Governance of a colony on a new world?

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Colony ship lands 20,000 Earthlings on a new world. They've been in deep sleep for six hundred years, so interaction with Earth is unlikely. What government do you think would be appropriate for a start-up colony? Presume Earthlike conditions, France or US Virginia area, no serious weather issues.
 

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  • #2
Stephen Tashi
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What was the first form of government of the Jamestown colony? Authoritarian strong man?
 
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What was the first form of government of the Jamestown colony? Authoritarian strong man?
Company appointee:
Once the spot was chosen the instructions sent by the Virginia Company, with the list of the council members (chosen by officials in England), was read. The names were kept in a sealed box on the ship (each ship had a sealed copy). The first President of the new Virginia colony was to be Edward Maria Winfield. The other six council members were: Bartholomew Gosnold, Christopher Newport, John Martin, John Ratcliffe, George Kendall, and John Smith.
Source, National Park Service.

There are several different potential colony establishers to be considered, State, Church, Cult, Royal, etc. I'm sure the great minds present can think of others.
 
  • #4
BillTre
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I would guess those sponsoring the trip would have thought of this and made plans for it, as described above. State, Church, or company would have different ideas.
Anyone smart would have to build in contingency plans for problems that might arise like a need for a new leader and unexpected conditions.

The interesting bit to me would be what happens next when things start to change for some reason.
 
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I agree with BillTre. If we're sending human beings off on some space exploration including a 600-year hibernation (per OP's premise), I have to assume they'd have basic structure in place for when they arrive and "wake up". In fact, if they're starting a colony on a new world I would probably want every one of those 20,000 people to have been selected for a particular purpose. The government should be set up before the colony ship ever sets sail, with the leaders pre-determined among the 20,000. For the sake of efficiency (especially in the chaotic period of arrival) as much infrastructure as possible should be set up ahead of time.
 
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I would guess those sponsoring the trip would have thought of this and made plans for it, as described above. State, Church, or company would have different ideas.
Anyone smart would have to build in contingency plans for problems that might arise like a need for a new leader and unexpected conditions.
I wasn't planning to drop them somewhere without a plan for the colony, including who governs. Humans need someone to tell them "NO!" Rather, my focus was on what systems do you think would work on a frontier world and which would not.
The interesting bit to me would be what happens next when things start to change for some reason.
"Please give me a list of all unknown factors before you leave today." The fun thing about a new world is that the Surprise Party Department probably runs three shifts. "Beware of the stobor."
 
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I wasn't planning to drop them somewhere without a plan for the colony, including who governs. Humans need someone to tell them "NO!" Rather, my focus was on what systems do you think would work on a frontier world and which would not.

"Please give me a list of all unknown factors before you leave today." The fun thing about a new world is that the Surprise Party Department probably runs three shifts. "Beware of the stobor."

For best chance of survival and efficiency I would suggest a military-style authoritarian structure at first. Once you get basic societal infrastructure into place and people are "into the groove of things" you can relax a bit but the initial arrival on the new world will be inherently chaotic and you need as much structure as possible during that initial phase.
 
  • #8
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For best chance of survival and efficiency I would suggest a military-style authoritarian structure at first. Once you get basic societal infrastructure into place and people are "into the groove of things" you can relax a bit but the initial arrival on the new world will be inherently chaotic and you need as much structure as possible during that initial phase.
Alternative to that would be the "Professional Planet Starters", civilians with experience at getting a colony going, including combat experience if available. Mercs if you will. Military may or may not be experienced with this kind of thing. The brass wouldn't send their best troops out for a nursemaid mission unless the CinC "or such person as he may direct" wants it that way. Interesting to picture the hiring interviews for such a force.
 
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Initially there would need to be a colonization plan with everybody assigned a role and sticking to it.
Presumably those who were to be the administration would have been selected prior to the journey, and agreed to by the other colonists.
Perhaps the second generation might be able to elect future governments, but initially no
It needs a centralized authority with a definite plan to begin with.
Any colony which started with a concept of 'Everybody is free to do whatever they like', would in my opinion fail in a very short time.
 
  • #10
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Initially there would need to be a colonization plan with everybody assigned a role and sticking to it.
Presumably those who were to be the administration would have been selected prior to the journey, and agreed to by the other colonists.
Perhaps the second generation might be able to elect future governments, but initially no
It needs a centralized authority with a definite plan to begin with.
Any colony which started with a concept of 'Everybody is free to do whatever they like', would in my opinion fail in a very short time.
I agree. But what about a commune, where all adults vote on major issues/projects/expenditures?
 
  • #11
Stephen Tashi
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There are several different potential colony establishers to be considered, State, Church, Cult, Royal, etc. I'm sure the great minds present can think of others.

Perhaps a delivery service dropped shipments of colonists at various places, but due to the usual sort of shipping errors, they ended up with 20,000 leftovers at the end of the delivery route, which were put down at the first convenient site.
 
  • #12
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Perhaps a delivery service dropped shipments of colonists at various places, but due to the usual sort of shipping errors, they ended up with 20,000 leftovers at the end of the delivery route, which were put down at the first convenient site.
Just dumped, dropped at an up-and-running colony or what?
 
  • #13
Stephen Tashi
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Just dumped, dropped at an up-and-running colony or what?

The leftover cargo is Just dumped on the first available uninhabited habitable planet or portion of it. The political situation is disorganized, but so is the material situation - like stories about soldiers in battle needing weapons and opening supply boxes to find they contain hats or medals.
 
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The leftover cargo is Just dumped on the first available uninhabited habitable planet or portion of it. The political situation is disorganized, but so is the material situation - like stories about soldiers in battle needing weapons and opening supply boxes to find they contain hats or medals.
That's going to degenerate into a strongman scenario pretty quickly. Perhaps we have 15,000 "nice" settlers and 5,000 criminals. Drop them somewhat distant from each other, but let each group know of the other. This would compel a rapid organization for defense from the "nice" guys.
 
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Stephen Tashi
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Perhaps we have 15,000 "nice" settlers and 5,000 criminals.

Criminals aren't necessarily a cohesive group. Criminals from one society could be mostly "political prisoners".

That's going to degenerate into a strongman scenario pretty quickly.

I agree if we use human history as a guide. The king/dictator is familiar model of government - probably because it isn't a degeneration compared to complete chaos.
 
  • #16
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Criminals aren't necessarily a cohesive group. Criminals from one society could be mostly "political prisoners".
I agree that deportees aren't automatically Ordinary Criminals. The cohesiveness of the group would depend on the presence or absence of a charismatic character that could gain enough of a following to become the primary power in that camp.
I agree if we use human history as a guide. The king/dictator is familiar model of government - probably because it isn't a degeneration compared to complete chaos.
Chaos is more fun if you're reading about it from a safe distance. ;)
 
  • #17
Khashishi
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They probably already decided on a captain and command structure before setting out on the trip. I guess the captain would assume military governance while the colony got underway. Once basic needs are met, perhaps over a period of years, then it will probably evolve into some sort of democracy, with an elected governor.
 
  • #18
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They probably already decided on a captain and command structure before setting out on the trip. I guess the captain would assume military governance while the colony got underway. Once basic needs are met, perhaps over a period of years, then it will probably evolve into some sort of democracy, with an elected governor.
True. I'd be very surprised if a planned colony found people while refusing to say how the colony would be governed. But the "20,000 lost souls" above is the flip side of this, governance on the fly. Tunnel in the Sky, by Robert Anson Heinlein, peaked at this. His people didn't know if they would be a permanent colony or just late for school. The lack of mature dynamic leaders complicated the resolution.
 
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As the OP stated, there can be many reasons why people want to establish a colony, and it all depends on who is doing the backing. If the colony is corporate backed, then profit is going to be the motivation. If religion is the motivation for creating a colony, then religious intolerance is going to be the colony's purpose. If the government is sponsoring colonization, then the expansion of its empire is its goal. Each of these differing objectives require a different form of government.

A militaristic, authoritarian form of government makes sense if there is a crash landing, or no infrastructure upon arrival, or when the unexpected happens and it is a matter of life or death for everyone. However, if there is already infrastructure for the colonists to move into when they finally arrive at their destination, then there really is no need for such stringent control. If shelter, water, and food are already available at the colony when they arrive then there is room for much more flexibility.

However, considering the OPs original premise that the colonists were in a 600-year deep sleep, it would seem highly unlikely that there would be any infrastructure at the colony site since it would require 600+ years of advanced planning. Which means they would have to bring everything with them, or manufacture it on site from the available resources. As has already been pointed out, each of the colonists would have been given a task and a purpose prior to departure. While aboard the spacecraft everyone is under a militaristic, authoritarian form of government and there is no reason why that should change until after the infrastructure has been created and the colonists are finally able to become self-sufficient.

Once there is enough shelter, water, and food for all the colonists, then government can be relaxed. The government should exist for only one purpose - to ensure the survival of the colonists. However, human nature being what it is I am absolutely certain others will devise numerous other reasons why government is essential.
 
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  • #20
stefan r
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I am going to disagree. At least 5 writers so skipping quotes...

On arrival at a new planet the worst possible system would be one that is not flexible. People waiting for orders are dead weight. Take for example a micro biologist specializing in freshwater streams. (S)He arrives with a basic lab or with detailed plans for manufacturing it. A new planet has multiple years of urgent work immediately available. There is nothing gained from polisci majors poking around, disrupting research, or contaminating beakers.
As data comes in the colony has to adjust. The microbiologists might issue a statement like "do not drink the water without boiling" or "use filter with pore size smaller than x micron". This does not mean that the microbiologist is in command.
 
  • #21
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That's what the government would not be, got it. What do you think it will be?
 
  • #22
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What was the first form of government of the Jamestown colony? Authoritarian strong man?
Until you get the houses built and the first crop in and out of the fields you are probably not going to want to have lengthy discussions about how things should be done. Authoritarian strong man is a bit harsh as terms go but...yeah. The time to have democratic discussions about how to run the colony initially is before everyone goes into the cyro tanks. Governor and administrating counsel.
 
  • #23
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I wasn't planning to drop them somewhere without a plan for the colony, including who governs. Humans need someone to tell them "NO!" Rather, my focus was on what systems do you think would work on a frontier world and which would not.

Well the Heinlein model is that you better be pretty damn self-reliant. In a colony situation someone is going to end up living in the middle of nowhere, with no hope of the neighbors being capable of coming to your aid--at least not quickly. Have you given any thought to the local flora and fauna? Seeing as this could be a source of trouble for your colonists, this would naturally influence their politics and social customs. Another, unrelated question, how are your colonists building houses? My particular favorite building system for prospective Sci fi settlers is rammed-earth that is washed with a laser until the walls are fused together. Something that would hopefully keep out that local carnivore that looks like a woolly T-Rex.
 
  • #24
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Well the Heinlein model is that you better be pretty damn self-reliant. In a colony situation someone is going to end up living in the middle of nowhere, with no hope of the neighbors being capable of coming to your aid--at least not quickly. Have you given any thought to the local flora and fauna? Seeing as this could be a source of trouble for your colonists, this would naturally influence their politics and social customs. Another, unrelated question, how are your colonists building houses? My particular favorite building system for prospective Sci fi settlers is rammed-earth that is washed with a laser until the walls are fused together. Something that would hopefully keep out that local carnivore that looks like a woolly T-Rex.
He wasn't a one trick pony. Tunnel in the Sky for example.
 
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He wasn't a one trick pony. Tunnel in the Sky for example.

Oh Heinlein is probably the most social of all those early science fiction writers. I can't remember a single Heinlein story where there's one guy all alone in his spaceship, far from home, facing the great unknown. I was thinking of Time Enough For Love, where Lazarus Long and one of his wives homestead way out in the sticks; all they had was their talking mule--and that died. And, Heinlein aside, on your world that's in the process of colonization, someone is bound to end up living in the sticks with no immediate help at hand. I farmed with my family for the early part of my life, and even in the domesticated Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties are closest neighbor was still half a mile away. I can't remember a deputy sheriff driving by our farm during that time.
 

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