer costly environmental issues, and have access to more advanced weaponry.
Why has some moody kid been sent to an environmentally dangerous work site?
I have no idea. Most likely, something to do with Family/House obligations and far future honour codes.
It has been said that if Bush II had his two daughters join the military, the Iraqi War would have run a difference course. And the Commoners do approve when the Noble Houses *waves to House Bush* puts their own blood on the line.2
Actually, this is a rather nice depiction of an Atmosphere-D (“Dense, high”) planetary civilization, where atmospheric pressure is only safe at high altitudes. Not only breathable air, but water is necessary for human life: the locals can find ways to draw out water from the clouds — or it may well simply rain naturally.
Growing food is more difficult, but if it’s warm enough and there’s some way to generate useful soil (or use hydroponic farming: growing plants without soil, and extremely widespread in any space-based civilization), then you have what you need for basic survival: warmth, water, food, and shelter (carving it out of the mountains, or widening the natural fissures.
That gas giant is going to cause some tectonic shaking. But I suspect that the local tectonic plates are quite shattered (and maybe very soft and flexible, depending on the water situation at ground level). If so, then earthquakes are not going to be very destructive far from the immediate epicentre.2
1“Offensive assets” is where the PCs come in, of course.
“No need to purchase such expensive men and equipment. Just rent them for the task, and cut off the expense when the work is done.”
2In other words: yes, in an Imperial culture, Prince Harry would be expected to serve on the line in Afghanistan with his unit. And if he becomes a priority target for the insurgents… well, nobody lives forever. “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country lord,” in the eyes of many Imperials.
Yes, even among the Aristocracy, as they lead their units and die for their feudal lords, as surely as any Commoner. “United in death,” as many observers have noted.
The modern United Kingdom is not a feudal state, and today’s British culture is not an honour-based culture. The public expectation with the UK is that Prince Harry not die on the battle line, and so it was wise for the democratically elected British government to uphold their wishes.
In contrast, Traveller’s Imperial public and ruling class hold honour in high esteem: not as high as in Imperial Japan, but certainly higher than in the West today. And upholding honour requires sacrifice, pain, and blood: the price paid demonstrates how highly you value the prize.
The cost of a young man’s life is also different, depending on the culture. Always count the cost: if your nation can’t afford the price tag, it’s time to get the man out. If you can afford to pay the price, understand exactlywhat you are buying with that man’s blood.
Imperial Culture is not Western Culture, and the expectations on the Nobility — and the views on honour and duty, war and death, oaths and obligation — are different between us and that fictional culture.
[But… a really good case can be made that Imperial Culture is based on a de-Christianized, partly-Secularized Western Culture, deeply grounded in the two European Imperial periods, Roman and Colonial. A time when powerful men actually did keep their sacred word, by and large. But I digress.]
Note that even real-deal warrior-kings can be told to stand down, when the fire’s too hot:
There was war again between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary. And Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was armed with a new sword, thought to kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”
II Samuel 21:15-17, English Standard Version
Also see: Call Him Lord (Wikipedia). Martial civilizations don’t tolerate cowards in high positions. Traveller’s Imperium is not a martial civilization, like Rome or Sparta or pre-1945 Germany or Japan, but it does have a military-leaning ruling class…
Not only for the earthquake info, either: the story of New Madrid itself,
from the Colonial Anglo-Americans giving an oath of loyalty to Spain in return for Fat Tracks of Land,
to the huge natural disaster with only a handful of casualties,
to the interesting coincidence between the earthquakes at New Madrid and Roman/Visigoth Madrid,
all are of interest to the curious Traveller.
Note that the entire world population at 1800 was ~1 billion, and it was still possible to have a devastating, massive earthquake on land at 1811 which affected almost nobody. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was possible for even a high-tech world with a total population of maybe 50 million or less for a magnitude 7.0-7.8 earthquake to have little or no effect.
(Unless the main settlement just happened to be at the epicentre, and ground-based or undersea-based instead of air-based/antigrav-based. In that case, the colonists will definitely know of the quake. If they are prepared, they can get away with light damage: if not, the entire settlement may be wiped out.
Same for any PCs who might be visiting at just the “right” time.)
And yes, there are a few Solomani (and Solomani-culture) Nobles who like the Egyptian theme. Note that, due to the huge changes in culture, technology, religion, and history — and the 5,000 year gap in time — their vision of Ancient Egypt is going to be rather different than ours.
On the other hand…
…some things are just never going to change.
“Welcome to Imperial Egypt. Different empire, different tech, but the Nile still flows, the sands still cook, and the blood still dries fast.”
I gave a speech on that 50 years ago when I first was employed with the Foundation for Economic Education. I argued that relevant economic information comes from consumers. It moves up a chain of information (i.e. chain of command). This is the inherent nature of the capitalist system. Consumers have money. Businessmen want some of it.
I argued then, and I still argue, that the increasing centralization of senior management decision-making is the result of massive intervention by state and federal governments into the operations of the free market. More and more, corporate management resembles the bureaucratic management system that is basic to all civil government. Government has the power of the purse (subsidies) and also the power to impose negative sanctions (regulation). This forces the restructuring of free-market institutions to resemble government bureaucracies.
The process was well developed when I began giving that speech half a century ago. Now it is far advanced.
The senior executives have to surrender administrative control to those lower in the hierarchy. That was where the power should have been all along. As I said half a century ago, following Mises, who said it in 1944 (Bureaucracy): senior management’s task is to set general objectives. Here is the #1 objective: make a profit, not a loss. The rest of the structure should be based on information closer to the consumers. That was Hayek’s point in 1945 in his essay, “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” The most relevant information is closest to the consumer. It is decentralized. This is why a correct profit-seeking business should be focused on getting accurate information from those closest to the consumers.
This is what online telecommunications makes possible on a scale undreamed of in 2001. As the cost of implementing these new technologies has fallen, more of them has been demanded. This demand is coming from the bottom, not the top.
Senior management is going to resist this. Their power and their wealth have been based on a top-down system of management. Now the old system is being challenged by the new cost considerations of the telecommunications revolution. This is going to force the hands of senior managers who refuse to adjust to these new conditions. The larger the organization, and the longer the organization has been structured in terms of top-down management, the less likely that senior managers are going to make the adjustment.
The front-line salesmen are the key to corporate profits. They always were, but now they are visibly the key. They are the ones who have to go out and make the sales.
The flow of information is going to speed up. It flows from the consumer to senior management. It has been bogged down since about 1950 by middle-management. This middle-management layer is getting thinner and thinner as the cost of accurate information gets lower and lower. This thinning-out process is not going to stop. It is going to accelerate. The AI programs are going to get increasingly sophisticated.
This is why modern corporations are schizophrenic. They have to deal with the federal government, which is a top-down massive bureaucracy that has the power of coercion. At the same time, they have to pay attention to consumers, who have ever-greater choices and ever-greater access to accurate information about these choices.
The consumers are going to win this battle. The bureaucrats are not. The federal government is not.
All of this is good news for liberty.
Watching the Third Imperium die in a self-inflicted bloodbath was a nauseating affair.
In contrast, watching the real-world corporate and statist empires die is going to be far more cheering.
Where distinction and rank are achieved almost exclusively by becoming a salaried servant of the state, where to do one’s assigned duty is regarded as more laudable than to choose one’s own field of usefulness, where all pursuits that do not give a recognized place in the official hierarchy or a claim to a fixed income are regarded as inferior and even somewhat disreputable, it is too much to expect that many will long prefer freedom to security. — F. A. Hayek
Can anyone even count the billions and billions and billions of Imperial Vilani, eagerly looking forward to becoming a safe and happy cog in the machine, surrounded by his like-minded brothers, unified by the Consensus and the Traditions?
Sociology as a separate academic pursuit had its origin in the nineteenth century, beginning with the studies of Alexis de Tocqueville on American life and ending at the turn of the century with the contributions of Max Weber. Robert A. Nisbet has referred to this period as the golden age of sociology, and his book, The Sociological Tradition (1966), indicates why this should be the case. The basic themes of modern sociology were explored with insight, rigor, and creativity by those who deserve to be called the founders of the science, and contemporary scholars have generally been satisfied to refine, quantify, and expand upon the original contributions. (What we have gained in methodology has been paid for with the loss of lucidity in too many cases.) The major themes were all surveyed: alienation, mass democracy, centralization of power, revolution, secrecy, the problem of value and law, bureaucracy.
Granted, there isn’t much democracy above the planetary (maybe system-wide) scale. But, there are quite a number of democratically-run Imperial worlds. I assume that there are even a few elected planetary Nobles (Baron or Baronet), fairly well-tied to certain Rank (non-inherited) titles.
The other themes at the end of the paragraph — “alienation, mass democracy, centralization of power, revolution, secrecy, the problem of value and law, bureaucracy” — look quite interesting from an Imperial perspective.
SECURITY VS. FREEDOM
Weber saw the implications of this process which gave man greater security from nature but less and less freedom of action. In 1918 he spoke these words to students at Munich University:
The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the “disenchantment of the world.” Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations.
Men flee to the old churches, or to intimate artistic expression, or into mysticism. Weber commends this, and he warns against the faith in scientific, academic solutions to all problems. His pessimism is almost overwhelming: “Not summer’s bloom lies ahead of us, but rather a polar night of icy darkness and hardness, no matter which group may triumph now.”
Bureaucratization is upon us, Weber believed, and there is no longer any way to escape its effects. Rationalization gives us our material wealth, but it robs us of our traditional values and institutional arrangements. In this regard, Nisbet’s comment on Weber’s view of Marx is revealing:
For Marx, capitalism was characterized by the privateness of ownership of property and the separation of the population into the two groups of owners and workers. For Weber, these elements are more nearly accident than essence. Moreover, and here is where Weber differed profoundly and lastingly from the Marxists, socialism, far from being the opposite of capitalism, would be only an intensification and widening of the essential properties of capitalism. Under socialism, rationalization, bureaucracy, and mechanization would become even more dominant in human lives than they are under capitalism.
We shall see later in this essay that Weber’s analysis was marred by a fusion of two very different types of bureaucracy, thus leading him to conclude that the capitalistic bureaucracy is only a less intensive form of the socialistic form. But his point against Marx is a vital one: the mere application of proletarian revolution to the process of rationalization will do nothing to make that process more personalistic. The centralization of power involved in all socialist planning will only make things less flexible.
Compared to capitalistic nations, socialist nations are utterly cursed disaster areas.
Note that in China all the land, and all the water, and all the media, is directly owned by the Party.
“Good thing that someone else is to blame. Always.”
“And never the policies of the Party, nor the senior leadership. Ever.”
PROFIT AND RISK
Frank H. Knight’s classic study, Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit (1921), presents the most useful explanation of profit that any economist has yet produced. He has been followed in his exposition by Professor Mises. Only if we can conceive of a world in which all planning, acting men are omniscient can we imagine a world without profits and losses. Profit in such a world would equal loss—at zero. (Mises says that this world would still require an interest rate, while Knight denies it, but that is an extraneous issue for the purposes of this essay.) Profit, in this perspective, is a residual accruing to those individuals or organizations that successfully forecast the state of a market at some future point in time. The successful forecaster-planner is rewarded, since it is he who bears the risks of planning. The bearing of risk in planning is what economists call the entrepreneurial function. The term “manager” is generally used to specify the administrator of the plans handed down by the entrepreneur. In practice, the two roles may be intermingled, but for theoretical purposes it is useful to separate them.
Thus, as scientific planning techniques become more accurate, there should be a reduction of the realm of uncertainty. Forecasting techniques become more rigorous, and the very presence of a free market reduces the arbitrary elements in the economy. The scale of both profit and loss is narrowed; the reduction is proportionate to the reduction of uncertainty. Profits and losses will always be with us, simply because men are neither omniscient nor omnipotent; if they were, socialist planning techniques would be just as efficient as the free market is. That fact is the best argument against socialist planning. Profit and loss are tied in with the operation of a free market which keeps fallible human beings laboring to overcome their deficiencies. No other system works so well.
Socialists actually do assume that the bureaucracy is both omniscient and omnipotent.
The Vilani are not so delusional as to actually believe this. They just want to make sure that nothing will ever change again: no cultural change, no technological change, no political change.
“The First State should be the Final State: The Ziru Sirka.
Flawless and perfect at the beginning, adamantine and unchanging at the end.”
But the Ziru Sirka has been dead for 3,324 years (dating “now” as 1105 Imperial). And the Vilani have had to make painful change, after bitter change, after agonizing change, over and over again since the fall of the First Imperium.
Even the more reasonable Vilani dreams has been busted.1 Never mind the openly idolatrous power-delusions of the Collectivist!
We live in a world of scarcity. Men are forced to compete for the things that are scarce. They may be captains of American industry competing on a free market; they may be Soviet commissars competing in terms of a socialist structure; but they will compete if they wish to maintain their control of scarce economic goods. The question that men must ask is this: what are the success indicators by which my performance will be evaluated? If the goal is oriented toward the political, they will compete in political ways; if the goal is production in terms of a voluntary market, then they will compete economically. The political goal will place a premium on obedience to the state’s stated goals rather than the (as yet) unstated demands of a future free market. Socialism, in other words, tends to create men who obey what has been handed down to them in the past; the free market is aimed at what entrepreneurs think will be demanded in the future. The first requires obedience rather than creativity. This is socialism’s nature.
Here, it would seem, we find a likely explanation of the transformation of American industry. The statist bureaucracy demands that all subordinate branches conform to the stated goals of officialdom. It creates a demand for men who can follow. Mises makes a good point in his book, Socialism: the goal of the statist is to see the whole world inhabited only by officials. Innovative capacities are not utterly ignored, of course, but they tend to be de-emphasized if they come into conflict with other goals, such as the smooth operation of the bureaucratic structure. Clearly, any bureaucratic structure tends to favor smooth operations, but only a bureaucracy insulated from failure can afford to see this goal fully achieved.
With the advent of “cost-plus” financing—a development of wartime, centralized planning—corporate structures have learned to live in terms of competition based on stated goals. In a sense, today’s competition is increasingly the competition of the engineer: given a certain goal, how can it be produced most cheaply? Submit bids, win the contract, and then get every member of the “team” to keep his costs in line with the projected study (well, maybe not quite in line—a little extra expenditure never hurt anyone. Right?) This kind of competition is unlike the competition of the entrepreneur: what kind of product should we produce, given a future market that is not certain? This latter kind of competition involves risk, because it involves uncertainty. The more the state is the purchaser on the markets, the more this kind of risk-taking individual will find his world eroding. The demand will be for the engineer, the official, the manager, i.e., the man who can follow orders.
“Socialism, in other words, tends to create men who obey what has been handed down to them in the past; the free market is aimed at what entrepreneurs think will be demanded in the future. The first requires obedience rather than creativity. This is socialism’s nature.”
The Vilani kinda like the sound of that.
“The more the state is the purchaser on the markets, the more this kind of risk-taking individual will find his world eroding. The demand will be for the engineer, the official, the manager, i.e., the man who can follow orders.”
Society as army camp.
No wonder the ChiComs take great pride in having a ruling class dominated by engineers.
I’ll let someone else live in a top-down society run by politically-driven engineers… engineers who have a great hatred of any and all feedback that challenges their authority.
Or merely makes the bureaucracy look bad, justified or not.
The free market bureaucracy operates on an open market that permits the entrance of competitive structures. Whatever profits it makes or losses it sustains will be determined by its ability to satisfy consumer demand. Assuming that it stays within the framework of law established by the state, the only question that it must ask is whether or not its income exceeds its expenditures. The free market permits its bureaucratic structures to fail if they do not meet the needs of the buying public. Thus, the top level of any bureaucracy has a guide to the performance of the lower levels, especially with those levels connected with sales: are they producing profits or losses? Any bureaucracy must be hierarchical; the important differentiating factor is the set of guidelines used by the top level to evaluate the performance of the lower levels.
The standard of measurement in this case delegates to the lower levels considerable responsibility and therefore a more extensive flexibility. The lower levels are expected to know the conditions of supply and demand—the particular markets—far better than bureaucrats at the top level can possibly know them. Thus there is an integration of knowledge: the top level assigns the general goals—products needed, aggregate estimates of expenditures and possible profits, the prospective operation of the company as a whole—while the lower levels try to fulfill their basic responsibility, namely, to turn a profit. If they do turn a profit, they are left alone by the upper levels; if they fail, they can inform the upper levels of any corrections needed at the top, or else they can be replaced. The free market bureaucracy, in short, possesses greater flexibility than the statist form because it is subject to the possibility of failure. Its income is therefore dependent upon its success or failure on the market.
The statist bureaucracy operates under a totally different system of financing. Its expenses are met by the state. Therefore, the responsibility of the managers of this bureaucracy is to see to it that all the income received is spent only on those items budgeted in advance when the operating budget was originally drawn up and approved by the state. The statist bureaucracy has fixed budgets and is not subjected to the competition of an open market. Thus we find the top level of the hierarchy concerned with the disbursal of the appropriated funds: is the money going to the proper subordinate level; is it being spent as previously approved; is all the money accounted for on the proper forms? By the very nature of the structure, there can be very little flexibility permitted to the lower levels, and the upper levels must see that all goes according to the previously approved plan. The task of the upper level is supervisory, not in the sense of evaluating profit and loss, but supervisory in the sense of control. The premium is placed on accurate reporting of control data; the goal is total predictability. This is inherent in the very nature of the statist bureaucracy. It has to be, as Mises points out. The state wants to be certain that its appropriations are being spent as legislated.
The free market bureaucracy must find repeat customers. If those repeat customers cannot be found, the bureaucracy dies.
The statist bureaucracy does not need to worry about customers: armed and well-trained men, tied to the appropriate tax collector, will do.
The Imperial Megacorporations are basically free market… but look on the powers of the Imperium with a certain level of envy.
Especially the Vilani megacorporations.
More than a few Imperial servants — especially those of the uniformed services — like to remind the megacorp types of their proper place in Imperial society.
This is especially true for the Solomani Imperial servant/Vilani megacorporate relationship.
A friend of mine is an engineer, but one who appreciates the entrepreneur’s function. He developed a certain kind of seal while he was working with a company dealing with such mechanical parts. The seal was more efficient than the competition’s, but the competition had the market controlled. How to get the information of the new seal to the competition’s buyers? He estimated that if the top salesman with the other firm could be lured away, that man could get maximum distribution of the new seal in two years time, as compared with five if he were not hired, a saving of three years of marketing development. The man was known to be ready to change, since his own company was not going to let him climb much higher. He made $18,000 a year; he offered to come over for a 10 per cent commission, with nothing owed to him in the first year unless he succeeded in selling $200,000 worth of the parts. He was refused. Then he said he would work for a straight $20,000 plus a small commission. He was refused. He was offered $19,500. The reasoning: “No salesman working for this firm makes over $15,000 per year, and no salesman could be worth $20,000!” For the sake of $1,000, the company lost a chance to save three years of marketing development. The $500 a year became a symbol; the symbol meant more than sales. This is the mind of the statist bureaucrat. That mind is what is being produced today by our schools and our industries.
Another example is even more revealing. A certain Japanese firm was ready to “invade” America with high quality technical products which met or exceeded the best American firm’s parts at a cheaper price. The key to the success of the operation was again marketing. The parts were able to be purchased by almost any firm making machinery; there are so many of these firms that American producers believed it would take literally decades for the Japanese firm to get into the position of a threatening competitor. They sat on their hands, unconcerned. The Japanese firm decided to get the marketing devices—the salesmen—of the other firms. They did it with an occult phrase: “We pay double.” Ah, those orientals: inscrutable! The American firms began to threaten the Japanese firm with lawsuits: unfair business practices was the cry. To no avail, as it turned out.
Hayek warned us 25 years ago that in a statist economy, the quest for security would become paranoiac. Men are trained, paid, and respond in terms of a system that demands conformity and supplies security.
It is no longer independence but security which gives rank and status, the certain right to a pension more than confidence in his making good which makes a young man eligible for marriage, while insecurity becomes the dreaded state of the pariah in which those who in their youth have been refused admission to the haven of a salaried position remain for life.
“The Japanese firm decided to get the marketing devices—the salesmen—of the other firms. They did it with an occult phrase: “We pay double.” “
I like to model the Vilani on the Japanese.
Couple that with a love of quality, the pride of a craftsman, and a genuine team spirit, and the Vilani corporation can remain competitive with the Solomani “move fast and break things/live fast and die young” attitude in the business world.
(But the Vilani don’t have the top-tier PR team the Japanese have.)
Karl Jaspers once described the university’s faculty, but he described at the same time almost any bureaucratic structure that does not compete on an uncertain market. It tends to drift toward mediocrity. It avoids hiring incompetents, since that would reflect badly on the bureaucracy’s ability to screen its candidates, thus encouraging outsiders to step in and take over hiring practices. On the other hand, it tries to avoid hiring the really competent, for these types will reveal the lack of competence on the part of their colleagues. In an insulated bureaucracy, the premium is on mediocrity.
An interesting insight.
Weber was wrong. The process of rationalization, in the way he described it, cannot go on. He saw the development of all bureaucracies into the overarching socialist type. If this happens, and if the free market’s bureaucracy cannot be rediscovered and reinstituted as the foundation of our economic system, then the process will stop; it will be reversed in a cataclysm of failure. The process is not self-sustaining; rationalization can go on only so long as men seek to subdue the earth rather than each other. Convince the masses that the system is out to subdue them (rather than their neighbors), and a massive impulse will be created to destroy the system. Rationalization is simply a product of rational minds; remove the rationality and creative impulses from the system, substitute the drone who does not understand the rationalization process, and the process will stop. And that stoppage, given the degree of specialization and interdependence of today’s economy, will be costly beyond our imaginations.
Nobody will ever tally up the amount of lives and wealth lost, the destroyed potential and hopes and dreams, that is tied with the rise of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.
And the rise of National Socialist Germany, for that matter.
As for “convincing the masses that the system is out to subdue them (rather than their neighbours)”… keep an eye on the COVID-19 restrictions and power-grabs.
Failure, in short, is the inescapable concomitant of life. It is a basic human right. Remove the right to personal failure, and you dehumanize mankind; a dehumanized mankind cannot hope, as a collective entity, to do anything but fail. Hayek’s point is well taken: “Thus, the more we try to provide full security by interfering with the market system, the greater the insecurity becomes. . . .” It would seem that we are on the brink of total insecurity.
We must convince men that they are personally responsible for their actions, and with responsibility alone comes true human freedom. The right to fail, like the right to succeed, is one of mankind’s most fundamental rights.
Most of the time, sins are not crimes per se. Not even in a formally Christian State.
This is not true in Collectivist cultures: the Power of the State — and its bureaucrats — is indeed held to be absolute, total, and limitless.
That is why the Socialism fails: omnipotence and omniscience are attributes of God, and cannot be transferred to any government bureaucracy.
Or any corporate bureaucracy, for that matter.
1“Reasonable” in the Traveller context: the Zhodani, the K’kree, and the Hivers enjoy the multi-millennial cultural stasis that the Vilani dream of… and once had… but lost because they failed to detect and glass a certain low-tech/no-tech barbarian world just beyond the Imperial rimward borders.
PCs with enough decades under their belt are going to start revisiting old battlefields and flash points, again and again and again. Extra points for the long-lived/slow-aging Vilani.
Old friends and old enemies. Old victories and old defeats.
“God, I love these neverending Solomani ethno-wars.”
“Just wait till you’ve been in Corridor Sector. Eight hundred years of Imperial Authority, double-strength Imperial fleets absolutely everywhere, and the fanged wolves just beyond the border still poke and prod, looking for weakness.”
Imperials in Corridor Sector have different attitudes vis-a-vis the Vargr than, say, Imperials in Core Sector. Something for the Aristocracy to keep an eye on, perhaps.
From the comments:
M P I had a friend in Bosnian army. He left for Switzerland. Anyway, he said that all the boys in the army, regardless if they were Croats, Serbs or Bosniaks, had agreed that in case of a war, they are stealing the vehicles, taking their families and leaving Bosna. Even the soldiers don’t wanna fight over it.
kevinmsft Nobody wants to fight.. but soldier desertion is a death penalty.
Filip Cordas That what JNA recruits where saying just before they all joined their own ethnic army and started murderering everyone.
Lekhaka Ananta @Filip Cordas Yeah, this. It’s easy for people to say idealistic things like stealing the vehicle and ditching the army. You shouldn’t take that at face value. Actual social pressure for them to stay will have great influence. Fear of being caught in desertion will stop a lot of them. Having family/friends not totally going along with their plan will also deter them. It’s easier to just go with the mainstream, that’s what human nature is.
M P @Ahmad Burhan Habibi many young people are leaving Bosna for Switzerland, Sweden or other richer countries. There is not a lot of good paying job in Bosna as country is quite poor. For example, all the nearby villages from where I used to spend my summers lost more than half of their population in the last 15 years (Im eyeballing it, but it definitely feels desolate). Joining the army is one way of getting a job. I think Bosnians can even get their university payed by the army if they join. That is my understanding, some else can feel free to correct me if I missed anything..
Ahmad Burhan Habibi @M P that’s interesting… to say the least. thanks for the explanation, wish you and your fellow bosnian friends all the best for the future.
Ville Strengell @Ahmad Burhan Habibi Compulsory military service doesn’t ask your opinion. Army is mandatory for every eligible Finn from the age of 18. Civilian service is the other option for conscription in Finland. If you refuse from either, you will be punished by the law.
Lekhaka Ananta @Slippulter There’s deserters in almost every war. The important part is that there’s still some non-deserters left to carry out orders. The problem here is people seem to think their kind is special and is the first group to face this grim situation. No, it’s been like this through human history. You think young people are leaving Bosnia now for the first time? You don’t think the soldiers in the previous Yugoslav wars had the same idea? Some left. Enough remained.
M P @Lekhaka Ananta “Some left. Enough remained.” I think in case of another war this will happen again. It is very easy to pass a father’s grudge onto his son, or even nation’s grudge.
Evomene92 Every time there is a threat of war in Bosnia, the first thing I do is check when the next election is.
The largest nationalist parties are loosing influence over their respective people (mostly due to corruption), and the logical thing for the nationalistic parties to do would be to war monger and divide the people before an election.
Somebody understands how a Man of Power thinks.
Elected, Bureaucratic, Bred, Anointed: it hardly matters less, if you believe that power stands over truth.
I respect idealists: ideals change the world more than guns or money.
That’s why it’s important to promote good ideas, and bring down bad ones. The spirit leads, the flesh follows.
Even so: there is a price tag for integrity, perhaps a high price.
And no man can fight all the battles that must be fought: we are finite beings, and must choose our battles, where we can make the biggest impact.
“Count the cost first.”
** A moment of silence for all those Imperial servicemen who refused the orders of the basically evil (and stupid!) Emperor Lucan — from Admirals to Privates — and paid the price for it. **
What’s really interesting is that Lucan went out of his way to insult the Vilani, who really don’t believe in the Laws of War. That’s a lot of armed soldiers, wealthy worlds, political legitimacy, and corporate money, to be thrown away in a mindless quest for Power Now and Victory Now and My Will Be Done Now.
Compare this with the seventeen years Emperor Martin III spent to slowly, methodically, and definitely crush the Ilelish Revolt.
Winners think like winners. Losers think like losers.
Satire or sense, alas! Can Sporus feel? Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? -Alexander Pope, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot
I belong to the king. Not just because he bought me, but because I choose it. And as long as he wants me, I’ll be his, and his alone. And you know what? I do love him … how’s that for a transaction? -Mistress Nell Gwyn, The Last King
Butterfly on the Wheel is a singleplayer journaling analog game about loving a malicious Monarch to tragedy. You play the Paramour, a low-ranking noble or commoner who is chosen by the Monarch, and chooses them above all else. In this game, you will love and lose over a series of three Dispensations, each with four Scenes.
Men aren’t the only ones who love power… although the form and flavour is different for women.
“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” said Henry Kissinger. He wasn’t kidding.
(Just how many beautiful secretaries are in Washington, D.C., anyways?)
When the Monarch falls, the Paramour is in danger. You must be careful.
You’d be surprised, how vindictive the commoners can get… and how good their memory can be.
oriolopocholo Thanks for the disclaimer specifying that HAI does not support ancient totalitarian feudal systems. Really put everybody at ease
…and six light years away, orbiting a world in the Barnard’s Star system, a sad, wistful, and surprisingly human sigh was heard.
In other news: if a city can own an island chain hundreds of kilometres away, then a city can easily own an island chain a mere four parsecs away in the time of Traveller.
How did those islands come into Neo-Tokyo’s possession?
Maybe it was part of the local Noble’s possessions that the city inherited after the abdication of his entire house.
Or, said Noble decided to keep his old island holdings, after also securing control of the city.
Maybe it was payment for owed city taxes.
Maybe it was the fruits of conquest, a war prize for the city’s financial/military assistance in a corporate scuffle.
Maybe Neo-Tokyo is a sacred city in a subsector-wide religion; and the distant islands, being the birthplace of that religion’s greatest avatars, are seen to be spiritually integral to the city proper.
Raging Election Fun fact, “Hahajima to Chichijima” more or less means mom island and dad island.
Soul-Burn Next to them are also Anijima, Ototojima, Anejima, and Imotojima, which basically mean “older brother”, “younger brother”, “older sister”, and “younger sister”. A whole happy family of islands. Comment Creator “Fun fact, “Hahajima to Chichijima” more or less means mom island and dad island.” If they’re parents, where are the offspring and how do they reproduce?