November 22, 2015

Slice of PIE: The Shape of Things We Want To Come the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2651 (page 60) . The link is provided below…

“The Future of Government: We like to think that US democracy is the ultimate and best form of government. But the world has seen many different forms of government over the centuries, and even today many different forms exist around the world. What will governments in the US and other countries be like in the next 10, 50, or 200 years? How will changing technologies and world conditions (e.g., climate change) affect those forms? Are there forms of government that have been proposed that have never existed in the real world, but might?”

Whew! Now THIS is an interesting subject! Contentious, emotional, mind-numbingly complex, and ultimately something the proletariat can natter on about, but can have absolutely no effect on whatsoever.

For example, Wikipedia lists twelve “sub-categories” of government followed by 151 pages of  “forms of government”. Some of which I am familiar with, like “dictatorship”; others I can only guess at, like “vetocracy”; and others I can’t even begin to parse, like “Aesymnetes”.

Another example of why this seems like an...exercise in that the panelists all come from countries that espouse some form of government that allows for the election of disparate individuals to public office. Karl Schroeder (m), Joe Haldeman, Bradford Lyau, Ada Palmer, Charles Stross were on the panel. Schroeder is a Canadian; Joe Haldeman, Bradford Lyau, and Ada Palmer are Americans; and Charles Stross is British. So we have two people from Constitutional Monarchies and three from a single Republic. In my opinion, this is hardly a group that might afford a broader view of systems of government.

Perhaps it was difficult to find people who have experienced different forms of government: “I hardly saw any non-whites in Spokane. According to the US Census Whites make up 92% of the population of Spokane Washington. Only 4.5% are foreign born. I am not saying this is good or bad, but it was a different world than what I experience in the DC area and my regular travels in CA.” (

A quick internet search indicates that there are a number of refugee groups in Spokane, “Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, Burundi, Cuba, Eritrea, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Liberia, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam” There are also Hmong, Cameroonian, and Haitian families and adopted children.

All but two of the countries whose residents now live in Spokane are listed as republics, of them, one is unlisted, then other is a constitutional monarchy. While I am sure all countries have the best interest of their countrymen and women at heart, I CAN say with absolute surety that at least two of the countries listed as “republics” are so only in name.

Having spent several months in Cameroon and Haiti, I would be so bold as to suggest that both are dictatorships – variously benign and not-so-benign – in fact. The Wikipedia article goes on to qualify the statements of “republic” by further breaking down the stated form of government int0 more “accurate” representations. For example again, Cameroon is a “Presidential system with a prime minister” but this doesn’t mention that the current president, Paul Biya has been in his office for 33 years. Clearly the Cameroonian parliament has never set term limits. Haiti, also a republic but is qualified as follows: “[a] semi-presidential system, there is usually both a president and a prime minister…the president has genuine executive authority, unlike in a parliamentary republic, but some of the role of a head of government is exercised by the prime minister.”

It seems to me that the Convention Committee might have made a bit of effort to add some commentary from individuals who have experienced other forms of government, before launching into what I am sure was a fascinating exploration of other, better ways of governing a population than a “republic” – from a point of view that has absolutely no experience with anything other than governments that offer representation of divergent opinions.

Why should other points of view be necessary, though? Why can’t we chat about other ways of doing things – why, it’s the American (or REPUBLIC) way! We are absolutely free to do whatever we wish (as long as it’s legal!) and no one who has opinions different will go unheard.

Unless, of course, those differing opinions weren’t invited...Oh, that’s right, politics is “c Contentious, emotional, mind-numbingly complex”. I wonder if there were any actual politicians at the conference? Surely there must have been a council member, mayor, or a senator or legislator or two about!

Then again, maybe not.

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