Thursday, January 26, 2017

500 Bushels

Station Type: O'Neill Cylinder (Mars-Sun L4)
Allegiance: Independent
Primary Languages: English, Greek, French

500 Bushels is an interesting experiment in classical systems of governance. The cylinder was in construction prior to the Fall, but it's backers vanished or went bankrupt in the event, allowing the production rights to be bought up and completed by Tatton Werner, who would become the first Archon. The large cylinder follows the standard plan, and looks remarkably pastoral to a casual observer. This is because 500 Bushels follows the rule of timocracy - governance by those who own and work land. Warner made sound investments prior to the Fall, and was a bit of a history buff who stumbled upon the formalized form of this government while examining history - and bought up 500 Bushels to be his "experiment" in governance. Like many others, he felt governments big and small had failed in the crisis, and wanted to attempt to build a simple life where people's socioeconomic power was based on how much property they could control and goods they could produce. Werner did extensive research and modelling for the government style, producing a carefully planned constitution which all persons wanting to become citizens must agree to operate under.

Under the constitution of 500 Bushels, there are several defined "classes", which each have defined powers and capabilities, with the terminology primarily based on the Solonian reforms of ancient Athens:

  • Pentacosiomedimni (Usually Pentacos for short) are the highest rank of citizen. They are those who have property or estates which produce 500 or more bushels of wet or dry goods in a year, or an equivalent income. Pentacos are the only ones who can claim the highest political offices.
  • Hippeis (or "Knights") are the second rank, those who have an production or income equivalent to 300 units. Knights are able to afford and maintain high-level military equipment such as Battlesuits should they be called to fight in the militia.
  • Zeugitai (Usually "Tillers" or "Yokemen", sometimes "Zoogs") are the middle class, they produce in excess of 200 bushels of income per year, and thus are considered to be able to afford to equip themselves with weapons and armor - and in the event of an emergency would be called on to form the militia. 
  • Thetes ("Workers") are the remaining citizens and the lowest class. Manual laborers, or those with less than 200 bushels worth of product. They can only serve in limited positions in the government under the constitution, and cannot serve directly in the militia - but are consigned to reserve or technical positions, such as operating and crewing ships or defensive platforms.
While all citizens have some basic rights (such as trial by jury and other rights of due process and freedom of expression) under the constitution, positions they can hold and even vote on may be restricted by their class - which is calculated every "half-year" (343.5 Days) under the Martian calendar by an official Census proceedure. This gives sufficient time for classes to be tallied and officially remarked prior to upcoming elections. It's not all "bad news" for the lower classes however, while they may not be eligible for elected offices, 500 Bushels levies a graduated tax, where upper classes pay higher proportional taxes at a ratio of 6:3:1, with Thetes having to pay no taxes. 

The government of 500 Bushels itself has a system familiar to many democracies or republics, just with key limitations on who may hold certain offices. The Archon is the executive office, elected every 2 Martian years from the Pentacos - and handles the expected duties. They are the chief magistrate and treasurer responsible for nominating many of those lesser positions, in event of a state of emergency they are the commander in chief and also are responsible for planning public events. Mostly, the archon is a coordinator who handles the other government groups in attempts to keep the habitat healthy and prosperous. Daily operation of the habitat is handled by the Council of 500 (or boule) which is actually decided by random lots from volunteers every Year - and can include members of the top 3 classes. The Council handles day-to-day governance, putting forth new legislation and supervising elected officials. 

One may only ever serve on the boule twice in his life - and never two years in a row. New councillors are investigated and vetted in a formal proceedure by the outgoing council. Historical boule met every day which was not a festival day - but networking and computer technology means that physical meetings of the council are saved for the most formal of occasions and instead councilors regularly check in over the Mesh, though they do not work on public holidays. Councilors swear an oath to uphold the constitution and do the best for the habitat when they take office - "oathbreaking" is an offense punishable by disenfranchisement and exile. Due to the fact that anyone can become a councilor, many of them integrate politics packages into their Muses when they take the office, similar to upgrades which are available in the Titanian Commonwealth (p. 199 Rimward). The Assembly is then the main body of 500 Bushels, but they act very infrequently. This body consists of all enfranchised citizens (I/E those who submit to the constitution, live on 500 Bushels and work in some form - those who do not work are dependants). 

The Assembly has final say on laws put forward by the Council - who act in an advisory and supervisory capacity. The Assembly must ratify declarations of peace or war, approves or elects magistrates and other elected officials and has final say on their performance before their terms end. Physical assembly is not required, and is instead done virtually in a system of cyberdemocracy. A 2/3rds majority is required to pass the assembly, and a minimum of 6,000 citizens must vote for it to count.  Other civil positions are usually referred to as "magistrate" even if they do not directly engage in judicial efforts, and may be called "Magistrate of" something to infer their position. Magistrates are picked by the assembly from any class, usually nominated by the Council or Archon. They oversee criminal and civil trials (with a jury picked from the citizenry), direct efforts of the government's judiciary and otherwise handle public offices. 

While very much formally a timocracy, 500 Bushels is very minarchist leaning, and has garnered some ties from "moderate" Extropians because of it. The government conducts a census to identify classes. They collect taxes which are used to pay for hab maintenance or public works - pay supplemental income to public officials or otherwise handle things for the entire hab. The Assembly and Council review elected officials and their work during their term. Otherwise, laws seem to be very simple - and all interaction between citizens is handled on a contractual basis. Basic protections of agency are levied and defined and ratified under the constitution. Crimes against the person and against property are the strongest - with punishments usually selected to involve reimbursement or restoration or other punitive damages, short instancing in punitive simulspace with disenfranchisement and exile reserved for the highest of crimes. Policing is handled mostly by security drones, with militia officers being assembled if there is a great need. 

The Militia is the only other major government body - rarely utilized. Should the Assembly declare a state of war, all citizens of the appropriate class will be required to serve based on military strategy decided by the Assembly and directed by the Archon. The Assembly appoints Strategos (Generals) from the Pentacos, who assemble junior officers from the top two classes. There is no major funding for the military besides purchase of hab defensive systems - individual soldiers are expected to pay for their own arms and equipment - hence why Thetes are not soldiers and instead relegated to non-active combat roles. In cases of small disruptions (such as a civil disturbance) the Assembly can authorize limited numbers of militiamen led by a magistrate to handle problems if drones cannot. 

Originally, the habitat was settled by Werner and some business associates, who calculated original parcelling of land. Werner assumed the default position as Archon for a half-year, and then won the first formal election to the position, before stepping down to fill a kind of advisory role and focus more on his political and diplomatic activities, leaving his protege Polyxeni Raptis as the current Archon. Citizens were originally drawn from several middle and upper class cultures across Southern Europe and North America who were specifically interested in the form of governance, or wished to avoid consolidation by the Planetary Consortium pre-Morningstar split. Once established as a place of relative prosperity where theoretically anybody willing to work hard and produce could theoretically get ahead in life a number of refugees with basic skills moved in to fill in the lower classes. Even now, 500 Bushels is a frequent site of immigration by former indentures across the solar system who have limited skills and no other market for them. Primary industry uses the still large amounts of free space for farming or ranching - with the owners of this land split among all the classes, and Tatton still holding strategic reserves of real estate to sell to new citizens. In addition to simple foodstuffs and byproducts which serve the hab, these are also exported to several other interests in the immediate system, and many Pentacos are small or independent businessmen and women who were not part of a larger hypercorp system. Other common industries are refinement or import/export of goods. Middle classes of Hippeis or Zeugitai of craftsmen of both artisanal and technical works are common in addition to small producers or business-owners - those who produce smaller works often subsist as Thetes by the grace of catering to the upper classes, while most Thetes are employed by large estates of the higher classes or in their other businesses. 

Overall, most citizens of 500 Bushels seem content. While there is a visible and true class divide, most people are happy that they retain rights to vote in the Assembly and that the Council is randomly pulled. Some classism and elitism is known to come from the upper levels, but such disputes rarely leave the verbal purview, and fights are quickly broken up by security drones. While there have been racist or sexist tones in similar cultures historically, there is no overt discrimination in 500 Bushels, as no race or gender is restricted except on account of property, though a majority of the members are drawn from european or middle eastern lineages. 500 Bushels does not normally perform indentureship, though they have no laws against it at this time. Once should be careful arranging indenture contracts however, as the habitat has specific laws for the rights of "dependants" those with no income whose needs are met by a citizen. Paying a negotiated wage is often simpler. Property in the form of space is relatively easy to come by, as those in the lowest class pay no taxation and there is no formal regulation on what price a previous owner must set. Large scale land owners are known to occasionally quickly sell unworked or unproductive land in a pinch before a census to maintain their class. While the inner system credit of the Planetary Consortium is accepted and widely used on hab, they also produce their own currency called Kerma, which is represented by a physical token or coin in bronze, struck with the face of the current Archon and distributed by the government. The value of a kerma is carefully calculated to equal 1 Bushel normally, and thus are fairly highly valued.

Obviously, not all things function perfectly. Rumors persist that both the Planetary Consortium and certain Extropian or hypercorps are working to woo 500 Bushels for their niche prosperity, something most of the wealthy populace resists. But, care must be taken not to draw the ire of the hypercorps as 500 Bushels is unlikely to survive a "police action". For this reason Werner himself is pushing stronger ties with the Morningstar Confederacy, which are somewhat limited by physical distance. As there are very limited regulatory laws, corruption and misconduct by both government officials and wealthy land or business owners is occasionally discovered and may not be punished with much effectiveness - there is also a strong statistical trend that the upper classes win civil cases against lower classes due to greater economic power. Bioconservatives and Precautionists are wary of 500 Bushels and some who thought it was a simple agrarian life are displeased by the government's use of powerful computer systems and AI to run security functions or tabulate the census and have formed a small political bloc. Autonomists are often uncomfortable dealing with 500 Bushels - they have too much governance for most Extropians, their blatant class system literally divided by material value puts off most Anarchists and Scum (even though Reputation could be said to favor steady workers and producers at times) and the Titanians turn their nose up at the lack of social programs. This puts them in a precarious position in regards to the wider solar system. 

The interior of the hab is relatively pastoral and clean - with low population density and decent taxation bringing about healthy infrastructure. The two ends of the cylinder are the most urbanized, where many Thetes live and sleep, with various businesses, government houses and other buildings packed together - with the large rest of the hab held either in estates and lands of various sizes or public green space. Moving from end to end is handled by a small road system or a public tram maintained by the government. The hab is spun for Martian level gravity and operates entirely off the Martian calendar year. Due to relative prosperity, the government has assembled several public works projects such as sports fields, amphitheaters and fountains and gardens open to all citizens. General architecture is generally Classical or Neoclassical - leaning either Antebellum or Greek Revival in the latter case - though occasionally they trend to such styles as Colonial, Federal, Empire or Resort. Fashion tends to be downplayed and simplified for utility to those with wealth occasionally splurge. Coloration has some import - Red is identified with citizens of any class, pure white is associated with those who are wealthy - they can afford clean clothes or to not work directly. Purple or gold colors traditionally mark those in high public office. Black is worn as a sign of mourning or protest. Drab colors are worn by Thetes who do manual labor, or by dependants who have no income and are clothed at the behest of others. Other colors may reflect personal mood, seasonal or cultural fashion - making smart clothes a good choice by those who can afford. 

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