by Max Barry

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Does Iciaros Reflect My Beliefs? (OOC)

If you got here from my sig, you probably already know the short and unhelpful answer: it's complicated. I could try to expand it, but that’d take a while, so I hope you’re willing to read a bit.

What are my actual beliefs?

Even a question like this is hard to answer. Suffice it to say I have two, not always congruent set of beliefs: what I feel to be true, and what I can logically deduce to be the case. It’s not easy to have my feelings and brain at war with each other, let me tell you. The best thing I can do is try not to think about it.

Anyway, my feelings tend to lean very much towards social liberty, which is (I think) the political left, depending on how one defines it. Generally, everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want unless they hurt other people. The whole ‘free to swing your arm until it hits my nose’ sort of thing. And when I say ‘whatever they want’, I mean it; Iciaros has factbook policies like legalised incest, polyamory, and more, and there’s a reason for that.

That said, ‘hurt other people’ comes in many forms, and sometimes can justify government intervention. Do I think people should be able to own guns if they want to? Yeah. Do I think that nonetheless, strict gun control should be implemented if it lowers the rates of death caused by gun violence? Also yes. Is free speech important? I do think so. Are there sometimes good reasons to clamp down on it, especially where it could induce violence, hatred, polarisation, and hinder the development of other civil rights? Definitely yes. In the end, it comes down to a complex web of freedoms, some of which I intuitively give greater or less weight to, and shuffling them around on the scales until it comes up producing more freedoms than it takes away.

(Even this is a pretty basic simplification - sometimes I think some people like bullies or bigots don't deserve some freedoms, which introduces a whole element of justice and rights into it, but that'd take way too long to flesh out.)

But all this is very much based on feeling. I feel freedom is important, I feel like some freedoms are more important than others, and I feel that my intuition and feelings are right. In the end, though, is that anything I can prove? Can I go up to someone who thinks freedom is not important and prove them wrong? Personally, I can’t think of any way I could do that. It’d just come down to “Freedom is good!” “No it isn’t!” and there’s just nowhere to go from there.

So, my logical view. I won’t waste your time explaining every facet of my logic, but it’s basically some weird kind of meld between empirical nihilism and utilitarianism.

The nihilism part is, since I can’t prove any particular statement of ‘what is good’ or ‘what should be the case’ right or wrong, we can’t conclude that any of it is correct, and so we’re stuck with basically nothing. No morality can be provably correct, no value judgement has provable bases, we can’t know for sure if there’s any meaning to anything, all that jazz. The depressing stuff, as you might know.

The utilitarian part comes from a basis I can establish, and it makes no metaphysical assertions of ‘ought’. Basically, it rests on two presumptions:

  • The duty of a government is to serve the interests of its people.

  • There is no way to measure the interest of a particular person without ultimately having reference to their subjective experience of the world.

If both of these are true, which I think they are, then utilitarianism seems to be the answer. It’s not a comprehensive guide to state policy, obviously; the measuring of interest with regard to subjective experience is invariably a value judgement, because it involves assigning values to certain experiences that cannot be proven to be unassailably correct. But it provides a motivation by which to make policy - specifically, that policy ought to, on the whole, maximise the quality of the subjective experience across all the citizens of a country. If leaders can accept this common basis, then finally we can have an agreed basis upon which to base our value judgements.

Okay, so… how does Iciaros measure up to all this?

Iciaros is basically as utilitarian a state as I could make that doesn’t hurt my precious feelings too much, and that I think could realistically survive given the particular realities of its world. It’s taken away a lot of freedoms I regret having to restrict (particularly some around freedom of speech) but that I think would ultimately be necessary to maintain the status quo it has set up. However, it does a lot of things I would do (obviously):

  • Extremely liberal migration policy - letting people go to where they would be happiest.

  • Freedom in the bedroom.

  • Single-payer healthcare and education.

  • Mandatory vaccinations.

  • Allowing but discouraging the use of cigarettes and any drugs through the rescinding of free healthcare, introducing costs in relation to related ailments, but ensuring counselling and therapy is available for those wishing to quit.

  • Combating the spread of religion while allowing individuals to hold and practice their personal faiths, insofar as it is not otherwise illegal.

  • State philosophy of logic and evidence in crafting policy, without recourse to subjective values.

  • Benevolent dictatorship - in real life, I am an ardent supporter of democracy, but mainly because I believe a permanently benevolent dictatorship is not possible, and the ballot box is crucial to ensure the leaders are in some way accountable to the people.

    • As a side note, geniocracy - the people most qualified to rule should be the ones ruling, not those who may be elected by emotions and feeling.

  • Single national government - no war, no conflict, all under one flag and all treated equally.

  • Plurality of governance and society types - despite being one country, Iciaros has a fair number of semi-autonomous territories and protectorates, each exercising a different form of government and a different type of society; thus, people who feel disenfranchised or oppressed in any one may move to another that better represents or accommodates them.

Those last two are probably the most unrealistic of the bunch (aside from, you know, literal magic) since it means Iciaros would be more prone to things like rebellion or unrest. And you’re right; most of Iciaros’ semi-autonomous territories are extremely small and far too weak to ever contest Iciaros’ military dominance, but recent events and new protectorates have changed that. How Iciaros will continue to toe the line to maintain this unstable equilibrium can only be known with time… so, basically, whenever I get off my ass and write new factbooks to advance the timeline. Yay laziness!

On the other hand, Iciaros does a lot of things I would not like to see in real life, which ultimately comes down to trust of the state. I trust Iciaros, obviously; I made it. So naturally I'm a lot less concerned about giving its government sweeping powers because I trust they will only use it benevolently. This is not the case with real-world governments. Generally I hope for democracy, to fight tyranny by the state, and strong and inalienable personal rights in real life enshrined in some part of a constitution that is incredibly difficult to amend, to fight tyranny by majority and populism, and, well, the state.

So, some things that Iciaros does which I would not want in real life:

  • Lack of elections - obviously.

  • No checks and balances - basically the essence of a dictatorship, really.

  • Censorship unrestrained by a constitution - while I think that, unfortunately, some censorship may be necessary for a wide array of reasons, giving the state free rein to censor what they please is troubling, and that power ought to be limited in some way (a constitution being one such way).

  • Cult of personality - Iciaros has a cult of personality not around a person so much as the title or position of the sovereign, but nonetheless the same problems apply. Reasonable discourse does not benefit from blind faith and exaltation, unless the subject of said faith and exaltation promotes and insists on reason, and even then...

Note: If you've read this far, you probably know that this doesn't address my economic leanings. That's with good reason, because I don't know how money works and it's hard to derive economic efficiency from principle and philosophy. All I know is that making an economic system is an unwinnable balance between productivity incentives and social inequality, and I won't pretend to have any idea how to solve that save by reference to actual-world conditions. Iciaros uses carefully regulated capitalism with attendant social welfare, so that probably reflects what I intuitively think would make the best result, but intuition does not a correct argument make.