A Story of Two Worlds

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
This short story explores the differences between religious and secular societies and between socialist and capitalist economies.In it I attempt to present both sides of the issues as they are generally viewed by their supporters so that the reader can form his own conclusions as to which is the preferable way to live.

Submitted: April 22, 2013

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Submitted: April 22, 2013



A Story of Two Worlds

In the latter part of the twenty first century it became apparent to a small group of people that a devastating confrontation was becoming inevitable. The Islamic Caliphate, led by Iran, had already expanded into parts of Spain and was threatening Europe. In North America there was increasing pressure to impose Sharia Law in the United States and Canada. All around the world the industrialized secular states were in some degree of confrontation with the third world countries led by religious leaders of one faith or another. For more than three decades the United Nations had been debating the issue, with the secular nations gradually giving concessions until their backs were to the wall. It was now recognized that the priests would never be satisfied until they ruled every country in the world. In their minds there was no room for negotiation, God told them what was right and nothing else would do. It was also widely believed that once they accomplished this goal, the various faiths would fight among themselves to determine which one would prevail. That would be the final battle that would either return humanity to the dark ages or destroy it completely.

The group, led by billionaire Ron Silverman, decided they had to do something. They had founded the Kepler society, whose goal was to make a private effort to establish humanity on other planets in the eventuality that the worst would happen on Earth. They had created the Kepler corporation to accomplish that goal. The group’s name had been chosen in honor of Johannes Kepler, a man who lived in the sixteenth century. He embodied the characteristics of their goals. He was an astronomer and mathematician, a man of science. He was also an astrologist and a man of faith, a spiritualist. The men and women who joined the society were not utopians or dreamers, they were highly educated, practical people. Some of them, like Silverman, were billionaires while others were scientist and professional people. Most were secular, but not all of them. The one thing that they had in common was the belief that the secular and spiritual societies were on a collision course that could not be averted and whose consequences would be devastating. They agreed that in order to insure humanities survival the two societies had to be physically separated. They realized, however, that they would also have to be mutually dependent upon each other. Their challenge was to create the circumstances that would allow that.

Ron Silverman had been born into a very poor family that had immigrated from Eastern Europe. His father was a window washer and his mother took in laundry. They had lived in a rundown tenement on New York City’s upper West side. It had been built before the second world war. One of his earliest memories was when he was about six years old on a cold winter day. There had been no steam coming out of the radiator in their small apartment and his mother had sent him down to the janitor in the basement to complain. What he saw there impacted the rest of his life. When he knocked on the door a little black boy about his own age opened it. The boy stood their speechless, staring at him. He too stood silent. It was their first encounter of someone from a different race and background. Finally the boy found his voice and shouted, “Momma!” His mother looked up from the table where she was sitting and saw Ron and yelled, “Come in boy!” He had walked slowly into the small apartment, his eyes wide open in amazement. The boy’s parents had been sitting at a small table eating dinner. There was garbage spread out all over the floor behind the table, with mice running through it. Roaches were climbing up the walls, crawling on the peeling paint. He heard a thud from behind the table, and saw a bag of garbage fall out of the open dumbwaiter and splatter onto the floor. The man at the table looked at him with hatred in his eyes. He wanted to turn away and run. “Sir, we need steam in apartment four,” he managed to stammer, and then he turned and walked quickly to the door. He heard a soft women’s voice say, “Son, youse every bit as good as that white boy, and don’t you fogit it! Put yer trust in Jesus and don’t you care what they think.”  If he had been able to articulate what he was feeling at that moment, it would have been, “How can people live like that?” He had no way of knowing that the owner of the building was loosing thousands of dollars every month because rent controls made it impossible to charge rent high enough to keep the building livable. If a tenant complained that his rights were being violated he could file a complaint that could get the owner fined and force him to reduce the rent even further. The owner could not evict tenants, and was required to provide essential services. He could not associate these facts with the broken dumbwaiter and lack of steam then, but in the future he would be able to. It was the first time that he had become aware that his family was poor, and he that did not want to live that way.

In high school he realized that he had an aptitude for math, which came naturally to him. After graduating he went into the military in order to receive the college benefits. He majored in finances in college, and was influenced by the writings of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. He became convinced that capitalism provided the best system for eliminating poverty. He obtained a job with a small local brokerage upon graduation and started his financial career.  He was a diligent researcher, and invested his and his client’s money in small companies that were managed by innovative people that believed in free market capitalism. In time he came to be an Anarcho capitalist, advocating the elimination of the state in favor of individual sovereignty in a free market. He also believed that outer space was the coming great financial opportunity, and began to specialized in companies that worked in that field. A small startup that specialized in nanotube technology caught his attention, and he invested heavily in it. A few aerospace companies were designing freighters that could travel to nearby planets to harvest their minerals, and he invested in those too. When the United Nations passed environmental laws that made it prohibitively expensive to mine minerals on Earth, the value of those companies increased exponentially, and he became a billionaire.

During the years while he was earning his fortune, spending fifteen or more hours a day researching the companies he was investing in, the American economy had become increasingly under the Federal government’s control. It now consumed more than fifty percent of the gross domestic product, three times the amount of the first decade of the century. In order to subsidize the sixty percent of the population that didn’t pay federal taxes, the rates of the other forty percent had risen dramatically. The average rate was forty percent, his was ninety percent. Although what he considered to be the legal theft of his money disturbed him, it was not the main cause of his dismay. It was the way that the government sapped the ambition and energy out of every one, how it killed their desire to provide for themselves. It seemed that the harder you worked and the more you earned, the greater was your punishment. It was a con game, and the last person standing was the looser, that was when he decided to quit the game. When he established the Keplier society, Anarcho capitalism was one of the principles it was based upon.

The name of the little black boy living in the basement was Billy Angel. The surname had been given to the family when a distant grandfather, born a slave, was delivered by his white owner’s wife. She had thought he looked angelic. All of her life Billy’s mother had persisted in telling him that he was as good as any white boy, and that thought was now an integral part of his personality. He never forgot the look on the white boy’s face when he opened the door and saw how he lived. He never forgot the shame that he had felt at the time, the feeling that it wasn’t fair that the white people had everything and looked down on him. Like Ron Silverman, he couldn’t articulate his feelings nor understand the economic forces that caused him to live the way he did. He only felt an overwhelming desire to change things. While his friends were always getting into trouble, in and out of jail, he stayed in school. He worked at various odd jobs as a dish washer, janitor or laborer in order to support himself and his parents. The better jobs always seemed to go the well dressed boys, the ones that didn’t really need them. “It isn’t fair,” he thought, “I know as much as they do.” This feeling of injustice permeated  his existence and influenced the rest of his life. He had a natural athletic ability, and made three varsity teams while in high school. Although he was not a very good student, he received an athletic scholarship to a black seminary college in the South, a school that had been established primarily for black students more than a hundred years before. He was fortunate to have a very able coach that forced him to work hard and developed him into an outstanding athlete. After earning his degree he became a very successful professional athlete and had other career successes before starting his own ministry. While traveling across the country during his various careers he became acutely aware of the different living standards that existed in the large cities between white and non-white people, between people with and without money. It was a stark reminder of his childhood poverty, and re-enforced his desire to narrow the gap between the classes of people. He became determined to eliminate the gap between what he considered to be the “haves” and “have nots”. The two boys, Ron Silverman and Billy Angle, were destined to meet again. Neither would know or recognized the other when it happened, but their confrontation would have great consequences for the Kepler society.

Two planets that could support human life had been discovered by a team of astronomers at California’s University of Santa Cruz in the early part of the century. By mid-century the Kepler satellite and other NASA missions had provided more data about those planets. Located in the constellation Libra, 20.3 light years from Earth, the star they circled was called Gliese 581, and had six planets orbiting it. One of the planets was more than five times as massive as Earth and was located in the habitable zone. It had oceans similar to those on Earth. It had been know as Gliese d, and had been renamed Earth Alpha by them. The second planet, also in the habitable zone, had been known as Gliese g and had been renamed Earth Beta. It was more than three times the size of Earth, but much colder and less habitable than Alpha. It had a solid, rocky surface. Alpha was to be colonized by the people of faith, Beta by the secular group.

The society’s plan had called for two space ships to be built at its own expense, each one was to carry three thousand people who had been recruited after extensive interviews. The passengers and crews of both ships had signed a compact allowing each ship to determine its own form of government, but declaring that jointly they would be governed as a republic during the voyage. The plan called for the ship and planet settled by the seculars, planet Beta, to be a republic with no establishments of religion ever formed, although the inhabitants would be able to worship privately. Alpha’s ship and planet would be a democracy. On their planet each faith would be separated from the other by the geographic attributes of the planet. These plans had been agreed to by the passengers of each ship.

Because it was necessary to have commerce between the two societies, a medium of exchange had been established. The things that would be of value to everyone were those that helped them to survive and prosper, the knowledge and abilities that each individual provided. That was the reason each person had undergone detailed interviews before being admitted to the program. During the decade it took to build the space crafts, the intensive screening of people that desired to join them allowed the Kipler society to balance the populations of both ships.  It was their intention to select as much of a cross section of humanity as they could find that fit their stringent requirements. They had to be strong enough to survive the journey in good health. Eighty percent of them had to be able to father or bear children. They had to have a wide range of useful skills with little duplication. They had to have personality traits that would allow them to live in the confined area of the ship for the length of the long journey, and allow them to get along with each other on their new worlds. Lastly, they had to agree to the medium of exchange that had been created.  The plan allowed each ship to choose its own form of government and economy, but the Kepler corporation acted as the main banker for both ships.

Time is one thing that is constant for everyone.  We all have a finite amount of time to live. It is something that is of equal value to everyone. Unlike precious metals or jewelry, its value doesn’t fluctuate. It is the perfect medium for determining the value of things, the absolute value of one hour of life is the same for everyone. A rich man might enjoy that hour more than a poor one, but neither can replace it once it has passed. That does not mean that if two men do something of value in an hour, both men’s labor is of equal value. A lumberjack chopping down a tree for an hour cannot be considered equal to a doctor performing brain surgery for an hour. The difference is what they had to accomplish to learn the skills that enable them to do their job. The true value of what they do is the skill factor multiplied by the time required to make a product or provide a service. The value of the skill factor is determined by the ability of the person and how much time it took him to acquire that ability.

The currency they created to reflect those values was called the industrial unit. The Kepler corporation bought all of the passengers earthly possessions and paid for them with gold. The gold had been obtained by auctioning those possessions and converting the money received into gold. This gold was then credited to their accounts at the rate of one hundred IUs per ounce. The pay scale they established was based upon knowledge, skill and labor, at a ratio of 3:2:1.  A scientist performing an experiment that took one hour would earn three units. A machinist manufacturing a part requiring one hour would earn two units, a laborer working for one hour would earn one unit. During the screening each applicant had stated their educational achievements and learned skills. The information had then been entered into a computer and appropriate pay scales for the passengers had been determined. Every passenger had willingly agreed to this system before being accepted by the society. Additional credits would be earned as they performed necessary functions during the journey.  Anyone could increase their pay scale by acquiring increased knowledge or skills. Upward mobility was encouraged and rewarded.Every living space had access to the ships computer and it educational programs, and an effort had been made to recruit highly qualified teachers.

The ship’s launching was not a widely noted event. Two or three ships left Earth every day for near by planets, mostly on mining expeditions.  There were wars being fought, and threats of war being made. Survival was the main concern of most of humanity. The people attending the launchings were for the most part family members saying good bye, as has been the costume of people seeing others off on voyages for hundreds of years. The only difference being that there would be no returning from this one. The passengers were assembled in two countries, the United States and Germany, where space elevators had been constructed a decade earlier. Originally conceived of in 1895, they were thought theoretically impossible to build because there were no materials known at that time that were strong enough for the job. Steel cables had only about one fortieth the strength required. Then in the 1950’s evidence of carbon nanotubes were discovered. In the next four decades it was determined that a cable made of that substance would be more than strong enough.  More decades passed before it became economically feasible to construct such a cable. The knowledge that such an elevator would reduce the cost of lifting a pound of material into Earth’s orbit to one thousandth of its previous cost was the driving factor. The elevators allowed enormous crafts to be built in orbit that would have been impossible to build on Earth. These were the kind of ships the elevators were now transporting these passengers to.

The first thing one noticed about the ship was the enormous scoop on the front of it, about one hundred miles in diameter. It was the main reason the ship had to be built in outer space. The scoop was necessary to gather hydrogen in space to fuel the ramjet fusion engine that propelled the ship. The hydrogen would be heated to millions of degrees, causing a thermonuclear reaction that would propel the ship. Maintaining a 1g acceleration for a year, ships time, the ship would attain three fourths the speed of light. Continuing at this speed and allowing for the necessary deceleration would enable them to reach their destination well within the lifetimes of all aboard. When they arrived the scoop would be disassembled and its materials used for building living quarters, machines and tools on the hospitable Alpha planet. On the more hostile Beta planet it would be used to create a dome to protect the settlers until they could build adequate shelters from the resources at hand.

Each ship was about the size of an ocean liner. The attitudes of the passengers and crew were mixed. A large portion of their lives would be lived within the confined quarters of their craft. They were comfortable enough, the accommodations being similar to a first class compartment on an ocean going ship, with most of the facilities of one. For most this was an improved standard of living. Some felt misgivings, of course. The most common one being committing their future generations to living their entire lives on a distant planet, without ever having known life on Earth. They had no way to know exactly what they were committing them to. Like the early American settlers, they believed it was a better future. On one ship they placed their belief that they were doing the right thing in their faith in God, on the other their reason and logic convinced them that there was no alternative.

It was this difference in philosophical outlook that had caused the founding members of the Keplers to design their enterprise to take them to two different planets on two separate ships. Faith and logic have been in conflict for hundreds of years. When Copernicus determined that the planets revolved around the sun it was considered to contradict the Bible and he was severely criticized. Galileo was condemned by the Catholic Church for supporting Copernicus. To this day there was no way to reconcile religious belief with scientific facts and theory. Even Einstein, because of his religious background, found it difficult to accept the Heisenberg uncertainty principle because he didn’t think that God would throw dice with the Universe. How then do you explain to a person that takes most of their knowledge from a book written hundreds of years before the fact that an electron can seemingly be in many places at the same time, which was now the accepted basis of chemistry? As one of the founding Keplers put it, “They want to live their lives based upon what happened in the past, we want to live ours based upon what we know in the present and what we believe the future could be.” Through the centuries these contradicting philosophies had battled each other, leading to constant friction and warfare between the opposing viewpoints. For the Keplers, the only apparent solution was to keep them permanently separated.

The two spacecraft were identical in design, but different in space allocation. While the living accommodates and technical features were identical, the rest of each craft was designed to achieve their different goals. They had been named after the planets they were traveling to, and were commonly referred to as Alpha and Beta. Beta, the ship of the Secular passengers, was outfitted with the most recent technological and scientific equipment. Its computers contained all of the scientific knowledge acquired to date. Its passengers were mostly scientist and industrialist, skilled technicians and lab workers. There were also many farmers and tradesmen, who intended to continue the occupations that had been in their families for generations. These tended to be Christians who would come together to practice their faith in their cabins. Most of Beta passengers were college graduates, many of them held advanced degrees. Large areas had been set aside for scientific laboratories, classrooms, machine shops, and other necessities of an industrial society. This required them to reduce the space allocated to growing food and raising livestock to the minimum necessary for survival. This was not considered to be a problem, however, because the Alpha ship could easily provide enough food for both of them if it became necessary.  That was not considered likely, since the Beta farmers had been chosen because of their proven abilities to raise crops and livestock productively and efficiently.

It was the Alpha ship’s choice to be an agrarian society. It was their desire to live a simple life and worship God in their own manner. They believed that science and industry interfered with their ability to do that. They weren’t anti- science or anti-industry, they just didn’t want it to be a major part of their life. That was one of the reasons they had been chosen for the journey. Many were graduates of agricultural colleges and others held degrees in business and liberal arts. There were many college professors among them. A major area of their ship had been devoted to including a large biosphere for raising livestock and crops. There was also an auditorium for performances. There were artists, musicians and authors. All shared the desire for a simpler life than the one they were leaving behind. Large areas of their ship had been allocated to schools and places of worship, but by far the largest was reserved for growing food and raising livestock.

The ships were to travel to their destination on parallel courses at the same time. They would never be more than a one hour shuttle trip distance from each other and would of course be in constant communication. They would therefore be able to supply each other’s needs. In effect, Alpha would supply the raw materials Beta required and Beta the finished goods needed by Alpha.  Much time and debate had been given to the question of communicating with Earth. Did they really want to know what happened after they left? Some people argued that it would be better just to make a clean break and leave the past behind. There was nothing to be gained by communication because there was no way a rescue ship could reach them in case of an emergency. Others said that they had relatives and friends that would be anxious to know how they were. A compromise was reached allowing communication for the next one hundred years of Earth time only, by laser, at a frequency that would only be known to the people that worked for the society on Earth.  

During the first year of the voyage only a few decades had passed on Earth. The communications they received were not encouraging. The Caliphate had extended its influence into most of Europe, and had imposed Sharia law in those countries it controlled. North America still resisted and threatened war against the Caliphate. Catholic South America was aligning itself with the North. As time passed it became apparent that the countries of Earth had reorganized themselves into three groups, Asia, the Americas and the rest of the world ruled by the Caliphate. Then communication from Earth was abruptly halted with no explanation. They were never heard from again. By this time several hundred years had passed on Earth, so everyone the passengers on the ship had known had been dead for a long time. They speculated as to what might have happened, but it was of no great concern to them. It was history, and duly recorded in the computer memories. Future historians would have to try to put the pieces of knowledge that they had together and try to figure out what might have happened. They had their own problems.

The relationship between the Alpha and Beta ships had become strained.  While the monetary system worked reasonably well aboard each ship, the Alpha ship was not happy with the results of inter-ship commerce. Most of its passengers were either skilled workers or laborers who earned less I U’s per hour worked than those on the Beta ship. They argued that their labor, raising livestock and crops or making machines, was equally as important as that of the scientist and technicians on Beta. The ships could not survive without them. The Beta ship responded that it was they who provided the resources for this journey, provided the knowledge to get it to its destination, and held the responsibility for its survival. It was the first of many conflicts to come, and had been anticipated by the Kepler society. On the Beta ship Ronald Silverman addressed a meeting of the other founders.

“As you are all aware, the society devoted many years of study and research to the problem of intractable conflicts. It is our top priority to avoid them with Alpha. Our intensive passenger screening and their assignment to their respective ship and planet were intended to minimize this problem, but we realized that we could not solve it. For thousands of years of history humans have lived in some degree of conflict, and probably always will. Our goal is to keep it manageable. Doing this requires negotiation and compromise. Taking rigid positions would be seen by them as a threat to their existence. They might begin to fear us. That fear could cause them to not recognize our mutual concerns. It is this escalation that must be avoided.

“It is clear that we’ve now entered into this phase with Alpha. What happens next will determine our relationship with them after we’ve settle our separate planets. We anticipated that they would eventually try to use their greater resources as leverage against us, and so we’ve prepared for it. We are quite capable of holding out against them indefinitely if necessary, but it is wiser to seek an accommodation with them. The Kepler’s goal, from the beginning, has been to establish a society that does not contain the seeds of self destruction that we have seen sprout like weeds in almost every generation on Earth. Our method has been to keep the two most adverse factions of society, the secular and religious, physically separated. It was also recognized that we are mutually dependent upon each other. Our life on Beta would be a sterile one without the culture that Alpha will provide. Yes, in time we would develop our own culture, but it would be a cold one. Likewise, in time they would develop their own science and technology, but until then generations of their people would do unnecessary manual labor and live harsh lives. That is not what we want for them. The time to settle this conflict is now, before it escalates. We must set a precedent for settling future disputes.”

A congress was convened with equal representation from both ships. Everyone present was read the part of the charter where they had agreed to be governed as a Republic during the journey. Many did not realize the significance of that fact, but soon would. The spokesman for the Alpha ship was allowed to present his case. He stated that there in space the situation was different than it had been on Earth because the value everyone’s work was equal. None could survive without the efforts of all involved, therefore all should be equally compensated. In what some perceived as a veiled threat, he stated that if one group of workers withheld their work, all would suffer. He proposed that the labor’s pay be raised to 1.5 I U s and the skilled workers to 2.5 IU s per hour.

The spokesman for the Beta ship presented his rebuttal. “Alpha says that the value of everyone’s work is equal,” he began. “Let us examine the meaning of the word value as it applies to our situation. I submit that the greatest value we have is that which advances us towards our destination. That being the case, who provides the most value to our society? The laborer is not indispensable, if necessary he could be replaced by a technician or a scientist, but he could not replace either of these. By threatening to withhold his service he could do some harm, but it would not be devastating. If a man of skill withheld his services, the laborer would be more greatly affected than visa versa. Without his machinery the laborer would have to increase his efforts much more than a magnitude of two to one, which is the difference in their pay scale, therefore the laborer benefits greatly by the pay scale as it exists. As for the scientist, physicians and surgeons, if they withheld their efforts we would not survive for long. Neither the men of skill nor the laborers could replace them. It would be difficult to place an accurate value on the services that they provide, and we should be grateful that they are willing to be valued at only three times that of a laborer when it is obvious that they are worth much more. In the long history of humanity, it is knowledge that has moved us forward. Without it we will not only cease to advance, we will stagnate and decline. Let there be no more threats, we will not be intimidated. As a gesture of good will, I have been authorized to offer an increase of one tenth of an IU to everyone on Alpha, with no matching increase on Beta. But note that in the future there will be only one way to increase salaries, through gained skills and knowledge.  I propose that anyone withholding their services be confined to their quarters without pay and privileges until they are ready to return to work.  There is no reason they should benefit from other peoples efforts if they will not provide their own when they are able to do so. I call for a vote of the assembly to that effect and to changing the pay scale.”

The Alpha spokesman objected. He said that this was a matter that affected everyone on board the two ships, and therefore everyone should be allowed to vote on it. It was then that the presiding officer pointed out that the assembly had been chosen by the passengers of both ships, and that all had agreed to be governed as a Republic, not a Democracy. The majority could not impose its will on the minority, individual rights would prevail. The vote was held and passed.  Eventually things returned to normal, but it was the beginning of a strain that was to mark the rest of the voyage.

An assembly of its legislature was held aboard the Alpha ship. It included people elected by the various organized groups to represent them.  All believed that they were being treated unfairly by the Beta ship. The question was what should they do about it? A Christian minister, having the largest following, had been chosen to be the leader of this assembly. He was the Reverand Billy Angel. He had been a well known, controversial priest on Earth. After his career as a professional athlete had faded, his good looks and rugged appearance had enabled him to get secondary roles in some popular movies. Then he had tried to enter politics, but he had never succeeded in getting elected to office. With the memories of the deprivations of  his youth and the desperation of the people he had seen during his travels still heavy on his mind,  he began a ministry in New York City’ Harlem. He recalled his garbage strewn apartment, his father’s desperation, his mothers despair. He remembered his anger, while he was growing up, because no one would help them out of their misery. He had resolved then that he would do something to change things, to help people like him if he could, as his mother had pleaded with him to do. He decided that now was the time for him act. In college he had learned about the Rev. Wright and his preaching of liberation theology in the early part of the century. He had been impressed by the fact that a member of Wright’s congregation had become President and was able to implement some of his teachings into law. He realized that it was possible to improve people’s lives by preaching from the pulpit. His church congregation had been small, but because of his fame, good looks and fiery talking delivery he was able to attract a large television audience which became his base. From it he preached pure liberation theology, without the political invective that had characterized the Rev. Wright.  But once the public realized that it was just another wealth redistribution scheme, they had tuned him out. Then he had heard about the Kepler society and he realized that it represented an opportunity to make him immortal. He could become to Earth Alpha what Jesus had been to Earth! He could finally bring to humanity, on that far away planet, the truth and justice it had been seeking. He could be the one to bring equality to all with a new beginning! He and some of his followers were among the first to apply to join them, but only a small number of them were accepted because he was very controversial. It was the Kepler’s desire to include as broad a representation of humanity as possible on their ships that worked in their favor and allowed them passage.  

The Reverend Angel went to the podium to address the gathering. He spoke about how the Betas were continuing a long historical tradition of unjust political, economic and social domination. He described how the teaching of Jesus emphasized the suffering of the poor and their struggle against society. When he implied that everyone on the Alpha ship should receive an equal amount of  IU s for their work there was a murmur of agreement, with barely any protest. Before the meeting he had done some research on the planets Alpha and Beta, he now told the audience what he had learned.

“When these planets were first discovered, they were not thought to be habitable. Later observations made by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft proved that they were. It was only with the Kepler societies private unmanned spacecraft missions to Gelise 581 in mid-century that we learned more about them. Our planet has oceans and continents, which means raw materials. Betas planet is mostly rock and ice. This means that they will be dependent upon us for many things. There is no reason why we should let them take advantage of us”

One of the professors interrupted him. “Mr. Angel, you are introducing class warfare into the discussion, a war we can’t possibly win. If they withhold their knowledge we shall certainly stagnate and recede as a society. The planet Beta, while not Earth-like, is certainly capable of providing sufficient food and resources for them. While it would not allow for as much population growth as Alpha, it would allow for some. We are mutually dependent, and no attempt should be made to rupture our relationship. While it is true that they have many things that we require, the reverse is also true. We are their resource for art, theater, entertainment and culture. It is well known that man cannot live by bread alone. We have ample bargaining power without resorting to threats.”

The reverand Angel responded, “I am a man of peace. It was not my intention to threaten anyone. I was only saying that we have a strong bargaining position and should not allow them to take advantage of us .All I seek is social justice. As the leader of this body, I propose a meeting of the legislature to debate the form our economic structure should take.” A vote was taken and it was overwhelmingly agreed to convene the legislature the following week. The ship’s legislature consisted of a representative from each of the major labor and religious groups aboard the ship. These were men and women from the arts, the trades, agriculture, five major religions, machinists, housewives and laborers. Since he had called for the gathering, the Reverand Angel was allowed to speak first.

“As you are aware, we have gathered here to decide what kind of an economic system we want to follow for the rest of our journey and once established on the planet Alpha. Thus far we have been content to use Capitalism, the system most of us used in one form or another while on Earth, because we had no other choice. But now we do have one, and as a democratic society, we should make the most of it. We have the opportunity to create for us and our decedents a society of equal opportunity and equal sharing that all of our religions teach, a society that God would approve of, a socialist society. I am not talking about Communism or Marxism, but a true socialism where everyone is provided for regardless of their abilities or handicaps.

“Individually, we cannot negotiate with the Kepliers, they own and control everything aboard this ship except us as individuals. They cannot dictate how we live and deal with each other. We can choose to pool our money by giving this legislature control of it to ensure its fair distribution to everyone. In that manner we could insure that everyone would have sufficient food, health services and educational opportunities to get the most out of their lives. After all, we are all members of the human family, the full development of all human potential is our goal. Furthermore, by forming cooperatives, we will own the results of our labor, and will be free to decide what to do with it. Is that not better for us than selling our labor individually for whatever they are willing to pay us for it?

“Throughout history, the rich have exploited the poor! According to Jesus and every other religious leader, the rich have an obligation to help the poor. We have the opportunity to make this happen. By ensuring that our wealth is equally distributed among us we ensure that we and our descendents will have an equal opportunity to education, health care and a high standard of living. I make a motion that Socialism becomes the official economic system of the Alpha ship and the Alpha Earth planet”

There was some debate in the legislature. The representatives of the groups with higher levels of education, the people that received the most income for their work, had some reservations. They had the most to loose financially. However, most of them agreed intellectually that it was the right thing to do. As a good will gesture, the Alpha ship offered to share a mixed economy with the Beta ship, believing that they could eventually convert them into a socialist economy. The vote was passed unanimously.

When word of the Alpha ship’s decision to convert to a socialist economy reached the Beta ship, the Kepler corporation called a meeting in order to create a response to it. Everyone aboard the Beta ship was a shareholder in the corporation, and therefore had voting rights in it. The Beta ship was organized as a contractual society. No mechanism existed that could force any one to buy or sell anything that they did not want to, nor could they be required to provided services they did not choose to do. Everyone was self-employed and sold his service for the best price he could negotiate. They formed groups related by trade, and sold their products, not their time. The Kepler corporation was the entity that funded and ran the enterprise, which was managed like a business.  It was the legal owner of both ships, but the passengers were not their employees, any more than the passengers on an ocean liner were the employees of the ship’s owners.  They were, however, obliged to follow the rules of the compact they had signed while they were aboard the ship. When they arrived at their respective planets they would be free to do as they pleased. Beta’s charter provided that no government would ever be allowed to form on their planet. All transactions would be by mutual consent. Since there wouldn’t be a government, there wouldn’t be any government services or taxes. No public armies, police forces or courts. These services would be provided by private enterprise. Their goal was maximum individual liberty. As the major shareholder of the corporation, Ronald Silverman was its spokesman. He was therefore the person chosen to address the rest of the shareholders.

“The Alpha ship, as is their right, has chosen socialism as the economic system they want to operate under now and in the future. It is a system that allows their legislature to regulate, tax, and redistribute the wealth of those who work under it. It is a system that we regard as legalized theft. Despite its consistent record of failure wherever it has been tried, they believe it to be morally superior to capitalism, which has created the highest standard of living ever known. It is my view that the morality of socialism consists of envy and self-sacrifice, which I do not personally consider to be moral. I do not believe that sacrificing the individual to the group is moral. Capitalism is moral because it requires people to deal with each other as equals, selling goods and services upon mutual consent. It is a system that rewards merit and achievement, whereas socialism does not. Socialism rewards the under achiever, who gains from those who produce more the he does. Capitalism does the opposite. Socialism believes that there is a limited amount of wealth, which must be divided equally, because one person’s gain is another person’s loss. We believe that there is no limit to the creation of wealth, and although it is not equally distributed, its creation benefits everyone.

“The Alpha’s have offered to share a mixed economy with us, part capitalist and part socialist. I say we must reject such an offer. Our charter allows for no form of government, and if their legislature is to make the decisions, the morality of capitalism will be reversed. The beneficiaries will be those that make the most demands for a hand out, the losers will be the hard working creators of wealth. Ours is not a perfect system, but it has proven itself to be the best one created to date. We recognized that there would be major differences between our two worlds, Alpha and Beta, when we initiated this project. It is not our desire to alienate ourselves from them. We shall negotiate with them according to our principles, and they with us according to theirs. We shall remain mutually dependent, although it is my belief that in time they will become much more dependent upon us than we upon them. That is the history of capitalism’s relationship to socialism. It is crucial that we prepare for this situation. We must expand our biosphere by at least fifty percent in order to increase our production of food and livestock. This means that we will have to reduce some the space now devoted to research and development to make room for it. An exhaustive study must be made to identify which space can be converted with the least disruption to our society.”

In this manner the seeds of the dissention that the Kepler society had striven to prevent were sown. In what seems to be an unalterable rule of human nature, wherever two or more people are gathered, conflict shall occur. When large groups are assembled, they will organize themselves into smaller groups that have conflicts with each other. One individual or group will always believe that it is being mistreated by the other, whether it is true or not.  

Initially, everything went well aboard the Alpha ship. Everyone’s wages was automatically deposited into an account managed by the legislature, which redistributed them equally into each persons personal computer account. However, as the days and weeks passed, and the farmers labored in the biosphere to grow their crops and care for their livestock, they couldn’t help but notice that a lot of people seemed to have much more free time than they did. The laborers that were responsible for the upkeep of the ship and biosphere also became aware of this fact, and discussed it with the farmers. This was not the equality that they had been promised. They were working harder for more hours for the same pay as everyone else. When they brought their complaints to their representatives in the legislature it seemed reasonable, and their work week was shortened to thirty five hours. This did not have an immediate effect, but in time the output of the farms was reduced and some of the ships infrastructure did not operate as well as it had previously. As more time passed, it became evident that some passengers were living somewhat better than others. They had newer clothes, and were able to afford certain luxuries that others couldn’t. “How can this be?” the less fortunate wondered. Then they realized that those people were all members of families receiving multiple incomes, although some members of the family did no work at all. It seemed as though the single person’s or childless couples were being discriminated against. When they called this to the attention of their representatives, they were told that it wasn’t discrimination, that the money was being given where it was needed. They were told that the mother that stayed in her cabin to care for her children was performing as valuable a service as anyone else, and deserved full pay for it. The children, being in school, could not work. However, as members of their society, they all were entitled to half pay. In this manner a family of four with only one worker outside the home was receiving the pay of three workers. When this became known, the married couples rushed to have children, and the single people hurried to get married. As the years passed the population aboard the Alpha ship began to expand to the point where its resources were being strained, and the legislature had to pass laws limiting who could get married and how many children they could have. Their limited amount of money had to be stretched further and further, because the Alpha ship would not provide them with additional funds, and they crated no new wealth. This inevitably led to a lowered standard of living for everyone aboard the ship, except for members of the legislature.

That body, believing itself crucial to the survival of the Alpha ship and Earth Alpha, voted to exempt itself from all restrictions placed upon its constituents.  This was necessary, they explained to them, so that they could devote their full time to their needs. It was not mentioned that they would do this for only three hours a day, four days a week, at full pay. Billy Angel explained it to the people, whom he thought of as his flock.

“The shepherd who tends his sheep is there for them always. He does not count the hours and leave them to their fate at some given time. Through foul weather and fair, he is there for them. Their lives are his full time responsibility. It is therefore proper that he be fully compensated for this burden that he can never lay down.” That statement, which had such familiar overtones in all of the religions represented on the ship, could not be disputed by anyone. From that time forward, that body was not looked upon as merely an establishment of government, but also as an organization with religious credibility. This combination gave it virtually unlimited power over its constituents.

The reduced hours for the farmers and laborers in the biosphere continued to lead to a reduced out put from it. This was not a problem for the Alpha ship, since there had always been a large surplus that could be sold to the Betas. However, as this surplus diminished, less new wealth was received from Beta. Since Alpha created no new wealth, everyone’s share was diminished. As the Beta ship saw their trade with Alpha lessen they speeded up the conversion of their ship in order to secure their own food supply. They disassemble some equipment that had been made obsolete by new technology they had innovated, and used the space to increase the size of their biosphere. Research scientists developed ways to increase the size of the yield of their plants by generically engineering them. Nutrients were added to the livestock’s feed that increased their bulk. These advancements were offered for sale to the Alpha ship, but were refused because they were deemed un-natural. In any case, they could not afford to buy anything.  Eventually the time arrived when the Alpha ship’s biosphere could no longer produce a surplus. Having nothing else of value to sell to Beta, all commerce between the two ships ceased.

That was a development that troubled Ron Silverman. Although Beta was self sufficient, he did not want to create a gulf between the two societies. There were certain interdependencies that were desirable, and in any case they both represented humanity a long way from home. It was necessary to devise a method of trade that was sustainable and mutually agreeable. The answer was obvious to him, but not without its tribulations. They would always be advancing science and technology that Alpha would need to buy from them. Alpha’s planet would have ample supplies of natural resources that they would require but would not have access to on their planet. It would be the same relationship that existed so uneasily on Earth and had led to so much confrontation between the developed and less developed societies there. He did not want history to repeat itself.

There was one major difference, however. The two societies would be separated by thousands of miles of space. Neither would have the capability to make war on the other, or even to threaten it in any manner. The shuttles that traveled between them could only carry a limited crew and amount of freight. Those flights would originate and terminate on his planet, and they would have no military capabilities. His plan was to buy the rights to explore for and import natural resources from planet Alpha. He would negotiate the terms with Alpha’s legislature and have them sign a contract. He would then issue them credit that they could use immediately to reintroduce commerce between the two ships. He realized that the risk was all Beta’s, that there was no knowing if the main resource that they required, uranium, was present on Alpha planet. If not, he would be expending a large percentage of his corporation’s wealth on what the oil companies on earth called a dry hole. But risk was what business and wealth creation was all about, and he did not shy away from it. He made his proposal to his board of directors, which agreed to it. It was then presented to the shareholders for a vote that was passed.  

There was not much rejoicing on Alpha over the signing of the contract. Few people saw any individual benefit in it for them, because there wasn’t any. The IUs receive from Beta for the resumed trade were given to the legislature. It converted the money into “Alphas”, the paper currency they had created for trade on their ship. Theoretically, it was based upon the value of the IU, in reality, it was printed as required. The legislature’s goal was the equal distribution of money, not its worth.  The IUs were held in reserve for trade with Beta, who would not accept their paper money. The legislature only redistributed a small percentage of the money received for the contract, the majority of it was held in reserve for future contingencies. This included the building of a grand structure to house them and an even grander place of worship on planet Alpha. There was no debate as to the need of an official residence for the legislature, but the house of worship was a different matter. They could not afford the funds or time to build a church for all fourteen of the religions that were practiced aboard their ship. Initially, one structure would have to accommodate all of them. It was the design of that building that was the cause of much anxiety. There were three architects on the ship, and each submitted a design that favored his faith. This led to incessant bickering in the legislature. It was eventually decided to hold a competition among the passengers, and let them vote on the final design. The winning design was submitted by an eighteen year old boy. It had no esthetic value, it pleased no one, but neither did it offended any one. It was the ideal socialist solution. Nobody was aware of the irony of its shape, a pentagon. Its five sections were to accommodate Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the fifth to be shared by the remaining minority religions.  

The Betas did not have this problem. Most of them had some form of Agnostic belief, extending in range from atheism to Pragmatic agnosticism. In any case, they had no need for churches or priests, and could not empathize with the Alphas. While the Alphas tended to congregate in groups based upon their religious beliefs, the Betas did it based upon their intellectual similarities. It seemed to them that they had done everything that they could to accommodate the Alphas, to encourage trade which was at least mutually beneficial,  if not more beneficial to them, and that that they had been reproached for every attempt. The message they seemed to be sending was, “Just leave us alone!” This was something the average Beta could not comprehend. They led productive lives, each day presenting new challenges and rewards. The constant competition to be the first with a new discovery or product to sell, a new service to offer, even a new idea, was a constant stimulation. They were unaware that this was not the situation on the Alpha ship, where that sort of behavior was not only un- rewarded, but was in effect penalized.

In this manner the gap between the two societies began to grow. Ron Silverman, acutely aware of the problem, struggled to solve the enigma. Was human history doomed to repeating itself? Was there no way for people with different intellectual beliefs to live harmoniously together? Was no compromise possible? He was certain that if his ship were to move in the direction of the Alpha’s they would stagnate. It was apparent that that was already happening on Alpha, they were becoming too dependent on Beta and resentful because of it. He did not seek any advantage over Alpha, he wanted to deal with them as equals, but it was becoming impossible to do so. They had less and less to offer that was of any value to them. It had been his hope that they would supply the cultural aspects of life in exchange for the material necessities that Beta would provide. But the literature, art and theatre being produced by them was not compatible with the dynamics aboard his ship. It stressed the weariness and desperation of life, hopelessness and fear. Those were not the attitudes of his passengers, and they could not relate to them. There was no market for them. It was clear to him that the divergent economic systems of the two ships was creating a gulf between them. He realized that the two societies had to learn to understand each other, and that required a closer contact between them. He wanted each to be able to present their point of view to the other, so that they might be understood. He decided to call for an informal debate, where both points of view could be discussed and evaluated.  

Note: Due to space limitatons, this story is continued in part 2

© Copyright 2018 Jack Hayek. All rights reserved.

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