Unlike the recent Veronica Mars movie, it isn’t just a continuation of the show for the benefit of the fans but a real telling of the underlying story in a way that fits the constraints of the big screen.
But on this viewing I got to thinking about how the Alliance is portrayed as both monolithic and evil – so evil that we viewers root for heroes who engage in crime to keep themselves free from Alliance control and find ourselves fans of failed revolutionaries whose rhetoric bears a disturbing resemblance to the Johnny Reb from U.S. history.
Why is big government so often evil in science fiction? And don’t tell me it’s because government is always evil.
OK, so part of it is the fun of telling outsider stories. Who doesn’t want to root for the underdog, the rebel, the individual taking on the hordes of faceless bureaucrats? That’s a lot more fun that rooting for the person who always follows the rules.
I’m as capable of seeing government as evil as anyone, especially when I read about my own government’s Orwellian no fly list and other excesses promoted in the name of national security.
But the equation of government with evil has been oversold. Those who benefit the most from small and weak governments have done a lot to push this story, and not because they’re fans of lone rebels. In fact, they shut down rebels as fast as any evil government.
I’m talking about the multinational corporations, who like to play one government against another and move their business around to places that will give them the best deals. And the very rich, who don’t want to play by the same rules as us ordinary folks. Those are the people for whom one-world government – not to mention a government that encompasses the Solar System or another planetary configuration – looks like a real threat. They won’t be able to move their business elsewhere if the tax rates go up or the regulations get serious.
I’m not sure one-world government would solve the problem of over-powerful corporations, though. They might work together all too well. If I were to write a story about an evil big government, it would certainly be in thrall to corporations.
There are those who tout the value of small. There have been studies on how people work best in groups of about 150 people, for example.
And there is the slogan: “Think globally; act locally.” Though in my experience, people tend to do the second without paying enough attention to the first.
Looking at U.S. history, I can see several situations where I’ve appreciated the clout of the U.S. federal government in relationship to the smaller state and local governments. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – the law that banned discrimination in the U.S., including employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” – caused a sea change in this country. If we had left discrimination issues up to the states, I doubt that Texas – much less Mississippi – would have ever adopted such laws.
And while various states have adopted same sex marriage laws, the recognition of those marriages on the federal level is having the most powerful impact. Marriage, after all, comes with tax and other consequences that need to be the same nationwide.
Another advantage of large government is economies of scale. Some projects – national health insurance is a good example – are very affordable when spread over a large number of people, but very expensive on a local scale.
Other things just cost too much for anything but a large government to pay for: Armies, space exploration, and the kind of research and development that led to the Internet all spring to mind. Yes, private corporations are doing a lot with space and high tech these days, but they are building on work originally financed by our tax dollars.
I think most of us hate big government because we’ve all run into inflexible bureaucrats. Even though some of those are on the local level – everyone hates the Department of Motor Vehicles and the local office for pulling construction permits – the idea is that big government leads to bureaucracy. As someone who spent several hours at the local Social Security office to replace the card that I lost 30 years ago because the Texas DMV insisted on seeing it before they would give me a driver’s license, I find sympathy for this approach.
But our belief that big government leads to big bureaucracy is based in part on the assumption that a large organization has to have strict rules so that it treats everyone fairly. Maybe that’s not true. Maybe we can build some flexibility into our rules so long as fairness to all is the underlying principle.
That’s something we as writers can play with in creating our future governments. How about a multi-planet Big Government that isn’t in thrall to the corporations, bureaucratic, or evil?
That’s a Utopia for someone to write.