Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sci-Fi Government

Eugene Volokh is noticing trends among fantasy and sci-fi writers:
In sharp contrast to legal scholars and other academics, the majority of whom tend to favor relatively centralized government, major science fiction and fantasy writers tend to support decentralized political systems or even anarchy. I am not arguing that decentralization is the main theme of these works and in some cases it isn't even conscious. But it does seem to be there.
He goes on to look at a wide variety of authors from Tolkien to J.K. Rowling to Frank Herbert. Even though many of them aren't libertarians or even conservatives, often their stories portray centralized government in a bad light. Hube is a Trek Nut and expresses these thoughts on Trek Government:
It's true that the Federation is a free association of planets that have willingly joined the alliance. However, one thing has to be centralized before joining the Federation: the planet itself. There must be a world governing body for a planet.
While some sci-fi makes for good commentary, I think reading too much into this political analysis is troublesome. DS9 criticizes the Federation for being to over-arching at several points in it's plot line. But again, this is because the Federation has departed from their core ideals. On the other hand, most Federation planetary governments (like Earth) are portrayed as near-utopian nanny-states where the state essentially provides for the people. Furthermore the Federation doesn't seem to have a free market economy or very much private industry. R&D occurs in various academic institutions like the Daystrom Institute. Starships are built in Federation shipyards like Utopia Planetia. Perhaps this is because all the Star Trek series to date have been focused on Star Fleet personnel.

Frankly, I don't think the Star Trek universe functions on a number of levels. First it fails to understand human nature in the way the Federation runs. But secondly, I don't think any of the other races are any better. Most of the other star-nations are near racial mono-cultures: the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians. I honestly don't think that can work. Either these groups are far far older than humanity or we're not getting a complete picture of their national makeup.

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