The Rising Generation: Episode 8

Roger is sitting on his favorite chair on the veranda, sharing a post-prandial glass of wine with his relative.

Adrian: So, Great-Cousin, tell me: how do these Householdings really work? I mean, surely it can't be just idealism that keeps them going.

Adrian heroically represses a smirk.

Roger: Well, I admit that the vin extremely ordinaire does help. But actually, the system works pretty well, and idealism is a significant part of why.

Adrian: Yes, but a Householding -- take Zeor, for example -- how can they compete with a business providing the same products? They have so much more overhead, women and children and unproductive men to feed.

Roger: Now, that's where you're wrong. The Householdings tend to have less overhead, because we can supply most of the things we require ourselves. We're an entire community, not just a single business.

Adrian: But how can you possibly be as good at each of those things as a specialist? The division of labor is the foundation of prosperity!

Adrian is quoting Templetonian orthodoxy.

Roger: Yes. And while I'm an expert in my craft, Sat'htine has equally good experts in farming, smithing, and other necessary skills. And we are all ambrov Sat'htine, with our skills applied towards the benefit of our House.

Adrian: Well, farming's kind of a special case -- a lot has to do with having good land.

Roger: Which we do. And we have people whose job is to keep up on the latest findings, so we can apply the appropriate ones to improve our production.

Adrian: But your carpenters, no matter how good they might be, can't possibly turn out tables and chairs as cheaply and quickly as Templeton Furniture.

Roger: On the contrary. If we wanted Templeton furniture, we'd have to pay for it with cash. When we make our own, we pay nothing but maintenance on our wood shop. Which we'd have to have anyway, because we have a lot of wooden things that must be kept in repair.

Adrian: Well, but maintenance carpenters aren't as efficient as production carpenters -- when it comes to production, anyhow. If one man makes only legs, and another only seats, it's a huge win. And it's true that you'd have to pay cash, but surely people pay you for your medical services already.

Roger: We get some compensation from the Tecton, paid for from the general revenues, especially for the selyn services and training we provide. However, we seldom have enough extra cash sitting around to spend it on things we can make for ourselves.

Roger: And while it may be efficient to train your carpenters in only one task, it's more useful in the long run to have carpenters who can perform a variety of tasks. Not to mention that it's more interesting for the carpenter.

Adrian: Okay, so you are in a subsistence economy. But compared to a cash economy, that's going to keep you poor forever.

Adrian gestures to show that by "you" he means Sime Territory.

Roger: Our "subsistence economy" provides a better average standard of living for our people than the cash-based economies I know.

Adrian: Well, granted, it's more egalitarian. But what incentive is there for people to better themselves, then?

Roger: Our youngsters stay in the general labor pool, doing unskilled tasks, until they find a profession that suits them. It's motivation enough -- most bestir themselves to find something better within a few months. Those who don't, still have useful employment.

Adrian: So most of your unskilled labor is essentially slave labor?

Roger: Not at all. People in the general labor pool have the same rights and responsibilities as I do.

Adrian nods.

Adrian: Yes, of course, not what I meant. The point is that most of the people doing it, don't want to be. So their incentive to work hard isn't there. After all, it's not like they'll starve if they don't.

Adrian doesn't add: like in Gen Territory.

Roger: No, but they won't find a mentor to teach them a more interesting craft if they have a reputation as a slacker. Nor will they find much sympathy among their naztehrhai.

Adrian: I suppose that does help. Well, since you're basically government-supported, you can afford it, and anyhow, it's always possible to run a sufficiently small-scale operation as pure cooperation. But it doesn't scale up: the other Householdings must mostly depend on luxury products of one sort or another.

Roger chuckles.

Roger: You don't know much about the Nivet economy before Unity, do you?

Adrian: As Uncle Henree says, history is bunk.

Adrian grins impudently.

Roger: If you don't know a person's past, how can you predict what motivates them? That goes double for a society.

Adrian: When it comes right down to it, I suppose everyone's motivations are the same. Or at least everyone but Simes and, um, Donors.

Roger: Not at all. My motivations, I expect, are different from yours. And your father's are different, still.

Adrian: Like I said, Donors are different, and so are Simes. But for the rest of us, it's honor, power, riches, fame, and the love of women.

Adrian grins.

Roger: For some, yes. Others want to build something, or to figure out how the world works, or to change the world for the better. There are even some who derive real pleasure from bringing order to chaos.

Adrian: Women, especially.

Roger: Actually, the best bean-counter I know happens to be a man.

Adrian: Oh, that kind of order. Sure. But whatever. People everywhere want to get as much as they can for doing as little of what they don't want to do as they can. Some people are lucky and get paid for doing what they like, but how many are that lucky?

Roger: Well, apart from the getting paid part, I don't know very many of my naztehrhai who are unhappy with what they do for a living.

Adrian: Sure. But if they could do less and still enjoy the same standard of living, don't you think a lot of them would?

Roger considers.

Roger: I don't think so. We have plenty of leisure time to pursue our other interests. What would be the point of just sitting around, doing nothing, watching other people work?

Adrian: Why not?

Adrian gives his Great-Cousin yet another smartass grin.

Roger: Quite apart from boredom, if you become too much of a freeloader, your welcome is likely to dry up.

Adrian: Ah. Yes. Well. I take the hint.

Roger hopes so.

Adrian decides to do something useful, namely to clean up, since the picnic seems to be over -- in more senses than one.

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