Steampunk Governance

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Steampunk Governance

Post  Lady Evelyn Grey on Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:40 am

As Mr. Tower rightly suggested, a question of this sort deserves it's own thread.

Politics is a tricky conversational topic to navigate even on an open forum such as this, but I believe we can all be rational, mature adults. Donc!

What type of governance best fits the steampunk world you identify with?

This isn't about what politics you believe in for this day and age nor are we likely to come to a consensus since there is no set definition of Steampunk. But I am interested in hearing what type of government systems would best encourage the qualities you think Steampunk should possess.

For me, Steampunk has always been more about the Neo-Victorian aesthetics than machinery. While it wouldn't be a world I would want to live in, Novaltia's governance system did seem to come closest to fostering that ideal. There is a set hierarchy of nobility, rigid laws for people to obey, and a very tightly controlled system which would ensure a steady aesthetic rather than one that evolves.


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Re: Steampunk Governance

Post  Mr. Tower on Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:31 am

To me, its a mostly economic adjustment.


I believe that my version of a steampunk country would be one were food, clothing and shelter where relatively cheap and easy to produce and technology fairly expensive and/or highly regulated.

Technology would be available, but not on a mass market consumer level. Governments and business would use it but most people would only posses one or two mechanical items. Most people would work in agriculture, construction or service industries. Technologists would be hightlysought after and well paid but there would be limited work for them. Perhaps engineers would be regulated like a cartel the way doctors are in the US, only a limited number of people would be allowed to study the craft so as to maintain high prices.

One way to think of it would be if cars where as rare as jet aircraft are now. They exist, and we see them everyday, most people can even afford to use one a few times a year and the wealthy use them daily but almost no one owns one privately and only a few very highly trained people operate them. Very few new ones are produced and usually they are kept running for decades and only replaced when they are somehow destroyed. And importantly, every one is produced to very high standards of quality.

On the individual level, most people could afford to own a pocket watch or a revolver but it would be something you would save up for and keep for your entire life.

However, this would leave room for punks, people who could not afford to buy technology and who do not wish (or where unable) to get an accredited engineering degree or position. Self taught hacker types who tinker and build machines that they could never afford to buy. They would be an eclectic, diverse group held together by their knowledge rather than socio-economic class.

Society in general however would probably stratify. With personal motorized transportation limited to the hyper rich, government and military most people would not travel very far on a regular basis and would end up living and working in the same are. The bicycle or other man powered devices would be the most common form of transportation. In fact, a bicycle would probably be the most expensive item that most people would ever own.

People in the country would tend to stay in the country and mostly work in farms, people in the city would tend to stay in their own neighborhoods. Without consumer goods to dump money and time into live theater and various entertainment arts. Although travel would be expensive it would be the only way to see far away places and many people would indulge in yearly vacations to historic or interesting places.

Because of the extremely high cost in energy and machinery all out war would be relatively rare since even a victorious country could be financially ruined by the loss of any substantial amount of military level technology.

Crime would probably by higher compared to current society. With less distractions and opportunities for advancements many people may turn to it simply for the excitement. Perhaps dueling would be legalized as a way to mitigate it.

The main advantage of society such as this would be sustainability. With machinery relatively rare and almost non existent at the consumer level the energy needs of the country (or world) would be relatively low and could be entirely provided by bio-fuels. In fact I believe that the lose of fossil fuels will eventually lead to such a civilization unless an alternative mega scale energy source can be found.

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Re: Steampunk Governance

Post  W. S. Marble on Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:23 pm

One of my books (Boilerplate Reich) proposes a governance scheme which I would consider Utopian... The constitution only has four articles, and the national strategy is nonagression. An appropriate plan for defense is in place, and trade is conducted with only those nation states that subscribe to the same level of human rights.
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Re: Steampunk Governance

Post  Mr. Tower on Sat Jan 19, 2013 5:34 am

An interesting article, and a problem that Victorian England would not have had, and possible one of the big problems that our modern world does have.


http://www.forbes.com/sites/baldwin/2013/01/18/harvard-grad-seeks-babysitting-jobs/

People with college degrees make $1 million more over their careers than people without, and they are less likely to be unemployed. So if we open college doors to everyone, the country will be better off.


So goes the defense for the grand expansion—in price and in volume—of the higher education business over the past few decades. Is it possible that the premise is just wrong? In that case the producers of education have perpetrated a fraud on the rest of us.

It’s a clever fraud, built around a subtle logical flaw called the fallacy of composition. That is the fallacy that has you thinking a phenomenon true for any one person or thing can be simultaneously true for every person or thing. The classic illustration of the fallacy goes like this: One person can see better at the ballgame by standing up, so if everybody in the stadium stands up they will all see better.

If one person can better his lot in life by getting a B.A., it does not follow that the economy will be stronger when everyone has a B.A. To see what’s going on, imagine that the country’s 130 million jobs are ranked by the extent to which they demand verbal and numerical skills. At the top, math professor; at the bottom, janitor.

Average pay in the top half is higher than average pay in the bottom half. There is, of course, great variation within each group: The more academic one has adjunct professorships paying $15,000 and the less academic one has baseball jobs at $15 million. But averages are what matter here.

Now consider another feature of American life, that employers usually don’t give ability tests to their applicants. Either they have lawyers telling them they can’t or they are just squeamish. If they want to select for intellectual skills they must resort to a proxy measure. A degree serves that purpose. If half the people in the work force have a bachelor’s degree and half don’t, the half with the degree are going to wind up with most of the jobs in the upper half of our list.

College graduation is an imperfect measure of ability. Some brilliant entrepreneurs struggle with school because of dyslexia. Some clunkers from well-connected families wind up with Ivy League credentials and get to be president of something. But, absent a better sorting mechanism, the degree will influence who gets ahead.

This credentialing business can go on even in the absence of any subject matter connection between the school course and the job. A first in classics at Oxford or Cambridge used to be the entry ticket to a plum job in the British foreign service, not because fluency in Latin would come in handy, but because it was an indicator of intelligence.

In a country where half the population goes to college, does it pay for one person to borrow money and struggle to get a degree? Maybe. It might get him out of the car wash and into an accounts receivable job. It does not follow, however, that if everyone goes to college then everyone will wind up with a top-half job.

Politicians declare that in a land of opportunity, everyone should go to college. The egalitarianism behind this notion is hard to fault. After all, there is going to be some unfairness in a system that has only half the population getting a four-year degree. There will be rich kids who land legacy slots at fancy colleges, poor kids who fall behind while attending rotten elementary schools.


But an everyone-goes system is hugely wasteful. Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist who helps run the Center for College Affordability & Productivity, cites this interesting statistic: 115,000 janitor jobs in the U.S. are held by people with bachelor’s degrees. He says economic output would be higher if the federal government didn’t take quite so many 18- to 22-year-olds out of the workforce and send them off to college on Pell grants.

Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, thinks that the four-year bachelor’s degree has turned into something of a farce. Many of the students attending college shouldn’t be there, he has written. Many of the courses do nothing to make the student more valuable to an employer. Why not junk the B.A. and replace it with a system of certification (in programming skills, for example)? The Educational Testing Service (the SAT outfit) could make a nice business of this.

Murray is controversial because he takes the intellectual stratification of our society as a given. This sort of thinking conflicts with politicians’ egalitarian pronouncements. But egalitarianism that doesn’t deliver job skills doesn’t make lives better.

If thinkers like Vedder and Murray had more sway, some of the kids struggling with algebra in high school would be studying welding or car mechanics instead, and many of the ones whiling away four years on liberal arts courses would be studying nursing or software instead.

For company in misery, unemployed liberal arts grads can take note that in this unforgiving economy a sheepskin from even an elite school doesn’t guarantee career success. Someone recently forwarded to me an ad that was posted on the electronic bulletin board for parents at a prestigious private school in Manhattan. Here it is, with names and some other details omitted:

My sister recommended a close friend and former classmate at Harvard who is looking for babysitting jobs in the NYC area. He studied psychology and graduated in 2011, and is currently working part-time as an intern in Midtown. He is a caring, gentle guy and is absolutely great with children.

If he didn’t get a scholarship the poor fellow must have spent $190,000 on that Harvard degree.
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Re: Steampunk Governance

Post  Mr. Tower on Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:26 pm

Moved to this thread for the sake of clarity.

Shame...
Dr. Hax Yesterday at 20:12

Granted I have put much thought into creating a steampunk nation, and honestly it would be more like the old world then you would think. People today think that old realms are not valid or even something to consider, but there is a reason why cobblestone roads and Victorian houses are still standing today, compared to many buildings made during the 1990's that are condemned and asphalt roads that they created last year that are surpassed in quality by dirt roads... However for an economic model I put much thought into, this due to the fact my family and mother have been studying economics for quite some time, granted that route eventually leads into politics no matter how hard you try to separate them. One system that this current society lacks that the old one had was valid apprenticeships. Back then you learned a skill, a trade, today with modern day gobalism and outsourcing all of this has died, therefore you are left with a system that can not support itself! Jobless recovery? An oxymoron, as much as people hate the ideas of the factories and such, we need them. There is something rather pathetic about our whole societal ordeal... Whoa I got side tracked.

Umm yes the economic system. Basically what I would set up for an economic system is one that is really encourages well trades, Small businesses and having a currency backed up by a gold standard would be a default must, no central banks, and heavily regulated policies on governmental spending, a more primitive conservative government but honestly it ties into the whole simpler older setup. I am not one of those steampunks who look upon the old world with rose tinted glasses. I know the victorian era wasn't as shiny and happy as some of the steampunk community makes it out to be. There was a discussion at one point about how the literally movement seemed to be appraising an imperialistic state. I don't know I've never found any steampunk literature, but it is worth mentioning. But looking back on how it operated and functioned it worked out pretty well. Yes factories enslaved the irish, yes racism existed, but honestly every time has its issues. But what the victorian era has over us is a common sense to it. There's a reason why so much invention sprung up during that time period, why so many businesses started factories bloomed. I'm probably making no sense at all here. All I am trying to say here is I look upon the old world with almost a sense of envy. Yes they didn't have electricity fully implemented, yes there were no cars, yes they didn't have full plumbing yet, but what they did have was a sense of pride and honour, a mindset that seemed to die out some time after ww2. Our society lost it's soul in my honest opinion. Gah I keep on getting side tracked!
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Re: Steampunk Governance

Post  Lady Evelyn Grey on Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:46 am

Good and interesting points from both of you! They've really helped clarify an idea that I've been struggling with for a while. We'll see if I can put it into words at all....

A disclaimer first of all: I went to a very unconventional undergrad (Great Books Program) and am now in an unconventional graduate degree (Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine). Both schools are very self selecting for a small portion of the population. However I did have friends and family who went to conventional colleges and listened to their stories.

I agree with the article: too many people are in college who shouldn't be. But we lack a valid alternate system unless you are willing to take great social and fiscal risks as Mr. Tower has. I listen to my friends who went through college to get degrees not because they were passionate about the subject matter, but because if they didn't have a degree, they absolutely, positively couldn't get a job anywhere and expect to live a normal life with all the perks and benefits of modern American life. Because there isn't an alternative. We don't, as Dr. Hax mentioned, have a system of apprenticeship for crafters. We don't even have an economic system for those jobs anymore- not with the current modern world. We don't even have an appropriate social or media model of mechanics, welders, construction workers, etc. At least none in circles that I travel. So if you want to gain any degree of independence and success in this world, you need, well, a degree.

But again, some people aren't made for college. I think everyone should have the chance to improve the mind and deepen our understanding through study- but that is not the point of colleges. Rather than focus on developing the soul, they focus on getting the jobs for the most powerful alumni.

I don't know what we can do to change this model or give people a chance to work in places other than offices or professions while still allowing them the dignity and ability to make a good life for themselves. Because the other side is that in this current state, people need to take out loans to pay for colleges. Where do they take it from? Government sponsored financial aide. Who are they stuck paying back for the next twenty or thirty years? The government.

Mm... that was less coherent than I would like.... c'est la vie, it is a new idea.

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