Remember Rollerball? The original 1975 version with James Caan? One of the interesting premises of the movie was the collapse of the nation-state in favor of the corporation. That premise was somewhat prescient, anticipating one of the main tropes of cyberpunk by almost a decade. The idea is commonplace now, a shorthand for some deep systemic dysfunction in films from Robocop to Avatar.
The idea of corporate governance seems at odds with our current reality, where the state is advancing its role across the board. But, strangely enough, in the face of the most aggressive growth of state power in history, the idea is popping up in diverse places.
What if we’re watching the initial death-rattle of the nation-state?
And it would be interesting to see a take on the idea that isn’t dystopic.
I recently read a rather interesting sfnal riff on Obama’s state of the union speech, based on an administration reference to a “New Foundation”:
But I recall reading here or somewhere that Paul Krugman and several other leading economic and legal academic-policymakers had come to their professions wanting to be … Hari Seldon. Deeply attracted to the idea of a mathematically-based psychohistory.
It reminded me of other references to Hari Seldon I’ve heard at convention panels and such, very often in connection with economics. The macro-economic idea of predicting and manipulating society as a whole pre-dates Asimov by several decades, but his view of psychohistory in Foundation has become a seminal influence in SF and, at least subliminally, beyond. . .
And, it is, in fact a horribly dangerous concept. If you’re familiar with my series through the Moreau books, the Hostile Takeover Trilogy, and currently the Apotheosis Trilogy, you’ve seen me use psychohistory as a weapon, which, if it worked, would be a horribly effective one. But that isn’t the main danger of Asimov’s idea. The danger is in the fact that it doesn’t work, and in the fact that the nature of complex chaotic systems means it may never work, but it is still such an inherently seductive idea that otherwise brilliant people can delude themselves into thinking it does work.
Our economy has taken a nose-dive, and continues to do so, because of smart men who believed that if they controlled the right variable, tweaked the right interest rate, raised the right tax or passed the right regulation, that society would do as it was told. It rarely does, and the more centralized the decision making, the more perverse the eventual outcomes— and the worse the result, the more drastic the reactions by the people who thought they were in control.