A look at uptime Yngling ideology. This is also touched on in the Great Game, but this is the ‘final’ version, the one that makes the transfer downtime. It is also a version that, under the shadow of the nukes, doesn’t have to concern itself too strongly with the realities of large-scale warfare, so it’s free to develop in rather esoteric and extreme directions.
It is important to understand that there is no law in Norway, as that term is understood in other nations. Rather, there are compacts between free men, which each is free to break at his own risk and expense; the only sanction is the disapproval of other free men, though admittedly this is often lethal. Consider, as a single example, that there is no law against striking another man; in Norway, the freedom to swing your fist does not end at my nose. Rather, it is circumscribed only by my ability to retaliate. Because even free men need sanctions short of killing, it is customary in such cases (where they do not lead to instant duels) to ask the local Ting for compensation, which is usually given according to a set schedule; payment of such fines is enforced by bounty hunters. But in none of this does the State, as such, make an appearance; nor is there any claim of morality. This is an important concept, but alien to us; it bears repeating. Justice, in Norway, is purely a private enterprise; the Tings are only convenient venues for negotiation.
In actual practice this is usually hidden by the smoothing of custom, and the day-to-day legal life of a Norwegian town would not appear terribly alien to an English or Chinese lawyer. There appear to be courts and juries, for example; that these are strictly speaking standing committees of the Ting (which, let us stress, is a voluntary association) and not organs of the State can be dismissed as a mere peccadillo. There appear to be police to enforce the rulings of the courts; in fact, these are commercial companies of bounty hunters, who collect a percentage of every fine they bring in. On closer examination differences appear: There is no distinction between criminal and civil law; in fact there is no criminal law at all. All legal action is brought by private individuals, including prosecutions for murder. There is no federal tax code; each Ting is bound by agreement to contribute a certain amount yearly to the Storting at Bergen (on pain of war, in the original treaties, although with the fading of the regional militias’ power that contingency has grown remote); how they bring in that sum is their own business. There are no environmental regulations, although suits for damages for polluting fisheries are frequently brought, and sometimes won. The resulting lack of emission controls is one way in which population-poor Norway maintains a semblance of industrial parity with the other Powers; a total lack of concern for worker health and safety is another. Which brings us to the largest anomaly of Norwegian law: The strils.
By ‘law’, we generally mean – in England, in Spain, in China – a rule which is enforced on all residents equally in principle, however unequal the application may be in practice. Even apartheid laws, in some sense, affect the separate classes symmetrically: Blacks may not do thus-and-so, and whites may not do this-and-that. Never mind that no white actually desires this-and-that; in principle, both are affected equally by the law. In Norway that assumption is overturned. Only members of the Tings have standing to bring suit there; only Ynglings can be members; and hence, only Ynglings have access to sanctions short of all-out, personal violence. Again, there is no law, as such, against a stril striking an Yngling, or refusing to work where he is assigned, or acting in an insolent manner; it is merely that any stril who did such a thing would be killed, beaten to within an inch of his life, or reassigned to more unpleasant tasks, depending on the severity of the offense. (The Ynglings make sure that they always have a more unpleasant task available; it is not for lack of machinery that their uranium mines are still operated by pick-wielding punishment details.) Again, this is a fundamental disconnect for an outsider; the Ynglings do not even pay lip service to an ideal of equality. Instead, they reject that ideal absolutely, in favour of an ideal of freedom. Not, as is usually the case in outside societies, “freedom for everyone”, but rather, “freedom for anyone who is tough enough and smart enough to enforce it”. And if you were born with the disability of not being an Yngling, and thus unable to command respect for your fists if nothing else – tough luck. It is not a pleasant ideology, but it is not, as is sometimes assumed in our political discussions, incoherent or hypocritical. It is worth noting that the Ynglings actually have a higher death rate than strils; relative to population size, duels are a more common cause of death than being sent to the mines.
From this central fact, that the Ynglings respect no right not enforced by power, all else follows. The monolithic solidarity of the class, for example, is based on pure self-interest: Each Yngling is certainly capable of destroying two or three, even five, strils in personal combat, but he knows perfectly well that his privileges depend on the support of the entire Realm infrastructure, and cooperates to maintain it. The vast educational system, almost completely focused on personal deadliness in combat, was irrational (from a national-strategic perspective) even in the days when riflemen dominated the battlefield; in the era of ICBMs, tanks, and hunter-killer satellites, it is ridiculous. If a tenth of the resources were spent educating a technical-scientific class among the Ynglings, Norway’s relative economic power would double. But that is not possible, because such a class would get no respect from other Ynglings, and be unable to enforce its rights on the dueling ground; it would rapidly be ground into servitude or death. It is an extreme example of the Prisoner’s Dilemma: All Ynglings would benefit if they could spend less time honing their skill, and more on technical or scientific pursuits; but each individual Yngling needs to be the deadliest he can be, to prevent others from simply taking his property and offering to prove their right to that property in a duel.
Nor are the Ynglings unaware of this. If asked, they would respond that this is the price of freedom: With freedom comes responsibility, including the responsibility of defending yourself. In this much, at least, the free nations can agree with the Realm. We all have a duty to protect ourselves from this freedom.
Comments section, London Times
June 4th, 1983