Plutonians : A Brief History of the IU
‘A characteristic failure of most mainstream economic discussions is their presumption that if human labor in production becomes technically unnecessary, then it will inevitably disappear. However, the system of capital accumulation and wage labor is both a technical device for efficient production and a system of power. Having power over others is, for many powerful people, its own reward. Thus, they will endeavor to maintain a system where others serve them, even if such a system is, from a purely productive standpoint, totally superfluous.’
– Frase, Peter. Four futures: Life after capitalism. Verso books, 2016.
Citizens of the Interplanetary Union (IU) have no reason to know their own history, or the absurdity of their global class privilege. And how could they know, when their self-driving electric cars never drive through the ruins of the old order? Even if a citizen wanted to know the history of the IU, they wouldn’t find any sources. The founding documents of the first IU conference are fiercely protected, like every thing else, as the intellectual property of the IU monopolies themselves.
To understand the history of the IU requires journeying outside the privileged core of the IU economy, into its larger periphery, where no attempt is made to hide the destruction of nuclear war, climate change and poverty. The plight of the non-IU citizens, referred to as ‘The Others’ in common IU parlance, evokes immediately the ruins of the old order, and the hypocrisy of IU elites who claim to have addressed the crises that led to its collapse.
The IU was, like all world orders before it, created from the necessities of crisis. For example:
- the League of Nations after WWI
- the United Nations and Bretton Woods System after the Great Depression and WWII
- the attempt at creating a New International Economic Order after the collapse of the gold-backed US dollar reserve system, stagflation, and the OPEC oil shocks of the 1970s.
The IU was created after Earth’s first intergalactic crisis and First Nuclear War (FNW). This was overdetermined by both long term and immediate causes. The main longterm causes were:
- climate change
- increased automation
- authoritarian state wars seeking to reclaim the power vacuums left by the decline of US hegemony.
These long term crises were inflamed by short term ones:
- a collapsed US dollar, which decimated international finance
- global pandemics
- supply chain shortages.
The meltdown would have been more sustained were it not for the intervention of “illegal aliens”. Aliens had been monitoring Earth’s nuclear arms race for decades. Despite calls by some factions within Intergalactic Communism to intervene earlier, the blockchain-based intergalactic democracy app had never received enough votes. This changed with the outbreak of nuclear war, something that threatened the universe as a whole. Despite the help of aliens (whose drone ships intercepted to steer nuclear warheads out of Earth’s atmosphere) human elites responded by blaming the catastrophe on the aliens themselves.
So from the end of the First Nuclear War, the remaining human powers, all monopoly capitalists, gathered to create a new interplanetary order. This was aimed at avoiding repeated ruin, and of catching up the backwardness of human economies to the more advanced levels of “illegal aliens”.
The CEOs of social media, tech, green energy, and military corporations gathered to create a system of political economy that would maximise their power and wealth. This did not mean ruling solely with an iron fist. Just as the United States transferred billions in aid to Europe to stimulate a post-WWII recovery, the corporate elite at the founding IU conference planned their own economic stimulus.
This stimulus needed to grapple with the long-term crises of climate change and the increasing rate of automation. Automation threatens monopoly corporations based on the classical capitalist model. For who will buy commodities when they have no job? As such, some redistribution was needed. This was done initially with two main platforms: a jobs guarantee, and a new interplanetary currency, Republic Credits.
A jobs guarantee was deemed better than a Universal Basic Income, because it would allow the IU more surveillance and control. The result of the policy was a freezing of all social relations. Whatever jobs existed in 2022 would, by IU decree, remain forever. The IU was aware of problems with this model, but it was felt better than the alternative: a world where people had to grapple with the creative meaninglessness of life. Free time would mean free time to build a resistance to the IU. A jobs guarantee meant continued control over the patterns of human behaviour that the monopoly capitalists had grown increasingly addicted to.
Freezing social relations had another benefit. It allowed the IU to spend as little as possible on maintaining order. Only a minority of Earthlings would be full IU citizens. These were people who had grown comfortable on the luxuries of the old order. They were used to having their own car, phones, electricity, video games, and VR headsets. To prevent a backlash of the privileged stratum of the global working class, the IU had to provide at least what this class had been used to before the First Nuclear War. But to provide this same level of support to the majority of the world’s people would be an unnecessary budgetary burden. The majority of the world’s people were not used to the luxury and wonton waste of those in the core of the IU world economy. By freezing social relations as they were in 2022, the IU was able to spend as little as possible on maintaining order.
Because the majority of Earth’s people had been exploited by centuries of genocidal imperialism and neocolonialism, the IU thought they could placate them cheaply. For mining rights, non-IU citizens, referred to as ‘The Others’, received a daily ration to oversee the work of AI-controlled mining robots. Although still poor, The Others that were granted such work were far wealthier than their peers, who were granted no help at all from the IU. The global unemployed roamed the ruins of the previous order, or lived as peasant farmers, sometimes unknowingly stumbling through the highly radioactive fallout of the First Nuclear War (FNW).
This is all kept out of sight and mind from IU citizens, who live in the comforts of the core of the IU economy. For IU citizens there is no poverty, or a lack of consumer desirables. A basket of consumer goods is produced via near-full automation from raw materials extracted from The Others. The main crisis in the IU is not material but meaningful. Despite the best efforts of IU propaganda, many IU citizens know, deep down, that their jobs are bullshit. They choose not to think about where the raw materials in their food and VR head sets come from, and they try not to think about what the point of work is.
The fact that the IU economy continued to be sustained by the exploitation of the majority was hidden by the admittedly beautiful simplicity of the IU’s centralised blockchain currency. Republic credits were designed to automatically tax transactions. Any purchase of a fossil fuel, for example, is taxed. This is automatic. The money taxed leaves the wallet of the spender, and appears automatically in the wallet of the IU. There is also an in-built Tobin Tax. All financial transactions are taxed at a small rate of 0.5 per cent. This doesn’t drastically affect individual transactions, but is damaging for speculators who exchange financial assets many times in a day. The tax thus reduces speculation, while building up the funds needed to pay poverty wages to workers in the periphery.
The IU claims Republic Credits have solved both climate change (via its in-built a carbon tax) and poverty (via the Tobin Tax). According to IU propaganda, it is the most stable system of global political economy ever built, and has lifted more people out of poverty than any political system in all human history. While true, this neglects how short human history truly is, especially when compared to the Intergalactic Communism of the so-called illegal aliens.
Privatisation of Mutually Assured Destruction
Nuclear weapons and military knowledge were divided evenly between the different monopoly capitalists, such that mutually assured destruction has been formally privatised. Of course, the privatisation of military weapons had already been partially achieved in the 20th century, with the creation of what President Eisenhower famously called the military industrial complex. After the First Nuclear War, when it became clear that there would be no return to international relations, arms companies adjust to the new reality of inter-monopoly relations. They pledged to sell their weapons only to the officially-recognised monopoly corporations of the IU. In this way, the US military industrial complex of the 20th century was updated, with the US government effectively switched out for the IU.
Stability and Futures of the IU
The collective suspension of disbelief required to maintain the IU’s pantomime class society rests on physical and ideational power. The most important element in IU hegemony is surveillance. Republic credits trace the spending of all IU citizens. How one spends affects their social credit score, which affects their salary. IU propaganda perpetuates the idea that the reasonably high and stable living standard of the IU was the sole creation of the progressive capitalist monopolists. Having joined together as one unified body, the IU will help preserve human culture for millennia, and is essential for the long-term goal of escaping Earth before the sun explodes. It is also essential for warding off the menace of alien-aligned pirates. Besides surveillance and propaganda, the IU is not afraid to use physical force to crush dissent. Indeed, an IU gulag archipelago is filled with all manner of dissenting actors.
While the power of the IU is a controlling force on the lives of all who live under it, its future is ultimately up to them. If people chose to participate in the IU political economy, they can become wealthy with Republic Credits. If they are skilled enough, they can get promotions in the IU military, amongst other jobs. Alternatively, players might decide to overthrow or just live outside of the IU. The poorest workers in the IU, The Others, who oversee the AI mining and farming bots, might become attracted to pirate propaganda, and the higher price offered to those willing to exchange raw materials for a strange new alien coin.
If people decide to completely overthrow the IU, they can. If they want to work within it to change it via reform, they can. If they want to become general secretary of the IU, to wield the full power of centralised hierarchy, they can try. They can build up the IU army to be immensely powerful, or they can abandon it and focus on the simple life of farming. The IU has many possible futures. Like all history, these will be decided by the players themselves.
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