Monday, 29 May 2017

Moral Smugglers

I imagine that:

the government of the Solar Commonwealth taxes imports;
therefore, some Polesotechnic League companies smuggle;
but Solar Spice & Liquors is too big and successful to need to do this.

Van Rijn's criteria for action are: is it profitable? and: is it morally acceptable? but not: is it legal?

Ian Fleming's James Bond meets Enrico Colombo, a flamboyant Mediterranean smuggler of many good things but not of (evil) drugs. That might have been van Rijn's attitude when he was getting started. Thus, Bond and Colombo fight the drug smugglers just as later Bond and the Unione Corse fight SPECTRE.

David Falkayn cooperates with the Gethfennu, organized crime, on Merseia and Dominic Flandry cooperates with Leon Ammon on Irumclaw. And I did not know that I was going to wind up making those comparisons when I started into this post. Sometimes the best policy is just to start writing. James Bond is a fruitful source of comparisons with various planes of the Anderson continuum.

17 comments:

S.M. Stirling said...

Van Rijn regards governments and their regulations as traffic obstacles, I think -- to be worked around, or through, or by paying someone to remove them.

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
Nicely put. And, before I retort that van Rijn depends on the law to protect his property, it occurs to me that he is able to organize his own security without any government interference.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling and Paul,

Mr. Stirling, I would say Nicholas van Rijn leaned more to the libertarian view of the state, as something to be minimized as much as possible. A view I don't entirely agree with, due to my conservatism. I agree with libertarians that the state, any state, tends too easily to become corrupt and despotic. But I place the fault for this not in the state, per se, but in fallen, imperfect human race. I also think the state is necessary for some things, such as preserving internal order and defense from external aggression.

Paul, considering how Old Nick's company, Solar Spice & Liquors' operations extended over vast "territories" not governed by the Solar Commonwealth, he HAD to arrange for the security of his employees and ships.

Sean

S.M. Stirling said...

As Chesterton said, all religious dogmas have to be taken on faith, except for Original Sin, for which there is abundant empirical evidence... 8-). I would agree that the weakness of libertarianism is that it attributes to the State vices which are simply those of the human beings which make it up, and which would manifest themselves (in different ways) under any set of institutional arrangements.

Recent research in forensic archaeology indicates that before the invention of the State (which is a late-Neolithic innovation) human beings lived under conditions in which there weren't huge wars of the sort we're historically accustomed to -- no World Wars or Taiping Revolts -- but there's no peace either.

So that the chance of dying by violence was actually higher in a hunter-gatherer or pre-State neolithic culture. You didn't get a Stalingrad or Somme, but you didn't get any peace, either -- there was a constant dribble of low-level violence spiced with the odd massacre.

To put it another way, when the State monopolizes violence, you get the same results as with any other government monopoly: higher prices and scarcity.

S.M. Stirling said...

A parallel literary conceit is Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise. She smuggles, steals, and engages in industrial espionage as head of a crime syndicate, but won't deal in drugs or human trafficking, which she suppresses when she can. (And she doesn't act against British national interests, because she intends to retire as a British national when she's accumulated a certain set sum of money.)

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I certainly agree with what you and Chesterton said about Original Sin and our imperfect human nature. I get so impatient with, and suspicious of, Utopian fantasies of mankind somehow becoming magically perfect.

No real peace in hunter/gatherer societies and Neolithic times? I'm not in the least surprised!

At least in THIS case, it's BETTER to have higher prices and scarcity due to the state, any state, monopolizing the organized violence of war. Because wars at least TEND to be fewer.

Sean

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

While I've not read O'Donnell's "Modesty Blaise" stories, what you said reminded me of the first two GODFATHER movies. The original don, Vito Corleone, also refused to traffic in drugs, due to moral scruples (odd as that might seem in a gangster).

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
I think that we can build a Utopia but after a lot of struggle, not by magic. And it is not guaranteed. There are dystopian possibilities.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I think it might be possible to someday, in the remote future, for mankind to have a post scarcity economy. But I don't think human beings, as human beings, will change all that much.

And I think Poul Anderson would be inclined to agree with me. We see post scarcity economies in many of his late phase works, such as the HARVEST OF STARS series, and human beings are still imperfect, or worse. That is, we see strife, conflict, and intrigues, etc.

At least you concede a "Utopia" is not guaranteed. That alone makes you more realistic than others with similar views. And one of the worse dystopian possibilities I can think of would be if something like Stirling's Domination of the Draka arose in our timeline!

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
I think that the Domination is, fortunately, very unlikely and that a timeline where it lasts and conquers the world is very improbable.
Technologically, I think that we could have abundance very soon but there are social obstacles to it.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I certainly hope anything like the Domination will be unlikely in our timeline!

I'm a little puzzled on why you think that technologically speaking we could achieve a post scarcity level of abundance very soon. On what grounds do you base this possibility?

And I still think the single biggest obstacle to the stability of any kind of post scarcity society remains our imperfect and flawed human nature.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Look at our present productive capacity. When all the technology that currently goes into weapons/defence/instruments of mass destruction is instead invested in enhancing life, then we will be along way along the road.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I'm sorry to rain on your parade, to use an old metaphor, but the hard fact of our imperfect human nature gets in the way. It's all very well to advocate beating our swords into plowshares or turning our spears into pruning hooks, but what about things like nations with clashing ambitions? Or fanatical advocates of political and religious ideologies who try to conquer the world? Or rogue regimes such as that of Kim Jong Un in N. Korea making nukes and all too likely to USE them?

Even if we manage to overcome such current difficulties I see no reason not to expect, later, very similar troubles. I think those with similar views to yours simply refuse to take our imperfect human nature into account. I don't think mere "education" will eradicate human imperfection. But, at least you conceded that what you would want to see happening is not guaranteed!

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Indeed it is not guaranteed. I am somewhat surprised that atomic weapons have not been used since WWII. Both the means and the motives exist. As Robert Heinlein argued in a short story, someone could place a nuclear device in a left luggage office in New York at any time.
Paul.

Paul Shackley said...

PS:
Sean,
The factors that you mention are what I meant by "social obstacles."
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Yes, as you said, it is somewhat surprising SOMEONE has not YET used nuclear weapons since WW II. That was partly because the US/NATO bloc and the USSR monopolized nukes and neither side wanted others to obtain nukes. For the simple reason that the more other powers got their hands on nukes, the more unstable the whole thing became. And, as you said, too many others have the motives and means of getting their hands on nukes!

Re "social factors," understood!

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
I wonder whether there is a realization that use of nuclear weapons would cause such universal revulsion that it would be counterproductive for any cause. Mind you, they ought to have got that message about all bomb atrocities by now.
Paul.