Someone in one of the comments asked whether I am actually pushing Raikoth as a perfect society, and the answer is sorta. My con-culturing philosophy is trying to optimize for goodness while erring on the side of weirdness. This stands in contrast to a reasonable philosophy of the real world, where one might optimize for goodness while erring on the side of safety.
The reason I mention this may become clear further down in this post.
I promise no more than one or two more posts about this before I get back to regularly scheduled programming.
The economic system of Raikoth takes the form of a basic income guarantee and very little else.
There’s not much government intervention in health care – but people are strongly advised to spend some of their income guarantee on health insurance.
There’s no minimum wage, labor unions, or workplace safety laws – but people are encouraged to remain unemployed and live off their income guarantee if they’re not entirely satisfied with the job options available to them.
There’s not even a budget, per se. There’s a basket of taxes and the ability to slightly raise or slightly lower all taxes in the basket in order to fund individual programs. For example, a policy proposal would not take the form “Let’s build a new bridge, it would only cost $100 million and I’m sure there’s room in the budget for that”, but rather “Raise all taxes 0.5% to get $100 million, then use that to buy a new bridge”. Spending proposals not linked to revenue proposals would be considered incomplete; thus decision-making takes the form of real cost-benefit calculations instead of just saying yes to all pleasant-sounding spending and no to all unpleasant-sounding taxes.
It’s not that there’s no deficit – a small one is maintained for Keynesian reasons – but there’s complete control over its size and it’s never going to increase unexpectedly or against everyone’s wishes.
The taxes in the basket are primarily land taxes, very high estate taxes, and a tax on large corporations proportional to their size. This latter is meant to approximately balance economies of scale and give small mom-and-pop stores and start-ups ability to compete on an equal footing. It is recognized that this makes things a bit less efficient, but the Angels have decided it is still a net good for hard-to-measure reasons.
The government also taxes externalities – carbon taxes, pollution taxes, noise pollution taxes – as well as some less obvious cases. One of the weirder ones is destroying-the-social-fabric taxes. In these latter, Priests of Truth predict whether some piece of media will cause increases in crime or racism or whatever, calculate the costs of these effects, and then levy them as a tax on the producer. You can still get violent videogames that demean women or whatever, but they’re going to cost much more than the other videogames and that money is going to go to law enforcement, educational campaigns, and generally cleaning up after them.
Income taxes supposedly don’t exist, but symbolic beads place wealthy people under extreme social pressure to donate, and given the government’s (widely believed) pretension of being a perfect utilitarian system, most of these donations take the form of “bonus taxes”, providing an extreme boost to the national coffers and subsidizing most of the basic income guarantee program.
One of my goals in con-culturing was to subvert dystopian tropes in unexpected ways, and one of my least favorite dystopian tropes is Bureaucrats Or Computers Decide Who You Are Allowed To Marry.
So fine. Let’s give these people their frickin’ Bureaucrats And Computers Deciding Who They Are Allowed To Marry.
Temion Mirun is a festival held on May 1st (approximate, based on solilunar calendar), a sort of combination celebration of springtime / Valentine’s Day / group marriage day. Each year in the runup to May 1st, everyone who has undergone the coming of age ritual but is not currently married writes down the names of the people they’re attracted to and want to date, in order of how much they like them. Then they send their lists to – say it with me – a centralized database.
Each year, on April 30th, the computer with the database runs a special variant of the Gale-Shapley stable marriage algorithm on everyone’s ranked lists. On May 1st if it is sunny, or the first sunny day after if not, everyone gets together with their chosen partners and are handfasted in a group ceremony – where handfasting means that they are considered a couple until the next May 1st.
Springtime in Raikoth
Handfasted couples are polyamorous by default, and people still ask each other out on dates in the traditional manner. Sometimes dates people get one year become their handfasts the next; other times people end up with partners they have only admired from afar and didn’t have the slightest idea returned their affection.
It is considered somewhat uncouth, but certainly allowed, to break up with your partner before the next May, unless there’s something really horrible going on like domestic violence (which is always provable – good old Third Eyes). On the other hand, it is not considered unusual or a sign of dislike to change partners the next year, even if the relationship was mostly happy. It’s not considered uncommon for A to handfast B one year, rank C higher the next year and handfast zir while maintaining a secondary relationship with B, and then decide B is better after all and go back to zir the year after.
Most people start considering marriage around the third year of being handfasted to the same person. Marriages are a bit like the handfasting relationship except that they are in theory permanent. There are a variety of different marriage contracts available, but most people go for neither no-fault divorce nor for full-on covenant marriage. The most common contract says that the marriage cannot be annulled except by the High Priest of Tala, and that the petitioner must go to Tala without using any form of motorized transportation. That is, they must walk through a few hundred miles of freezing tundra and then up the slopes of a towering ice volcano until they reach the holy city, where the High Priest will free them from their oath. The idea is to have a commitment mechanism: it’s not impossible to end a marriage, but it’s not something you do without a lot of thought and an absolute certainty that it’s the only remaining option.
Marriage contracts may also include other stipulations. Although handfastings are polyamorous by default, marriages may or may not be; a couple that chooses not to be polyamorous may include this in their marriage vows, at which point people who cheat become liable for civil penalties relating to contract violation. Although some couples will happily marry with nothing but standard marriage vows, others will include a whole host of rules that then become inviolable unless both sides agree to edit the contract together.
Some people never take these stronger marriage contracts, preferring to move from handfasting to handfasting for their whole life; this is quite acceptable. But those who do usually do because they want children. Not only are most people who ask for the removal of contraception married, but the Priests of Truth use statistics about differential outcomes in married and unmarried couples when deciding whom to offer opportunities for subsidized child-raising.