Corporations

Government structures are reactionary

One thing you will be doing when writing Science Fiction is creating governments, something that I think is not done as well as it could be. Often writers just take current governments, scale them up then transplant them. This I think is a wasted opportunity.

One lesson that history teaches is that when a people are writing a constitution, and deciding what basic shape their society should take it is almost certainly going to be reactionary. People are going to see the problems they had with the previous government and want to avoid them. The entire US Bill of Rights is written in this way, each one is something that the British did that the colonies did not like and did not want to happen ever again.

That in fact was why the US’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, gave the federal government almost no power. It could not even tax, the only source of income it had was from selling land it owned.

To understand the reasoning for the new government all you have to understand is what the sentiment is for the old one. This is why I say that government structures are reactionary, they almost always reflect what the people don’t want to see again.

The point of the post is this; If a people were starting a colony and were mostly happy where they were from I would expect to see them create a government similar to their home. However the odds are they would not be, you don’t become a colonist if you’re happy and content with life were you were born. If your leaving everything you know you have to have a good reason, it could be anything from too much religious freedom (pilgrims) to wanting more upward mobility (much of the early American immigrants) to almost anything else.

So when your talking about setting up a new government think about what problems the first generation had with its previous government, think about what they disliked and why they left. This is where you can get a lot of drama and some real world building.

Religious colonies are nothing new, all you have to do is open a history book to see examples, I think going in directions that are new would be more interesting. Even within the confines of a representative republic there is a lot of room for new and interesting governments.

Maybe a nation was founded by people who hate large corporations and don’t want them to form. How would they do that? And just as importantly what problems would that cause? How do they deal with colonies from other systems?

Or a colony was founded by the super rich who want a place away from taxes and oversight. They might create a system where bills are voted on by money, or your vote counts for more if your richer.

All government systems are flawed, no matter the one in place a large number of people will dislike it. And never forget your a writer, you want problems, even small ones can be useful.

Overused Tropes: Corporations Run Everything

One of the things I was taught in collage is that cliches and tropes are not bad or good. Like any tool they can be used well and they can be used poorly.
Cliches and tropes are just stories that are ingrained into us because they come up so often, or are referenced often. They are useful mostly because you only have to tell part of a story.
That said they are often overused. For example the idea that in the future corporations run everything (as in they control or are the government) and everyone is poor. I could name several shows that are airing now, and more books, where this is the case.

From the state of the world I can understand why people think this will happen, and why their is fear of it happening. I can think of few worse forms of government then allowing corporations to take charge.

All that said there are other ways to do things, areas that I think could use some exploring before corporations running things becomes as oversaturated as zombies.
And of course one of the best uses of cliches is to subvert them.

Everyone is rich
One of the problems with corporations ruling and everyone being poor is that you can’t charge more for something then people can afford. A man who can barely put food on the table will not be buying the latest 4D TV. Also having a society that is that classiest are what revolutions are made of.
What if instead the average person was rich by our standards? For example what if menial jobs were common and you got the equivalent of 100k USD a year from them? But if was all but impossible to get a more intellectual job (like doctor or engineer) unless your one of the elite who work for the corporations. You graduate high school, get a job and you never really progress from there.
How many people would really fight against the system at that point? How would you fight it?

Corporations used to run everything but don’t anymore
An idea I find more interesting, and not done as far as I know is what happens afterward. What happens when corporations no longer run everything because they were kicked off planet, lynched or broken up. Even if a new colony left to do its own thing and determined not to allow corporations to take root.
This is one problem I am tackling, in the first novel it will probably not come up, but it will be huge in the second. I see many interesting stories you could tell with this. Off the top of my head I see only two ways to really limit corporations, the first is by employees and the second is by income.
For example if you limit them via numbers of employees what happens when you want to make something that you need more then the limit to make? If the limit was five hundred people and you wanted to design a car you could easily run out. One effect might be that the education focuses on duel degrees so one person can do the work of two. It could also mean that the work week gets longer because when your boss can’t hire anyone new he has to work you harder.

The other obvious way is money, probably profit. What this could mean is that at the end of every year any company that has more then so much profit is forced to split into enough pieces that each piece is below that threshold.
This of course has the issue of providing a reverse incentive past a certain point. Once your bank or factory or whatever gets too good it’s at risk of it being split. You could have hordes of accountants who’s job is to try and make sure CEO’s aren’t tanking their companies just enough to stay below it. Or of course just hiding the money.
You could even have problems with the top entrepreneurs not trying once they get to the cap, why try and make your car better if you won’t get more money for it?

I see strong stories that could be made from these. What would a colony look like 100 years after its founding if they picked one of them? You would be dealing with the problems caused by the solutions to the problems above.
And of course what happens if they gained trade relations with a planet that still had corporations running it?

Corporations are the good guys
What if the corporations are doing what they are for the best of reasons? Or even if just one was? What if one of the corporations were using its power to help, even if they were doing it in a evil fashion.
For example what if it was discovered that aliens were going to invade in several years and because governments have no power. What if a corporation decided to take care of the problem. They started to be ruthless about gaining short and middle term profit, whatever it took to get the resources to save the human race.
Or even something like 10% of the profit was put into things like curing diseases or in building cheap housing that is sold at cost. But in any other way they are run ruthlessly.
Its easy to demonize a corporation when they are purely out for themselves. Might it be more interesting if they were morally gray?

Corporations assume the responsibilities as well as the rights of the government
What if instead of the corporations being what they basically are today, except larger and unfettered by regulations they instead replace the government wholesale.
What I mean is; what if there was something like an auction every year and corporations got seats on a council that ran most everything but they had to take care of certain functions. Like say water purification.
This would apply to most areas of what the government does, they would buy rights and power but would have to make sure something important was taken care of.
Again many stories could come from this, and most of the stories that embrace the government being subsumed by corporations assume that corporations won’t change much when its done.