“I’d like to believe that,” she said finally, slowly. Her Dresden accent was as harsh as ever, yet that harshness was oddly smoothed, he thought. Or perhaps the word he really wanted was “gentled,” instead. “I’d like to. But we’ve believed people on Dresden before. In fact, it took us far too long to realize we shouldn’t have. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last couple of generations, but only because people like Minister Krietzmann realized we had to do it ourselves. Realized that no one else gave a solitary damn what happened to us.

            “Don’t get me wrong.” She shook her head, and her voice was calmer, as if she were reasserting control over her own passions. “There’s no reason why anyone off Dresden should have given us a free ride. We understand that. Charity begins at home, they say, and Dresden is our home, not Rembrandt’s, or San Miguel’s, or Manticore’s. It’s not so much that no one came and invested in free clinics or schools for us, but that we had to fight other people tooth and nail to somehow hang onto enough of the profit of our own labor, our own industrial structure – such as it was, and what there was of it – to begin building our own clinics and schools.

            “We’d figured that out by the time the RTU finally got around to us, which is why one of the things we insisted on, if they wanted trade deals with us, was that they had to clean their own house where people like the Van Scheldts were concerned — had to put at least some limits on the kind of crap they could get away with. And, to Mr. Van Dort’s credit, I suppose, the RTU did just that. Of course, the extent of the limits they could impose was limited by the domestic pull of their own oligarchs who were already invested in Dresden, but they still managed to do a lot. Which is probably one of the reasons Van Scheldlt is such a pain where I’m concerned, I suppose, since his family got whacked harder than most . . . since they’d been even worse than most. But even with Van Dort on our side — and I think he really is” she sounded almost as if she wished she could believe otherwise, Gervais thought “– we’re still a long way from where we could have been. It’s hard to stand on your own two feet when someone else owns the carpet and keeps trying to jerk it out from under you.”

            The party’s background noise seemed distant, like the sound of surf rolling up onto a far-off beach. It was no longer part of Gervais’ world – or hers, he realized. It was no more than a frame, something which enclosed her intensity, whose contrasting banality underscored the raw honesty in her voice.

            “That’s one thing that isn’t going to be happening again,” he told her quietly. “Not on our watch. Her Majesty won’t stand for it – not for a heartbeat.”

            “I hope you’ll pardon me for saying that Dresden’s going to be taking that with a grain of salt, too, Lieutenant.” Her voice was flatter, no less passionate but with something far worse than anger, he thought. It was flat with the bitterness of experience. With disillusionment so deep, so intense, that it couldn’t – dared not – expose itself to the risk of optimism.

            He felt a stab of quick, fierce anger of his own – anger directed at her for daring to prejudge the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Daring to prejudge him, simply because he’d been fortunate enough to be born into a wealthier, less constrained world than she. Who was she to look at him with such distrust? Such bitterness and anger born of the actions of others? He’d told her nothing but the simple truth, and she’d rejected it. It was as if she’d looked him straight in the eye and told him that he’d lied to her.

            Yet even as he thought that, even as the anger flared, he knew it was at least as irrational – and unfair – as anything she might have felt.

            “It’s obvious I have even more to learn about the Talbott Quadrant than I thought I did,” he said after several moments. “In fact, at the moment, I’m feeling pretty stupid for not having realized it had to be that way.” He shook his head. “Trying to get some sort of ‘quick fix’ on seventeen different inhabited star systems is guaranteed to be an exercise in futility, isn’t it? I guess nobody’s really immune to the idea that everyone else has to be ‘just like them’ even when intellectually they know better.”

            She was looking at him now with a slightly puzzled expression, and he grinned crookedly at her.

            “I promise I’ll try to do my homework better, Ms. Boltitz. I know Lady Gold Peak will be doing the same, and I don’t doubt that Baroness Medusa’s been working at it the entire time she’s been out here. But while I’m doing that, do you think you could do a little homework on the Star Kingdom? I’m not going to say Manticore doesn’t have its own share of warts, because God knows we do. And I don’t blame you a bit for taking the Star Kingdom’s promises with – what was it you called it? ‘A grain of salt’? – but when Queen Elizabeth gives her word to someone, she keeps it. We keep it for her.”

            “That sounds good. And I’d like to believe it,” she replied. “I doubt you have any idea how much I’d like to believe it. And if a part of me didn’t, I wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be working with Minister Krietzmann to try and make it be true. But when you’ve been kicked often enough, it’s hard to trust someone you don’t even know. Especially when he’s wearing the biggest, heaviest boots you’ve ever seen in your life.”

            “I’ll try to bear that in mind, too,” he assured her. “Do you think you can give me – give us – at least a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, as well?” He smiled at her. “At least for a little while, long enough to see how well we do at living up to our promises?”

            Helga looked at that smile, and its warmth, the empathy and the concern – the personal concern – behind it amazed her. He meant it, she realized, and wondered how he could possibly be that naïve. How could he believe, even for a moment, that the oligarchs who must infest an economic power like the Star Kingdom of Manticore would care for a moment about any political “promises” someone else had made?

            Yet he did. He might be – almost certainly was – wrong, yet he wasn’t lying. There were many things in those green eyes that she couldn’t read, but deceit wasn’t one of them. And so, despite herself, she felt a small stir of hope. Felt herself daring to believe that perhaps, just perhaps, he might not be wrong.

            Bitter experience and the cynicism of self preservation roused instantly, horrified by the possibility of opening such a breach in her defenses. She started to speak quickly, to make her rejection of his overture’s false hope clear. But that wasn’t what came out of her mouth.

            “All right, Lieutenant,” she heard herself say instead. “I’ll do my ‘homework’ while you do yours. And at the end of the day, we’ll see who’s right. And,” she realized she was actually smiling slightly, “believe it or not, I hope it turns out you are.”




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10 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 61

  1. Mike says:

    This is interesting. A dialog between someone who trusts and believes in his government versus someone whose experience has taught her that government is just a means for people to steal from her.

    Rather like the conflict over the nature of government between the US conservative and liberal philosophies.

  2. lkan says:

    I don’t think so, a lot of liberals and conservatives think the government is a corrupt Big Brother.

    The socialist-liberals (ie. Ann Coulter’s liberal definition) want a Big Nanny, the neocons want thought police and a state church.

    The antigovernment people are the libertarians.

  3. Evan says:

    Since there’s no internal barriers to trade within the Star Empire, how exactly are they going to give Dresden and other poor planets a better deal?

    Experience shows that newly industrializing countries need some kind of protection for infant industries. It was true when Henry VIII of England started taking on the Low Countries textile manufacturing, it was true of South Korea’s industrialization, it’s been true of just about everyone else in between.

    Instead, all we have here is….good intentions.

  4. Evan says:

    BTW, see the book “Bad Samaritans” for details and evidence on all that.

  5. Drak Bibliophile says:

    lkan, please leave US politics out of here.

  6. Pyrrhic says:

    How to give the Quadrant a better deal? First, free trade does help a great deal – please see the results of increase in global trade since Bretton Woods and the founding of the GATT (now the WTO). World trade has grown far in excess of local growth. Note also that choking world trade was a key component in the Great Depression.

    A number of key factors have been shown to be key (after sixty years of ‘aid’ experience)

    1) clean courts
    2) the ability to go into and out of business quickly and cheaply (ie no need for bribes, court appearances to incorporate excessive fees etc.)
    3) the ability to get title to land and assets easily and without corruption
    4) clean courts.

    All of these are things the Manticorans will deliver. Another item on the Manty agenda will be education. Huge dividends are reaped by investing in basic education (a good Terran example is the experience of S. Korea v. Latin America in the last few decades). Another issue, and one DW has harped on previously is access to investment capital and technology. Also, to modern management techniques – which is why huge transnational companies are often so welcome in LDCs.

    One thing we have learned from the German reunification experience is that setting a weak currency, artificially at too high an exchange level can have catastrophic consequences – this means maintaining local currencies at their current exchange rates and freezing those rates prepratory to conversion to the Manticoran currency – EU experience on merging currencies has some relevance here as well.

    Infant industry arguments are still much debated but normally, in the case of the merger of economic unequals there are – in some cases – lengthy transition phases while protection can be left in place. However, let me note that the lack of protection of say, North Carolina, from the more advanced northern states has not meant that NC has stayed, permanently in some sort of post-War of Northern Agression funk. Note that things are different within a polity than trading between polities and the Quadrant is within a polity, now.

    Her Majesty will also be providing a great deal of infrastructure funding (much like her concessionary loans to Greyson) and a great deal of government expenditure in other realms as well. Also, there is a war on and Manticore is also short of manpower – both of these things will tend to kickstart local economies as well.

    The above does not even scratch the surface of a real answer but might give a few ideas… The whole idea of how to develop the Quadrant is, truly, fascinating.

  7. JN says:

    If you plan for a year, plant rice.
    If you plan for a decade, plant trees.
    If you plan for a century, educate children.

    I also think the interplay of a cynicism and optimism is intersting, though a bit vapid. DW believes in heroes that take duty seriously, and villan that despise it. It would be hard to find a more spcific example than this chapter.


  8. Stephen says:

    Look at the South American experience. The Latin American Free Trade Area in the 1970s was meant to “protect” infant industries from competition with “advanced” nations’ imports, while giving them a large market area throughout Latin America. It was a dismal failure. The Mercosur free trade area of the 1990s was built around the idea of developing exports, and was much more successful. (Some of that may be from improvements in infrastructure, too.)

    The last thing these little planets need is protectionist policies to trap them in their own markets. They need to be able to import cheaply the things they aren’t very good at (like medical technology) while gaining export markets for the things they are good at (like Montana beef). And they need investment capital to build up their productive industries, and that’s one thing they surely will get from Manticore, on terms at least as generous as Grayson got.

  9. MadMcAl says:

    Propably not as good a deal as Grayson got.
    Grayson at this time was the most important Ally to win over, thanks to its position.
    It was the system where the second, third, fourth and either fith or sixt battle of the first havenite war where fought.
    But they will get a whole lot better deal than most of the other alliance mebers.
    The most important things will be the market for investments and knowledge.
    Face it, if you buy into a new market early then you reap much greater gains.
    And with being part of the SEM the Quadrant now has access to one of the most sophisticated technology centers, namely Manticore.

  10. Pyrrhic says:

    Fellow snippet-addicts:

    Remember the labor cost advantage the Quadrant will have. That is why it is important to set exchange rates correctly to preserve that advantage. Unlike the sad fate of East Germany after re-unification. The Quadrant will be more generously treated than Grayson – Grayson was an ally, the Quadrant can VOTE. Yes, yes, it is on a limited scale but they can do so. Plus, many Manties will be moving there and those people can not only vote fully but will have a real interest in what their new homes, temporary or permanent are getting in support from the central government.

    Another factor, to re-emphasize is that these planets can be net contributors very quickly as they have low standards of living. The Asian Tigers had big surpluses long before their standards of living rose very much.

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