Friday, June 28, 2013



Here’s a unique idea. Land on Earth, declare your friendship, start selling them stuff. Pretty soon, they can’t do without the products of your advanced civilization.

The Gryphonians of Rog Alpha wanted to try this. They were going to sell virtual reality game goggles that directly stimulated the pleasure centers of the human brain. But the whole plan was scrapped when their world’s economy tanked. Turns out Gryphonian real estate does not infinitely increase in value even if you do surround it with transdimensional warp generators.

It’s a nice idea, but it overlooked something important: what were the Earthlings going to give the Gryphonians in exchange for their addiction glasses? Raw materials are out of the question; as we will discuss later on, the Earth has a fraction of the raw materials available to a spacefaring race. If the Gryphonians had accepted, say, bars of gold in exchange for super advanced trinkets, they would have been exchanging at a big frigging loss. That would cause economic chaos, all right – on the Gryphonian homeworld. They might as well have planned to trade cell regenerators for rocks!

Because the humans don’t possess anything that could be used as a medium of exchange, this plot is a non-starter. The only solution would have been to accept terran currencies and integrate them into the galactic market.


WAR HAWK: Shut up! That’s a dumb idea. I’ll explain why later. But just in case you hadn’t noticed the galactic market for slave labor is pretty pathetic.

Back to the topic. Currency is a funny thing. Most of it, on its own, is worthless. Hell, most galactic currencies are one hundred percent virtual, and don’t even have a physical representation like a coin or a note. Their value is set pretty much by what the market dictates. Earth currencies would start out at the very bottom end of the scale. They’d have to exchange millions of their US dollars just for one super conducting hover belt. But under this plan, very gradually the exchange rate would start to favor the Earthlings as the Gryphonians flooded the market with more and more goods.

And here’s why this plan was not going to work.

In order to even get started, the Gryohonians would have had to integrate the Earth’s economy with the rest of the galaxy. So far, so good. But then Earth would have been open to other “investors.” Most of them would have been legitimate investors looking to take advantage of the exchange rate. They would start setting up their own operations. In order to run these facilities, the Earthlings would have had to learn how to operate the advanced tech behind them. In very short order, this plan would have transformed the Earth from a backwater to a semi-developed planet. More importantly, the humans have started to produce the products in addition to consuming them. So much for “taking over.”

But suppose the Gryphonians had been able to keep the interlopers out. They still would have had a problem because Earth consumption would be driving their economy. The Earth may have been dependent on the Gryphonians, but Gryphonians would have ended up just as dependent on them, if not more so. What would have happened if the terrans suddenly stop buying the Gryphonian devices? Who was going to hurt more, the Earth or Gryphonia Major? In the past this might have worked. History is full of examples of industrialized societies taking advantage of less sophisticated ones through drugs or strong drink. But the speed of modern trade works against that strategy. In the past a company was in danger only if it showed a loss for several consecutive quarters. Now a company faces major trouble if it doesn’t earn as much profit as experts expected it to. And because speed and interconnectivity that small “loss” can start a full on panic in nanoseconds.

How exactly would this ensure control of the humans? It might have brought Earth into the Gryphonian sphere of influence, but that’s not the same thing as control. Economics is nothing like warfare. Believe me, a town that lost its factory is nothing like a town that got blasted with heavy artillery. If the Gryphonians later threatened to cut the Earth off, sure the humans would be pissed. But, worst case scenario, they would be forced to go back to what they were doing before all this started. And by that point they may have reverse engineered enough that they could produce their own knockoffs.

This is terrible strategy because it would have opened the Gryphonian homeworld to unforeseen repercussions. Their home planet would have found itself less economically attractive than the Earth because in business “underdeveloped” also means “has loads of potential.” That would have resulted in mass unemployment in the Grypphonian’s own system. In the end, it’s a good thing their economy crashed and their civilization fell. Because, had they gone through with this plan, their economy would have collapsed, and their civilization would have fallen.

Warriors wage war. Merchants trade. Economists do… something. The point is, while war and economics are connected, they are separate pursuits. In the end, the merchant and warrior have different ideas of what success looks like. If you want to capture a fortress, you don’t try to increase market share. If you want to make a profit, you don’t blow up a command center.

Unless you’re a merc. In which case blowing up command centers are a great way to make money. Believe me, I know.

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