[LMB] AKICOTL: Treasure hunting - way OT:

Andrew Lambdin-Abraham a.abraham at gmail.com
Mon Oct 2 23:11:23 BST 2006

I'm going to address Karen's points in roughly reverse order, as that
seems most convenient to my mind.

On 10/1/06, K Kuhn <kknolte at ecity.net> wrote:

>  Any chance that most 'pirate' ships are actually
> 'privateers' and funded quietly at least by some planetary government,
> or would-be government?)

Well, the Dendarii certainly are.  I suppose it depends on what you
mean by "pirates", and sor forth.  I would say that while it is
possible that some of the armed bands operating in Nexus space will
have authorizations granted by some tiny government or another, that
these will be ignored by almost everybody involved.

There are three types of countries when it comes to international violence:

Empires are highly concerned with violence only being committed by
legitimate actors.  They're perfectly happy to use war as an act of
statecraft, or to repress internal dissent, but they will not tolerate
the use of violence by non-state actors.  They seek out and destroy
pirates, brigands, and even other states if they are attacking neutral
or friendly citizens.  To an empire, it's irrelevant who blessed your
depradations with a piece of paper, if they don't consider you a
legitimate exerciser of violence, you're destabilizing the world and
need repressing.  Both Cetaganda and Barrayar will fall under this
category, and probably would happily fight any smaller country which
was interfering with commerce.  It should be noted that unofficial
actors which are working in the interests or the service of an empire
are exempted from its immediate ire, but that they are always a policy
shift away from being betrayed and cut off, as soon as their actions
no longer serve raison d'etat.

Non-aligned states are not officially any less hostile to pirates and
similar organizations.  However, because they do not exercise power
projection, they are not about to go out and seek violent
organizations like pirates to suppress.  They will keep their local
system clear of inconveniences, and perhaps cooperate with neighboring
ones, but that's as far as they're willing to take an active role in
things.  Naturally, they too will support groups when it suits their
political interests.  However, they consider it critical to keep their
groups from harassing the interests of Empires, because they know that
they will be held responsible.

Finally, rogue states are actively engaged in supporting violent
organizations, and without particular regard to who else is harmed.
They consider themselves either sufficiently remote, strong, or
distantly connected to be able to benefit from the disorganization and
turmoil these groups cause without suffering reprocussions.  However,
the general trend of history is that these states will either reform
their ways, or step across an unmarked boundary and be squashed by an
annoyed Empire.

> High-tech - although
> given Baron Fell's cut-rate knockoffs of Betan stuff, and Miles'
> brushoff of the Escobarans after Enrique, copyright laws don't seem to
> be particularly enforceable off one's own planet, so I'd wonder why an
> inventor wouldn't try to sell as much as he could at a price only a bit
> above manufacturing (sorta if there's a choice between getting a high
> price but only on your own planet, vs. a low price but over all the
> planets around, most would go for the low price.  Ezar could afford
> Illyan's implant when that was brand new, anyway, but not exactly
> considered reliable)

Well, as Emperor, Ezar could probably afford just about anything that
interested him, so that's not too much evidence for cheap inventions.
Also, I imagine Fell can only sell what Betan devices they've managed
to get their hands on and examine, which probably isn't in alignment
precisely with the actual cutting edge of Betan technology.

Beta isn't about to go to war with Jackson's Whole over intellectual
property infringement.  They have a sufficiently strong advantage just
on being the legitimate manufacturers, while Jackson's Whole is a
sufficiently useful location for the whole Nexus that attacking it
would be seriously disruptive to Betan relations with everyone else.
Unless of course a "perfect storm" of miscues by the Houses made
enough countries annoyed with them at once that the advantages of
their neutrality would be temporarily suspended.  Likewise, Escobar is
looking at a private case of some financial losses from Enrique's
exploits, which they are acting on as a matter of internal justice.
However, Barrayar is looking at a case of having obtained a certified
genius in a field they are very interested in developing in:  To them,
keeping him is a matter of policy.  Thus, he's worth far less to the
Escobarrans than he is to the Barrayarans, so they won't push the
matter too far.

As for the general case of why not sell close to production cost,
that's because any product which needs substantial R&D spending cannot
make a profit unless those costs are recovered through sales, while a
competitor who makes a cheap copy doesn't have to pay those R&D costs
and so can just about always underprice you unless you're making
negative profits.  As such, I think that manufacturers depend on local
sales, and sales to other systems as long as their product hasn't been
reverse engineered yet, because I can't think of any other economic
models that really make sense.

> (OT: Do we really know what pirates go for in the Nexus?   It can't be
> gold, given Cordelia's reaction to it.  I'm guessing that it's not a
> good idea to plunder genetic samples off the people who are really good
> at it - otherwise, I'd think that someone rich enough could get their
> own cloned haut wife from Jackson's Whole - the ones that are married
> off to the ghem, at any rate, don't have bubbles, and are exhibited as a
> real trophy wife so it should be possible to get a few skin flakes, but
> that doesn't seem to happen.  Ransoms apparently.

I would imagine that a look at what the mercenaries of Cavillo's were
intending to steal from Vervain when she betrayed it would give a good
example of what's valuable from a smash and grab.  Off the top of my
head, the targets were banks, information storehouses, and fine art.


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