August 23rd, 2007

krazy koati

Everything for us to see the ultimate society

I've got some new grand strategy games, in case I was in danger of useful activities. One is an upgrade, Victoria: Revolutions. It revises Victoria -- in which you control the politics, diplomacy, scientific research, military, economics, and infrastructure of any of about two hundred countries from 1836 through 1920 -- by adding another 16 years to the end and getting a fully new economic model. While there are still dozens of raw materials and more factories to turn them into products ranging from machine tools to airplanes, the new version of the game adds a twist.

Your capitalists (populations are modeled as blocks of up to 100,000 people, of one of ten occupations, with a group ethnicity, religion, political leaning, key issues, economic wants, and savings) will, if they accumulate enough money, build a factory all on their own. Or they'll build or expand a railroad. (The highest level of railroad is the limited-access highway, but if you pretend this is `infrastructure' that transition makes sense.) That is, finally in one of these games, the population isn't a largely inert mass of beings demanding luxuries to not riot (see also Civilization II), but will actually build on their own within the limits of law and economy.

The model's not quite perfect, particularly since people -- with the exception of a handful of special events -- won't change population type (clerks becoming capitalists, or craftsmen becoming clerks) without you-the-government directing it and paying for it. And there's a moral of trickle-down economics so severe even Ronald Reagan wouldn't have believed in it: if you want the quickest development of rails and factories the capitalists -- only the capitalists -- need to have the lowest tax rate possible, so just set it down to zero and set the tariffs to zero, and lo! Wealth and prosperity spread to the poor and middle-class folks (classes are defined by occupation; capitalists are rich however much money they happen to have, a compromise between realism and the need to keep an already phenomenally complex game playable) as they contentedly pay 49.99 percent taxes to keep the budget balanced.

It's not necessarily that absurd; since the government no longer has to build everything itself it needs less cash and can build a healthy reserve fund with much lower taxes. But I can't think of any time in any democratic society where you could have a substantial tax on poor and middle classes and absolutely zero on the rich and not get thrown out before the next election. It's still a huge leap forward in making the economic simulation much more realistic, though, and makes the game easily 24 times better.

Trivia: France's first levée en masse, summoned 23 August 1793, drafted all unmarried men age 18 to 25. Source: The Age of Napoleon, Will and Ariel Durant.

Currently Reading: The Basque History of the World, Mark Kurlansky.