Competitive Government in Bujold’s SF
Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the most acclaimed modern SF authors, tying Robert Heinlein for the most Best Novel Hugos (4). She also happens to be my favorite fiction author. Yet she’s unknown to many SF fans because so much SF is decades old, and she’s “only” been writing for 25 years. In the novel A Civil Campaign, the main characters (youngest generation of a warrior-aristocratic dynasty) discuss competitive government on their home planet of Barrayar:
“Among our father’s early reforms, when he was Regent, was that he managed to impose uniform simplified rules for ordinary subjects who wanted to change Districts, and switch their oaths to their new District Count. Since every one of the sixty Counts was trying to attract population to his District at the expense of his brother Counts, Da somehow greased this through the Council, even though everyone was also trying to prevent their own liege people from leaving them. Now, each Count has a lot of discretion about how he runs his District, how he structures his District government, how he imposes his taxes, supports his economy, what services he provides his people, whether Progressive or Conservative or a party of his own invention like that loon Vorfolse down on the south coast, and on and on. Mother describes the Districts as sixty sociopolitical culture dishes. I’d add, economic, too.”
“That part, I’ve been studying,” Lord Mark allowed. “It matters to where I place my investments.”
Vorkosigan nodded. “Effectively, the new law gave every Imperial subject the right to vote local government with their feet. Our parents drank champagne with dinner the night the vote slipped through, and Mother grinned for days. I must have been about six, because we were living here by then, I remember. The long-term effect, as you can imagine, has been a downright biological competition. Count Vorenlightened makes it good for his people, his District grows, his revenues increase. His neighbor Count Vorstodgy makes it too tough, and he leaks people like a sieve, and his revenues drop. And he gets no sympathy from his brother Counts, because his loss is their gain.”
Amen. Let’s hope that some Sci Fi like technology – like seasteading – can bring us that “downright biological competition” here on Earth.