[LMB] Re: Good Kings was Bujold vs. Pratchett worldviews

K Kuhn kknolte at ecity.net
Mon, 30 Dec 2002 19:08:36 -0600

Andrew Lambdin-Abraham wrote:

> To quote Alexis de Tocquville, as soon as politicians realize they can
> bribe the people with the people's money, democracy is in big trouble.

Laugh - and to not quote AdT, aristocrats who bribe each other with
other people's money also get in big trouble down the line.  At least
democracy is somewhat more likely to mean I'm bribed with my own money,
as opposed to watching others get bribed with my own money, no?

> It certainly appears that way to me.  I don't think that it is
> sufficiently unfair to cause the kind of trouble you're forseeing,
> unless  things get worse instead of better.  Given my opinion of more
> radical reform's drawbacks, I think that this danger is one they have
> to take.

Um - it's been over thirty years since Aral took over. Do you think you
need century+plus of progressive rule before you can trust the peasants
with non-sanitized news, or give them even a little input in the choice
of who's going to rule them?

I'm remembering a story I heard on NPR, about how the airforce drafted
women pilots in WWII to ferry warplanes around, because the men were
needed to fight.  When the war started dying down and they no longer had
that manpower shortage, they fired the women, because of course a woman
wouldn't want to work when a man needed the job instead.  My own
grandmother once made a comment to me that I had taken a job away from
some male engineer - but my mother certainly didn't have that attitude. 
So just how long do you think radical reform (ie, going from serf to
tolerable voter) takes?

> Well, do the Cetas really want the people, or their genes?  Why bother
> giving an ambitious and skilled commoner a high powered government job,
> when you can let them be the assistant to the Head of Street Sweepers
> and simply collect a DNA sample (shades of Prince Harry ;-) ) for
> further study?

Peter's Principle - you get promoted to the level of incompetence.  If
the haut could tell ability without seeing how well they perform in
practice, they wouldn't need the ghem.  I suspect the real flaw in
haut-ghem relationships is that they're explicitly basing their
government on the idea that good genes are necessary - which means that
if one ghem lord is deemed unsatisfactory, his relatives should be too,
depending on how many genes they share.  Which should lead to relatives
going to a lot of effort to argue that mistakes aren't mistakes, or even
hide the evidence if they think they can get away with it, to avoid
getting culled as bad genes.

> I think that the perspective of Social Darwinism is not as leveling as
> you seem to think it is.  Notice how everybody is a Ghem-something, or
> a Haut-something, or a ba?  There's no room for non-"nobles" to
> actually be someone on Cetaganda ever, and they don't even seem to have
> the ministries.  

What text-evd are you basing the idea that you have to be born into the
ghem or not at all?

> The Emperor of Barrayar married a commoner.  She's very rich and as
> close to Komarran nobility as you can get, but she's no Vor.  Can you
> imagine a Cetagandan Emperor marrying a non-haut?  (Not as a plot
> point)  

The problem is we really don't know what the haut are breeding for.  I'm
tempted to think no sex-drive [1], but there's presumably more to it
than that.  By the evidence of Cetaganda and DI, they are quite serious
about breeding for 'hautness', to the point that they will publically
honor someone who's beaten them (de facto, if not officially recognized)
for adding the genes into the pool.  So yeah, I don't have any problem
at all imagining a Cetagandan Emperor choosing someone who demonstrates
more 'hautness' than the Cetagandans, even if they're not born haut.

> The Ministries will compete for them, if David Eddings is to be
> believed.  Or not.  But there  doesn't appear to be any difference
> between nepotism in democracies and aristocracies, except for perhaps a
> different set of people who take advantage of it.  But what is the
> drive in the US to promote a bright and competent lad, as opposed to
> Secretary Powell's son (Michael, head of the FCC)?  That's a matter of
> culture, and the only way to change culture is either gradually, which
> seems to be happening, or shock, which tends to be very bloody.

I think possibly the problem here is that after 30 years, I expect
something in the culture that shows that the proles are starting to be
trusted with something that might confuse their little minds, and you
think that considerably more time is needed?

> One thing to be noted is that you take issue with Gregor's perspective
> that it's ok for a few people to have all the power, as long as they're
> the right people.  Consider it from his point of view.  In the United
> States, it's fine if the Republicans win and the Democrats lose,
> because we know that there won't be real witch-hunts and both parties
> will more or less respect the rule of law.  The Nixon was not about to
> say "The 1st Amendment regarding the freedom of the press is
> inconvenient to Us, and so is abolished" and have the Army and nation
> go along with it.  He may have liked to, but it was Never in the cards.

Were you on-list for the debates on whether Barrayar did indeed have a
system of checks-and-balances in practice, even if theoretically the
Emperor's Voice must be obeyed?

> Andrew - I'd like to note that I hold no animosity towards the person
> I'm responding to, or to the basics of the ideas she proposes, but that
> there are times and places they do not well apply.

Karen - I'd like to note that I hold no animosity either, but I much
prefer to leave stories where you *have* to have Good Geniuses in charge
for several decades to get to the point of letting people decide for
themselves firmly in fiction.  (Anyone know of a book that seriously
looks at rebuilding a society after the Dark Lord has been defeated, as
opposed to True King takes over and everyone except Dread Minions lives
happily ever after)?
[1] The haut seem to breed for beauty, but there's no indication that
whoever Giaja thinks is sexiest gets to be official wife.  Not that Rian
would necessarily mention who was bonking whom to Miles when he asked
about possible motives, no matter how desperate she got of course. 
Still, the lack of any suggestions along that line makes me wonder if
the haut were started by someone who felt that sexual attraction ruined
way too many good gene lines and policy-makings, so let's get rid of it
in our new and improved race.