[LMB] General rules for Governments

Beatrice Otter beatrice_otter at zoho.com
Sun Jun 20 00:00:45 BST 2021

---- On Sat, 19 Jun 2021 15:22:38 -0700 Pouncer via Lois-Bujold <mailto:lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk> wrote ----

 In canon, the Beta Colony Population Control Board deals 
with the "Average" family of 2-point-something offspring 
by awarding some individuals a "third child variance".  Each 
adult citizen is entitled and expected to be progenitor to 
one child.  And the PCB insists on each progenitor identifying 
a "Co-Parent".  So a population unit to the PCB is a 
statistical concept with two certified/qualified adults 
and two-point-something minor-children (required to be 
educated, socialized, etc.)  First problem: maybe an 
original co-parent feels it's unfair to be asked to assist 
in raising a partner's "awarded third" child.  *You helped 
with mine, I helped with your first, but I'm NOT on the 
hook for your second!*  Next what happens when three or 
four adults decide to form a home and enjoy having one 
to two kids around -- leaving the PCB and Betan society 
two kids short? Then we have the Dubaurer situation: 
he's been mentally disabled due to nerve disrputor, BUT 
he has great genes, still hale family members, and retains 
his constitutional right to one genetic decendent. Now the 
PCB has to find or approve two co-parents-by-proxy for 
the one progenitor...   The Betan government has taken upon 
itself a HUGE administrative task (and commensurate tax 
burden)  that most cultures can safely leave to individuals 
to work out for themselves, for free.  (Or for the 
cost of mere heartache -- which cost Betans, like 
Cordelia, are not spared even with the PCB in overwatch.) 

Beatrice Otter:

That bit of worldbuilding (and all of the demographic assumptions underlying the various cultures) is, imho, the second-most-dated bit of worldbuilding in the Vorkosiverse. (The first is, obviously, the lack of cell phones and internet.)

Like all SF/F based on the idea that the population naturally always increases and the problem is limiting childbirth to what is sustainable, it has aged ... poorly. I mean, I don't blame anyone for thinking that, in the 80s and 90s; the shift in baby trends weren't yet pronounced, and was only really showing in a few places. There wasn't enough data yet to realize that "women controlling their own fertility" + "women with access to education and career opportunities that don't revolve around motherhood" = "sharp drop in the average number of babies born per woman". And this is one of the few things that transcends culture; it's true regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, class, you name it. Which is why most European nations are working hard to encourage women to have children, and creating various incentives to encourage them to do so (long parental leaves with guaranteed getting your job back at the end, state-subsidized quality childcare, etc., etc.,).

Barrayar, given what we know of the culture (heavily patriarchal, women with few rights and economic opportunities) would have historically had high birth rates ... but I bet they've begun to fall, in the last generation or so.

Beta, on the other hand ... even with their longer lifespans, the demographic problem they would realistically be facing would be "how do we keep the birth rate high enough to maintain itself" rather than "how do we keep our population from growing too much/too fast?"

Beatrice Otter

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