Monday, October 7, 2013

Wednesday's Child is Full of Woe

So, day seven without effective government. Seven days of pure incompetence from the idiots we elected to keep the lights on, the food and beer flowing, and the world in one piece while we settle in with the latest episode of "Hero and the MacGuffin" or "Real People Acting Like Douches."

So, for no reason other than that I'm freaking bored and yelling about it won't do any good, let's take a few minutes to play the sci-fi game. What is this game, you ask? It's also known as extrapolation. Sci-fi writers pick a set of known facts, and take them up to eleven. Yes, the continued dysfunction is the most likely outcome. But we'll be playing for sci-fi.

Here's the facts we'll play with today:

1. Relatively few people understand or care about the government's function and operation.

2. The government is a largely self-sustaining entity, becoming more and more devoid of citizen input as ideological warfare creates severe rifts in what the people want (a government that operates quietly and efficiently for the largest good for the most people) and what it is (a bureaucracy that invades and interferes with every walk and step of life as it attempts to control and homogenize individuals and culture.)

3. The government is in minimal mode, barely supporting the most basic "essential functions." And by and large, things go on.

4. Given time, all functions held hostage by the government shutdown can eventually be replaced by civilian entities.

5. New currencies and economies have been evolving for years.

Now then, the question: what, really, would be the final downside to the government just...not coming back? If they couldn't resolve anything in time to raise the debt ceiling, if we defaulted and the economy went away?

Companies would collapse, yes. Workers would be laid off, yes. The country would friggin collapse, yes. And there is a chance we'd take out a significant portion of the rest of the planet on our way down. But here's the thing: I believe we've passed the point where we would collapse backwards.

Without power, we'd lose most of what let's us operate as a society. But we know, or can find out, how to generate power. Stop and think.The tech is all still sitting there. All we need to operate it is people and power.

Wind, water, and solar steam power are all readily available. Alcohol can be made by a nitwit with half a brain, and can be used in some diesel engines. Or hell, fire that crap up and use it straight as a heat source for steam. Radio signals, operating within the bounds of sanity and reason for a civilian, can be used to access or even rebuild the internet. New lightbulbs have a lifetime of several years, LED's can go even longer; there's a couple dozen ways to cool and cure food, some of which are older than nearly any country on the planet.

Growing food isn't easy, but it isn't rocket science either. Plants grow. That's what they do. Hunting? Fishing? We got those.

The point is that, with some hiccups admittedly, we could move into a barter economy and just keep right on going. What hiccups?

Well, building new stuff would be hard. If it breaks, it's broken. Cause there ain't no more parts a-comin'. But hey: necessity is the mother of invention. Take enough stuff away from enough people and you'll eventually get to that one guy that will just go build his own. And given the relatively high volumes of information and education available, I have no doubt that there are many such people.

Drugs would take a hit. But drugs are extensions of natural substances. And we have chemists. And doctors. And with the government in free fall, it's not like the cops would show up and shoot guys for manufacturing penicillin.

We know how to do so many things, and we're so entrenched in our comforts, that I firmly believe a society where the government collapsed into a screaming mob of children that went off and screamed at each other in the distance forever would rebuild itself to functioning levels in a couple of decades.

Alternatively, corporations could step in and turn the country into a for profit engine. Potential dystopia? Yup. But since we live in a world where thousands of people are out of a job, civil and healthcare rights are points of contention, poverty and homelessness are something we ignore everyday, and (again) as long as the food, entertainment, and blowjobs keep coming people as a whole give very few craps, who would honestly notice?

We'd all have jobs, tasks to complete. We'd all be consumers. The company credit system would replace the currency system.  Smells like socialism? Nope. There's more than one company, ya see. There's several. And they'd be working with and against each other to take on the rest of the world. Huxley wins, in essence. Again, before anyone starts freaking and screaming, let's all remember that the only difference between our world and a Huxley Wins world is that we aren't required to take happy drugs and we don't take care of our people very well.

Yeah. The only real difference between the dystopia and us is that we aren't provided with free Valium, and the dystopia take better care of it's citizens. That should scare you.

Scenario three: the government collapses and we get a do-over.

Pay attention. This is the darkest outcome.

What if we could redesign the government from scratch? What would it look like?

Cool story, bro. Now:

Would you agree with your neighbor?

Yeah...there's the scary bit. How would we agree on a legal system, on a system of governance, that would be fair to everyone? Reboot the old system and keep it as is? Try something different? Split off into micro countries that all say fucks to each other?

There just aren't many people equipped to design a government with a society in mind. We broke this one because we suck at government. And if everyone sat down and designed a new system right now, we'd be arguing and killing each other within days. A system would win out eventually, but only by beating the other systems into the ground.

So, to be blunt, here's three possible visions of the future, all things being equal:

1. The government runs off and does it's own thing , society collapses. But hey, in the face of a shitstorm, we've proven to be fairly decent at picking shit up and hauling ourselves back together. I honestly feel a scorched earth solution is the best outcome here. It'd take time, but at the end of it, we'd be reinvigorated as self-sufficient pioneers. Hell, with all the work we'd have to do, we might actually get a society that functions on a larger scale.

(Ok, admittedly, rioting, guerilla warfare, and a default to scenario three is also likely. But I'm feeling optimistic, here.)

2. Corporations step up and keep things running with an eye to maintaining their status in society. It would suck, but life would go on. And at least the status quo would largely be maintained.

3. We get a bright shining chance to rebuild the entire system from the ground up. And then we act like people do. This one probably doesn't end well. Hell, I'd lay money it ends horribly. Remember, the original system was designed for rich white guys by rich white guys. And almost three hundred years later, it still favors rich white guys.

Or we could, you know, fire all the idiots, attempt to find decent replacements, and try and salvage what we have. But that would really be a fictional outcome.