Capitalism & the Free Markets — the self-conscious version — is a Solomani invention. Vilani culture (and, to a certain extent, even agriculturally-based feudalism) is naturally statist, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his social rank/caste, as determined by the Ruling
(See both the MegaTraveller VIlani and Vargr supplement and the easier-to-find Traveller: Interstellar Wars for details.)
Even in Classic Traveller, the Vilani Megacorporations — well, three of the four — are grounded in the ‘corporate-caste’ system: and, with the institutional memory of corporate bureaucracy still strong, see competition as fundamentally illegitimate.
“It’s far more easier and cost-efficient to simply shoot competitors, or have the local or Imperial government or wealthy Noble houses drive them as illegal due to licensing and expensive regulations, or get subsidized by the government, or be the government, rather than drive them out business by competing for fickle — even (gasp!) nonconformist, deviant, and unpredictable — customer attention.
All that chaotic and disorganized Solomani nonsense about free markets and economic growth (read: Filthy Economic CHANGE) really should be banned from the Imperial public… and is banned on responsible, stable, Vilani-dominated worlds!”
The fourth Vilani megacorporation, Zirunkariish, was founded in -425 Imperial. As it is focused in insurance, banking, and investments, it could not exist during the Ziru Sirka, which was not a money economy.
Within these boundaries, the Vilani have come up with their own peculiar form of collectivism. Under the Imperial system, there is a basic standard of living to which everyone is entitled; while not lavish, it is more than adequate to support life. As in Terran society, there are rewards for hard work and success. But these rewards are usually not monetary, but directly material. Housing is handed out by one’s employer, as are food, clothing, entertainment devices, and other “perks.” The higher one is on the social ladder, the better one’s standard of living.
Of course, this concession to Human acquisitiveness has been placed within boundaries that keep it from getting out of hand. For example, the only way to get better perks or a higher standard of living is through promotion. In other words, there is no impersonal way of acquiring them – one’s superiors decide when they are deserved. In Terran society, no matter how you get the money, you can buy the goods. In the Imperium, if you’ve produced like no one else, but at the expense of others, you’re more likely to be demoted than promoted.
This is not to say that Imperial society has no money; it’s just that money exists entirely for accounting purposes. It’s associated with a person as one of several metrics used to eval- uate him, but he has no control over it. Money in Vilani space has long since evolved to become a virtual representation of production, with no other social or legal role.
You might call the Vilani economy a greatly improved and expanded form of the social credit system, as per Red China. However, the actual Chinese system is largely a way to track financial debt for most people, and not a way to actually abolish money. Only political annoyances – especially those digging into government corruption – get to discover the special features of the system.
“Centralized top-down governments think alike, be they Solomani or Vilani.”
“Just wait till you discover the mind-rapers, ruling a land where Happiness is Mandatory…”
Anyways, as Zirunkariish…
- is based on the existence of money, “a disgusting Solomani innovation!”
- was never an actual branch of the First Imperium and,
- is far younger than the three descendants of the bureaux (a mere 1,500 years old as of the Classic Traveller era, instead of 5,500 years old like the other three Vilani megacorporations),
…the respect and prestige attached to Zirunkariish in Vilani circles is notably less than that to the other three Vilani Megacorporations.
I have a suspicion that the enormous banking profits earned by the shareholders and senior management helps to ease the pain of Displeasing the Ancestors and ignoring the Ancient Traditions. Piling a few million into a Ancestral Shrine, or a few billion into a major ritual-focused Vilani Priesthood, has a way of quieting the most hide-bound Vilani traditionalists.
“There are reasons why Vland is a wealthy TL 15, and not fixed at the TL 11 level of three millennia ago, ‘as the traditions dictate.'”
“I see where you’re coming from. But back in the Quarter, a lot of the most powerful worlds are 1) Vilani or Vilani-dominated and 2) absolutely locked-in at TL 11.”
“That’s because the local Solomani cultures are technologically behind the Vilani of three millennia ago. And they are either Hindu – who think that the universe is an illusion, dismissing Einstein, claiming technological advancement is a waste of time, and astrology is a genuine science – or they are Islamic, longing to recreate the glory of a pre-spaceflight civilization, and suspicious of heretical ideas.”
“Fair enough. But at least they aren’t Secularist, who believe that random chance is a creative force (given enough billions of years), and that men can become women merely because they say so – and punish those who say otherwise!”
“Few Imperials are that foolish or delusional, to believe that their opinion and feelings actually change reality, or that complex information-rich systems magically make themselves given enough time. Most stand in the Intelligent Design category, with the struggle focused on the actual identity of the Designer.”
“You are assuming that the Designer is a person. Maybe so: but many Imperials believe that the Designer is a Life-force; or an impersonal Law or Tradition; or the First Star, the Great Mind that exploded in the Big Bang; or even (behind closed doors) a psionic energy that permeates everything. Or that we live in a computer simulation, not so far from Hindu views.”
“Fleeing the Creator, they worship the Creation. A shame.”
This also means that the ‘corporate culture’ of Zirunkariish is distinctly different from that of the other Vilani megacorporations: less traditionalist, more creative and innovative, more tolerant of deviations from Official Corporate Culture, more willing to flex the rules and try out some promising small-scale experiments.
I also believe that their Mixed Vilani ways of thinking, coupled with the profits of financial instruments which can be trusted by major corporations (“It’s Vilani, so we know it’s reliable and solid!”) was a decisive factor in making the pre-Imperial Civil War Pure Solomani-dominated Nobility into the post-Civil War Mixed Vilani Nobility.
(Actually, “Yay, Christ!”: the Solomani are far too focused on the mystical powers of their DNA, and not focused enough on the Commandments that is supposed to shape their ethics and law. But anyways…)
Naturally, I prefer the Free Market system, as I have no interest in eternal stability and a great interest in gaining more wealth. And as a historical matter, both the self-consciously free Free Market as well as the self-conscious search for technologically innovation are rooted in Christianity.
A few quick links to make my case, based on North’s economic work and discussed on my other blog:
- Successfully Fighting Poverty
- Why Free-Market Atheism is Loathed
- Earning Hatred for the Free Market
- The Free Market as a Godly Institution
I have always preferred the pre-Civil War corporate Solomani Nobility – where the Imperial Palace was a floating city, a beautiful paradise — over the post-Civil War Mixed Vilani Nobility — where the Imperial Palace was a floating armoured ball, hiding and fearful and heavily armed. Peh.
“But the Palace of Martin II was open, beautiful, graceful… and shot down during the Imperial Civil War. The Grand Palace of Arbellatra is a good deal more sturdy, and ready for anything.”
“A fearful king would be safer, hiding himself under the rocks which cannot collapse.”
“You have heard of meson weaponry, yes? And the Grand Palace can at least move – and perhaps even has jump capacity!”
“The ability of your stronghold to run away — even having tons of armour on your palace — is no assurance of protection.”
“As Emperor Strephon discovered, at the hand of his friend Archduke Dulinor.”
“There’s always a weak point: Strephon can’t be faulted for not being the all-seeing, all-knowing Lord of All. Still, he should have had a better plan for failure… something that didn’t involve the death of ten trillion of his subjects.”
“Few absolute monarchs want to plan out all the contingencies of their early death too clearly, if only to protect themselves from making those plans a reality.”
And finally: as the free market has no need of a Planning Board, staffed by the right sort, even the disaster like the Rebellion and the Virus infestation can be overcome… without waiting for permissions and plans by the Proper Authorities.
You know, those bureaucrats and nobles and experts and CEOs who have been dead for quite some time now, as of 1201 Imperial – the start date of the post-apocalyptic Traveller: The New Era milieu.