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 Economic Systems of Alpha Centauri

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Selathorn

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PostSubject: Economic Systems of Alpha Centauri   Thu Nov 15, 2012 6:24 pm

Introduction

Over the time spent on Alpha Centauri, three major and competing economic systems have developed, Planned Economics, Free Market Economics, and Green Economics. These three economic systems are those used by the various factions in their memetic engineering schemes in the modern day, forming the basis of their economies. At first, the meanings of each one of these systems seems clear and rather obvious, but the meanings of these terms have been developed greatly ever since Planetfall and they can be misleading at times, especially to foreign observers. For instance, can the monopoly Morgan Industries has within its territories and the complete control that their corporate heads have over its economic policies allow the faction to truly be called a Free Market? This factbook examines the three economic systems of Alpha Centauri, and shows that they may really not be all that different.

Planned Economics

The term Planned Economics brings to mind visions of the command economies of Old Earth run under the socialist systems of polities like the USSR or the PRC prior to the reforms of Deng Xiaoping in the late 20th century, and at first what is used on Alpha Centauri seems to fit the bill. The government receives various statistics, of production and demand, and formulates a comprehensive economic plan for the coming future. Clearly a command economy, right? And yet, not quite. The government does surprisingly very little in modern Planned Economics, even in the Human Hive which ostensibly seems to be based on socialist ideals. The information is sent, received, and processed in powerful computers with massive amounts of computronium and is run through algorithms of such bewildering complexity that some have speculated rather seriously that they may become sentient in their own right. This happens constantly and updates regularly based on incoming information. Though even with this high technology and these elaborately developed algorithms, inefficiencies exist in the system, Planned Economics manages to still greatly increase output of minerals and nutrients in all bases, assisting in growth and industry. It is a far cry from the Planned Economics of the past, and is almost completely different in every way.

Free Market Economics

Free Market Economics would look like it should be easy enough to define, given that the general consensus is that means an economic system with an absolute minimum of government intervention... a definition somewhat problematic on Chiron, given the thin line between government organizations and non-government organizations. Morgan Industries, for example, is both a large corporation and a completely sovereign polity in its own right. In Morgan Industries, the market receives absolutely no control from the government, and is under absolutely no restrictions in theory, but in practice the market is entirely made up of Morgan Industries itself and the only government that could control it is Morgan Industries itself. So what, exactly, does Free Market Economics mean on Chiron? And now, even the Spartans follow the system, and it seems... unusual, at best to call their war economy a Free Economy, given that their government essentially mandates heavy production of arms and vehicles. Then, one looks at the fact that they use algorithms not so dissimilar to the ones used in Planned Economics, and one cannot help but wonder, what exactly the difference was meant to be, if there even is any, in the first place.

Green Economics

Green Economics, out of all three, is probably the easiest to define. In many ways, it is quite similar to Planned Economics, but it remains distinctly different. In Green Economics, the economy is not centrally planned but is highly regulated for minimal damage to the environment and to have the most efficient use of energy resources possible, in contrast to the Planned Economic system in which large amounts of energy are wasted due to inefficiencies and the computronium intensive planning. Existing resources are conserved greatly and new resources are collected from the natural environment only when absolutely need be, and usually done in ways meant to avoid damage to the ecosystem if at all possible. This all, however, would be an absolute mess and a failure without something to guide the system by, given all of the variables that would need to be considered. And so, one would have to look back to the algorithms yet again, and one would now would have to wonder if there is at all a difference between these systems, given that looking under the hood they are all much the same on Alpha Centauri.

The Difference

Looking at how these systems work on Chiron is not exactly helpful for distinguishing them from each other. Although in practice they are quite different, under the hood they operate in much the same way. The difference between the systems is not answered by how, but what. The how is "How do these systems work", which obviously has not distinguished them in any way. The what is "What is the goal of these systems", and it is the major question that can allow distinguishing between them. In Planned Economics, the system is designed to work so that production of nutrients and materials can be maximized with the existing resources and operations, and to plan the best method of expanding production over time. Meanwhile in Free Economics the system is designed to work so that it can expand without restraint and collect large quantities of energy (the new currency of the modern era) from the environment and put it to use in constant expansion of resource collection, as well as reap benefits from commerce with other factions. Finally, in Green Economics development is not to be encouraged but avoided, and the focus is on the most efficient use of existing resources as well as the creating of minimal damage if and when expansion is necessary. These basic goals ultimately differentiate the systems and allows observers to see clearly why Centauri economic systems work as they do.
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