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Tale of Two Nations

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Dark, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

This is a story of two imaginary countries: Gstan & Hstan.

These two nations share the same continent: Gstan has the northern half and Hstan has the southern half. A chain of mountains traverses both nations along the eastern side, flanked by another chain on its western side. In between the two ranges lie the plains of Gstan and Hstan where the farms, towns, and cities are located. Both nations have similar climates, with similar dry and wet areas, with similar hot and cold areas.

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Both nations have very similar economies. For instance, they have about the same number of Farmers, who own fields, pastures, orchards, fish reserves, and small factories to make and produce the food. Each Farmer is an independent business person and belongs to a respected profession in both lands.

Both nations have about the same number of Makers, whose products range from kitchenware to automobiles to farm machinery to computers.

Both nations have their Miners. Each Miner owns property in one of the two mountain ranges. The East Mountains contain minerals such as iron, copper, and tin. The West Mountains contain coal. Both mountain ranges are covered in forests, which the Miners also harvest for paper and lumber.

Both nations have their Service Providers, who are the police officers, teachers, doctors and nurses, the water and electricity plant workers, truck drivers, and government administrators.

The citizens of Gstan and Hstan, although not overly rich, do have a little disposable income from their labor and business initiatives to spend on their own enjoyment. When they want to partake in the better things their society offers, they have two possible choices:

  • They can spend their disposable income on the Artists who produce theatre, music, paintings, and sculptures. Artists and Makers are frequently working together to create, for a little profit, goods that are both artistic and practical.
  • They can visit the establishments run by Casino Operators. Here, citizens can indulge in a little gambling, possibly increase their wealth, and enjoy some of the excitement that gambling offers.

In both Gstan and Hstan, the Artists and Gambling Casino thrive in about the same proportion.

Both nations are actually quite self sufficient, and as a result, there is very little trade between them. When one sees how similar these two countries are, it's difficult to see the one big difference between them: their systems of governance.

The citizens of Gstan have decided that those citizens elected to positions of government really cannot be trusted. Therefore Gstan has devised all sorts of laws and regulations that prevent untrustworthy elected citizens from abusing their position for their own profit. “Because it is hard to prove who is trustworthy from who is untrustworthy,” say the political philosophers of Gstan, “trustworthy elected officials have to abide by the rules made for the untrustworthy.”

While the Gstan society has shackled its elected officials in their legislative deliberations, it has also decided to give its citizens an extremely large amount of freedom: as long as one citizen's actions do not directly interfere with the life of another, that citizen is free to continue that action. “It is far better,” the recognized thinkers of Gstan say, “that average citizens have the freedom to act as fools than to have one untrustworthy official get away with a corrupt deed.”

Hstan, on the other hand, has a different approach in governance. It has decided that it does have many trustworthy and very capable citizens in its midst. Hstan has devised an electoral process that is good at putting these trustworthy people into positions of governance and a legislative process that encourages these minds to work together rather than compete for power.

Hstan has also recognized that civil liberties are not an absolute concept. For any society to function, it must provide a certain degree of freedom and it must create laws that limit freedom. These liberties will change as the society changes. Rather than enshrine these freedoms into a constitution, the citizens trust their elected officials and their legislative processes to make the changes as needed.

So here we have two nations with very similar economies and social structures. Only their systems of governance differ. Do we dare imagine their destinies?


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© 2009 Dave Volek.
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