— a guest post by Lieutenant Colonel (And fellow Baen Author) Tom Kratman
Colonel Kratman sent me a message with this post in answer to my challenge to discuss the pros cons and intricacies of a Starship Trooper Type Regime. For those of you (lucky souls) not afflicted with our writing but and our oddness, this is how science fiction works — someone writes a book and someone else looks at it and goes “Oh, h*ll no* or perhaps *Yes, but–” or even “How about like this instead.” I make no mistake of the fact a lot of my stuff is that sort of dialogue with Heinlein — to wit the Earth revolution stuff is my answer to The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (“How about without a supercomputer?” resulted in A Few Good Men and the other notes in the background of that will do for the rest of the series.) Colonel Kratman says his Balboa Union books came as his taking of the basic principles of Starship troopers and adjusting them for a particular country on a particular planet, in another solar system. (More on Balboa and its narrative universe here.)
Government of Balboa, from Global Affairs Magazine, Volume 121, Issue of 10/474 AC
Balboans self describe their state as a “Timocratic Republic,” where Timocratic is taken to mean “the rule of virtue,” as opposed to the rule of wealth which has all too often been presumed, despite copious evidence to the contrary, to be virtuous. Balboa is more properly said to be a mixture of a popular republic and a limited military near-dictatorship, existing side by side but with the better funded, more aggressive military branch gradually taking over more and more of the functioning of the country, even as it becomes less dictatorial. That process continues as of this writing.
In structure, the government of Balboa appears conventional, with three branches, Executive – consisting of the President, two vice-Presidents, a cabinet and sundry executive agencies, Legislative – with both Senate and Legislative Assembly, and Judicial – consisting of a national level Supreme Court and lower, provincial, and district courts.
In terms of domestic politics, the geography of the country is profoundly subdivided. The bulk of the state is split into two parts, eastern and western, by the existence of the Tauran Union-occupied, World League-mandated, Transitway Area, running approximately through the center. Of the remainder, a fair chunk of the capital, Ciudad Balboa, is under the sway of the previous government as a result of an order, intended to prevent civil war, from the Federated States of Columbia.
The bulk of the state, the Republic of Balboa, proper, is further subdivided in two ways. Conventionally, it consists of eleven provinces, ranging from Valle de las Lunas, in the east, to La Palma, in the west. Although provinces sometimes have a considerable emotional pull on their inhabitants, politically they do not mean much in Balboa. They have no degree of individual sovereignty, no independent police or militia, nor any right to make province-specific laws. Even provincial governors are appointed by the national government.
The military division of the country is the more profound one. In the year 470 AC, the Senate, initially an appointed lawmaking body composed entirely of military veterans (though gradually becoming an elected body, still composed entirely of military veterans and elected by veterans), divided the national geography into several overlaying and overlapping grids, which grids paid absolutely no attention to existing provincial or district lines. These grids, the exact boundaries of which fluctuate slightly, are regimental.
One grid layer is composed of combat regiments, of which it is believed there are about forty. Parallel to that is another grid which defines combat support regiments – artillery, combat engineers, air defense artillery, military police, and the like. Parallel to those is a grid layer of headquarters and service support regiments. There are further grids for the air and naval arms, as well as for certain unique regiments, such as the Tercio Amazona (qv), which is female, the Tercio Gorgidas (qv), which is male homosexual, the Tercio Socrates (qv), for the elderly, and the Tercio Santa Cecilia (qv), for the handicapped. Which grid a given citizen belongs to, if he or she belongs to one, is determined at the time of their voluntary enlistment into the armed forces of Balboa, the Legion del Cid. It is believed that age, health, sex, and, where applicable, sexual orientation are the primary factors in assigning a prospective recruit to a layer of the grid and a regiment.
A Balboan may or may not have a deep emotional attachment to his district or province. If he is an immigrant, as many are, of late, he probably has no attachment to his district or province. His devotion to his regiment, however, if he belongs to one, is profound. His regiment has recruited and trained him, given him the most exciting years of his life, and paid for his education after service. It may well have fronted the loan for his house, his farm or his business. It may have built his house.
If he is married, the odds are good that the reception was held in the regimental hall, of which there are about one hundred and fifty scattered about the country, and the ceremony itself presided over by the regimental chaplain. His young children may be educated at a regimental school or attend a regimental summer camp. He and his family likely receive primary medical care, at low cost, at a regimental clinic. He drinks with his regiment. He goes fishing with his regimental comrades, at the regimental fishing hole. He shops for food and clothing at the tax-free regimental exchange or commissary or at the larger exchanges at legion or corps level. When he takes his wife or girlfriend to dinner, it is probably at that same, low cost but not inelegant, regimental hall, he was or will be married in, surrounding by the tokens of glory he helped earn, and of which he is a part. Moreover, his regiment is his primary political representation, via the Senate, elected by the regimental centuriate assemblies.
Each tercio, or regiment, of the Legion del Cid, the armed force of the Republic of Balboa, sends to the Senate one senator who serves for an eight year term, with one quarter of all senators being reelected – or not, as the case may be – every two years. Senators are elected by their regimental centuriate assembly, composed of the discharged veterans of the regiment.
Upon graduation from initial entry training, all newly minted soldiers are assigned to a political century, an arbitrary grouping of exactly one hundred. (That is to say, officially it is arbitrary. In practice, wealthier and better educated people appear to be deliberately scattered among the centuries not only to reduce their political influence but to force those wealthier and more influential types to watch out for their century-brothers.) Soldiers killed in initial entry training are also counted, and their names enrolled in the other centuries being filled at the time of graduation.
That is one type, one might call it the “post-revolutionary” type, of century. The other type consists of those who were soldiers prior to the “revolution,” which is to say prior to the election of Raul Parilla as President of the Republic and prior to the establishment of the Senate. These, plus their dead comrades, of which there were very many, were formed into political centuries shortly after the Parilla assumed power.
No one is ever added to or dropped from a century’s rolls. No one votes within his century until formally discharged from the Legion. No century ceases to exist, or loses its voting power, until the last member has died. This has not yet happened.
Biennially, all the centuries of a tercio meet, together, at the tercio’s main cantonment area or on the grounds of the regimental club, whichever is most convenient. There, six classes of decision are made by the voting members of a century. The first of these is for the political centurion, a position of some local honor and thus avidly sought. The political centurion directs the century in its voting, runs administration for the next two years, oversees the century’s Health, Welfare and Mutual Aid Fund (managed by Banco de la Legion, S.A.), tallies the vote and, in the ultimate extremity, leads the century in combat.
The second decision is whom the century shall support in the political campaign for the National Legislative Assembly, before which campaign the centuriate assembly is invariably set to meet. The second decision is only the century’s preference, as the final decision of support is determined by the full regiment’s centuriate assembly. Support in this case means two things: A) Members of the regiment are honor bound to vote for the candidate selected, as a group, even though votes for election to the National Assembly are individually tallied by secret ballot and B) the members of the regiment, indeed the entire regimental organization, will canvas aggressively for that candidate. In practice this has meant that not only do the veterans of the nation’s armed forces absolutely control the Senate, but that they also exercise de facto control of the legislative assembly, given that the purely civilian populace tends to scatter its own vote. Nothing requires that the civilians do this, of course. It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway, that no regimental centuriate assembly has ever yet endorsed a non-veteran for public office. Note that the veterans never win every seat in the Legislative assembly. They have never yet failed to take over half.
Thirdly, in presidential election years, the century votes for whom the entire national centuriate assembly shall support for the offices of the President and Vice Presidents of the Republic, the President also being Commander in Chief of the Legion and Princeps Senatus. There is currently a constitutional amendment pending to make this office completely the purview of the centuriate assembly.
The fourth decision concerns the regiment’s senator. This is decided by a majority vote of the centuries. It is entirely possible, and sometimes happens, for this to be a minority popular vote.
It is also worth mentioning that regiments are of different sizes, different annual intakes, and have varying numbers of political centuries. Senators do not vote their own persons, in senatorial deliberations; they vote the number of centuries in their particular regiments.
Fifthly, in addition to regimental senators, there are also another five percent at-large seats which are open only to persons who have earned high awards for valor in action, the Cruz de Coraje en Oro con Escudo y Espadas, or higher. In practice, this level of award is so rare that these could conceivably become lifetime seats were Balboa ever to have a lengthy period of peace. These at-large seats are voted on by all the political centuries of all the regiments, with those half dozen or so candidates garnering the most centuries being seated.
As an aside, there is a theoretical third class of senator, composed of ex-Presidents who have completed a second term without being impeached. These seats are to be for life.
Both valor seats and for-life seats vote the average number of centuries for the rest of the senate, i.e. total number of political centuries divided by the number of regimental senators.
The sixth class of decisions made by the centuriate assemblies is called ratification. In the ratification process any century may, by popular vote, call for any law or treaty passed by the Senate, or any decision of the National Supreme Court, to be subject to ratification. If said law or decision is not ratified by at least one third of all centuries, they are rendered null and void. Since the legislative system is bicameral, nullification of the Senate’s passage of a law also nullifies the bicameral passage of the law. This, because it is something of a pain for the centuries, is rarely used, though it has happened and laws have been nullified and decisions overturned because of it.
A word should be said here about minority representation. The typical, average regiment, because women only enter the Legion at about twenty-three percent of the rate of men, is predominantly male, said males being typically nationalistic, conservative, heterosexual, and more or less religious and patriarchal. Nothing has been done to ensure atheist or internationalist proportional political representation, but there are four “special” regiments, the Tercio Gorgidas, the Tercio Amazona, the Tercio Santa Cecilia and the Tercio Socrates that are set aside for gays, women – both lesbian and heterosexual, the handicapped and those very aged who elect to serve in some capacity in their sunset years. (These four regiments are the only regiments into which someone can permanently transfer after accession into a different regiment, though such transfers are voluntary and rare.) If nothing else, this gives each of those groups a distinct voice and the opportunity to barter their votes for fair treatment, beyond which perhaps no political system dependent upon consent of an empowered majority can really go.
Finally, we must address two peculiarities of Balboa’s political system: 1) its structural traditionalism and conservatism – so at odds with its partial but widespread socialism – and 2) that, as a practical matter, the dead keep their vote, if not indefinitely, then often long after they have died. The latter is reinforcement for the former.
Consider: War, which is perhaps the Balboans’ major export industry in the form of high priced auxiliaries, typically reduces the numbers, hence the political power, of those who have no objection to waging it. Under the Balboan system, while those individual numbers may be reduced, the political power of the class that feels that way remains at full strength, since the centuries in which those people were joined vote at full strength on their behalf, even after death.
Consider: People tend to grow more conservative with age. The fact that members of centuries are not replaced means that those centuries grow older and more conservative even as their strength of numbers lessens. This weights the Balboan political process, more or less heavily, in favor of conservatism and traditional values.
Consider: The entire gamut of philosophies we tend to think of as Liberalism, Internationalism, Cosmopolitanism, Tsarist-Marxism, Progressivism, Humanitarianism, etc. have as one of their major values one form or another of anti-militarism. These people, and Balboa has something approaching its share, tend not to join the Legion, not to be accessed into political centuries, to be barred from most public offices (though some do squeak through into the legislative assembly), and thus to be effectively politically disenfranchised, even though they may retain the right to vote for the Legislative Assembly.