Could a world as presented in SyFy's "Continuum" work?

Minus the technological hand-waving, naturally.

I’m referring more to the idea that the free market really took over, and basic public services are now provided by corporations, who have a financial interest in providing these services. The “corporations” now enforce rules and laws, presumably limited by some sort of government (though it must really be more of an agreement, since gov’t is limited in authority) so there wouldn’t be a bunch of dictatorships…

Would the standard of living be better? Why wouldn’t it be?

All the things that “government” provides, which do not improve the general population’s quality of life, would presumably not be done, for lack of demand (think of funding massive militaries, or building government spying programs) unless they had a concrete ROI.

Those things which people don’t like, but have concrete long-term societal benefits, could naturally be invested in (think mandatory schooling, outlawing certain undesirable behavior, etc.) provided the ROI was good.

Notice, I’m not looking for a debate on whether or not it’s ethical or moral to have a significantly decreased government role in our lives - I’m wondering if you think it would work, why yes/no, and what forces in place in current society would prevent that type of shift?
Would the free market do a better job of predicting long term societal needs and providing for them than a “government” would? I’m not advocating anarchy, just a shift in authority from an organized government to a capitalist pigdog. :smiley:

The stockholders are in it for the money, and there’s no money in non-growth. Without effective regulation they would be at each other’s throats in a heartbeat.

Who says there wouldn’t be growth?

Corporations are creatures of government. If a corporate CEO amasses enough power to ignore the government, then they become the government. Why would they continue to organize themselves like a corporation? Why would you sell products and services when you could just march stormtroopers into people’s houses and collect money at gunpoint? Or rather, why would you pay your workers, why not just force them to work in your factory at gunpoint?

How can a free market exist if a corporate goon can just point a rifle at you and take all your stuff? How can a free market exist if Bill Gates can call up his private security forces and have Mark Zuckerberg killed? Or if Bill Gates can look at the “stockholders” and have them all rounded up and sent to the mines? What makes them shareholders except a government able to enforce property rights?

What you have in this situation is not rule by corporation, but feudalism.

Well, plus in the world of Continuum there was some kind of major war or civil disruption in the 2030s, bringing about what we see in 2077.

I’m just impressed that a show which is filmed in Vancouver is actually set in Vancouver, although the number of murders in any given episode is probably higher than the real Vancouver gets in three months.

I would expect that the corporations wouldn’t attack one another for fear of the reprisals, also - there would be just enough “government” to restrict such activities.

Plus, I’m saying that any good businessman would want to foster a strong, growing, robust economy - not run the thing into the ground and kill the golden goose like a dictator.

Seems plausible to me. Though there’s no way from here to there, admittedly, it’s fiction.

I love that fact. Vancouver is a pretty nice looking city, and I like that even the “legal proceedings” scenes showed the Canadian style of dressing the judges and lawyers hehe - At first I was confused, then I said to my self “Eh, Canadians!”.

No, see, the only alernative to a utopian Governmentally controlled society where everyone gets unicorns and eternal life and health is utter anarchy and chaos where people are shot when they don’t have enough chicken eggs to barter for their next cup of diseased water, don’t you know that?

If we are ever forced to do with one ounce less government than we have now, we’ll become Somalia. In fact, we need more government to make sure we avoid that fate.

Does anyone have a shovel large enough for this pile of threadshit?

C’mon man, I’m not interested in making an analogue to the politics of today’s world.

It’s a hypothetical.

Yes, well sorry about that, but you’ll likely get both views expressed before it’s over, just wanted to get it out of the way.

As to your question - could it work? I think it could, on a limited scale, and I don’t think you’d end up with CEOs having shootouts in the street - as said above, the goal is to make money, and to grow, and I think most people accept that competition is a good way to achieve these goals in a semi-cooperative way. I don’t know if it’d work with mega-corps like we have today simply because of the size, but in a pared-down world with fewer people, I think it’d work fine.

Even if it started small, don’t you think the eventuality is that it would grow however large the market would allow for? That’s what capitalist corporations do. They expand to fill the market.

I believe we tried something very similiar, though the outward trappings of having a government were maintained, during the so-called “Gilded Age.” Uptain Sinclair’s the Jungle lovingly documents how well it worked out. Our current big bureaucratic government is largely a result of how the market and laissez faire economics can’t produce a relatively safe, livable society.

Based on corporations’ behavior IRL, that is not plausible. The next quarter’s bottom-line trumps all.

That’s just how feudalism works. It’s not continual chaotic warfare. You attack and crush rivals only when you’re pretty confident that you will succeed. Little lords avoid being crushed by swearing fealty to bigger lords and helping them crush others. Relative equals maintain an uneasy truce until one side think they have a large enough advantage to strike.

The corporate world you describe would operate as though the entire world was controlled by powerful drug cartels.

I’ve never seen the movie. But based on my own understanding of economics, I would suspect that a world described by the OP would look something like a cross between Galt’s Gulch from Atlas Shrugged, modern megacities like Sao Paulo, Brazil; the squabbling fire and police departments depicted in Gangs of New York and dystopian films like Elysium, Robocop or Blade Runner.

Taxes would be lower or non existent. So that means most public services would be replaced by competing, privatized versions. It might even be a pretty decent standard of living for many, if not most people.

The problem is that while the free market is the best way of maximizing an economies needs and wants, it doesn’t mean that everyone’s needs and wants are met.

Basically, I picture large Tyrell / OCP / Wayland-Yutani style megacorporations that run some component of nearly everything. Their employees are relatively prosperous and well care for, having an almost serf-like feudal relationship with their corporations. They would live in gated compounds surrounded by private security, educated by private schools, treated by private healthcare for so long as they are loyal and compliant. A middle class of entrepreneurs, consultants, contractors struggling to get by, but probably do ok. A vast underclass of people who simply cannot afford basic services would probably live in huge shantytowns on the periphery of urban areas. Probably run by gangs and black marketers.

Large corporations would likely be the defacto government since they would be the only entities with the resources and firepower, not to mention economic power to maintain a monopoly of force. They probably wouldn’t be at war all the time for the same reason nations and drug cartels aren’t at war all the time. The megacorporations would simply settle into natural zones of control. Although they could come into serious conflict over resources or control of markets.

Because in places and times where corporations have had power approaching that, conditions have been hellish. Most people would be either slaves or thugs, with a tiny ruling class; neo-feudalism, as said. Freedom and civil rights only exist because the government enforces them; a crippled government means they no longer exist.

Nonsense; the masters would have no interest in that. And the general public would have no say in the matter.

You are advocating kleptocracy actually; the unfettered rule for profit by the strong over the weak. That’s the good outcome by the way; that assumes the whole system doesn’t collapse, at which point you do get anarchy.

Nonsense. A good businessman wants maximum profit for himself for minimum outlay. Forcing people to work for nothing, and forcing them to buy what is being sold is the natural endpoint of that attitude; haven’t you heard of company towns? And he doesn’t care about the welfare of society; he can live like a king under this system, and would be one in all but name. Society may be massively worse off, but he’ll be doing great.

Fear of reprisal is what limits nations from attacking other nations. And as history has shown, it’s not a perfect system. Nations do attack other nations when they think they’re strong enough to get away with it. And the same thing would happen with corporations if they could get away with it. Some corporations would attack other corporations if they thought they could.

As for government, you can’t really waive it off as being “just strong enough” to police corporations. The government is either stronger than the corporations or it isn’t. If the government is stronger, than we’re looking at the situation we’re in now. If the government isn’t stronger, then it can’t act as a realistic check on corporations.

And while some businessmen would favor a growing economy, we can’t ignore the reality that it’s easier to get rich by stealing than it is by investing. Growing through investment is a risk and takes years of work. Stealing just requires you to look around and find somebody who took that risk and did all that work and take what they now have. Corporations that put their resources into building up force are going to defeat corporations that put their resources into building up wealth - and then the corporation with the force takes the wealth and has both.

If it’s just corporations, every corporation will have to devote most of its efforts to building up its forces - any that don’t will fall to those that do. So every corporation will end up as a small army with only a fringe of spare resources being used to develop new wealth. Hardly a situation likely to have a robust economy.

The only way to avoid this situation is to have a neutral third party that’s strong enough to prevent corporations from using force against each other. This way, corporations don’t have to worry about defending themselves and can devote their resources to economic growth. And that strong neutral third party is the government.

This is basically what’s implied to have happened in Continuum; in less then 20 yrs the Canadian criminal justice system get’s privatized. In the new private criminal justice system there’s no right to counsel, and defaulting on one’s “civic debt” a 3rd time results in loss of citizenship & a high-tech lobotomy followed by a mandatory life sentence in a [del]slave labour camp[/del] factory city making lobotomy chips.

Well that’s rather dull and not fun sounding.


I was trying to imagine how that world presented in the show could play out. The show has corporations in charge of everything, simply because they became stronger/richer than government. It’s fictitious, so naturally there’s holes in the system not addressed by the writers.

I like to think of things in terms of “What do I need to get this done?” instead of “Why this isn’t going to work.”

So it sounds like in order for that to work, you’d have to have one major corporation, stronger than all the rest, with an altruistic motive and enough foresight to create the type of economy that provides it with the resources to maintain it’s position on top of the heap.

You’re describing a government.