Tales of the Solar Patrol: Class of 2058
The Mother Planet, Earth, remains the most populous of all the worlds in the System, by a large margin. It is a peaceful and rich world, continuing to heal from the scars of war. Most of the inhabitants would never dream of leaving it (except for brief vacations or work-related excursions). They look with respect and confusion on those who abandon the warmth and comfort of the home world to carve out a life in the Venusian swamps, the Lunar caverns, or the flying mountains.
Earth is wealthy. This does not mean that everyone on Earth is rich – or even middle class – but there’s plenty to go around, even if the distribution is still uneven. Mass poverty and starvation are gone. There are richer and poorer Political Zones, but none remain trapped in dire financial distress. There are no famines, no civil wars, no plagues, no refugee camps, no warlords, no people left abandoned and helpless after a disaster. There are poor individuals. There are lower-class areas. However, the kind of endemic, large-scale poverty that blighted so much of the 20th century has been wiped out in the 21st. It’s not paradise or utopia, but it is far better than those of the 20th century might have imagined it would be.
Simply put, life on Earth in 2056 is an idealized vision of how the future was supposed to be all along. Megascrapers, all shining chrome and glistening glass, dominate the skylines of the large cities, reaching a mile into the air and surrounded by a ceaseless buzz of mini-helicopters. Broad highways, 16 lanes wide, reach through the cities, and traffic flows smoothly, effortlessly, and non-pollutingly along them. Outside the massive central cities sprawl parks, fields, and farms. Scattered among the greenbelts, there are carefully planned suburban communities of a few thousand apiece, enough so that people still know their neighbors and have a sense of pride in their hometown.
Workdays are brief – six hours is typical – and vacation time is plentiful, averaging six to eight weeks a year. Individuals have available a wide variety of hobbies and pastimes to amuse them, and with so much free time, most people have a particular hobby that they treat as a second job. Family and community are important, and many activities are group oriented. Sporting teams, bowling leagues, garden clubs – whatever the activity, people can find someone to do it with.
Physical labor is minimal. The “home of the future,” under the careful guidance of its owners, washes the dishes, cleans the rugs, launders the clothes, and cleans up after the cat. Travel is cheap and easy. A family in the Minnesota Sector of the North American Political Zone might decide to take the kids to see Paris over the weekend, and do so with no more expense or difficulty than a 20th-century family might have had going to see Grandma in Wisconsin.
People tend to stick close to home because of ties to the community, not the expense of travel or moving. Even Luna is a relatively easy trip, no more complex than a flight from New York to Los Angeles would have been, and business travelers routinely commute to high orbit, which is where most of the heavy industry has been relocated.
The Earth League, a democratic, representative body that evolved out of the old United Nations, governs Earth. Every adult human in the Solar System has the franchise (granted at the age of 18), except those who are currently serving time for criminal offenses or who have been determined to be insane or otherwise incompetent.
The planet is divided into 10 major Political Zones, and each zone is subdivided into various Sectors. Representatives are elected based on Sector population for the Sector Congress, and equal numbers of representatives are elected for each Zone and sent to the Zone Congress. Legislation must pass both Congresses. The president is elected by the Zone Congress from among its members, and serves a single five-year term.
The Earth League can be described, in day-to-day operation, as “benignly bureaucratic.” It has several planets to run, many different needs to balance, and a fairly low tax base with which to work. The result is a well-meaning but overburdened bureaucracy. Even though most civil service workers try their best and care about their jobs, the average citizen looking to get a pet permit or correct an error on a tax return must descend into a polite, sincere, and well-mannered Hell of forms, offices, red tape, infomat punch cards (which are invariably folded, spindled, and mutilated), and a general exhausting runaround. The system works, albeit slowly. In situations that matter for a large percentage of the population – the defense of the Solar System, responding to emergencies and natural disasters, providing for general welfare, education, and health care – things go smoothly. It is only in the day-to-day grind that the system shows its immense size and complexity.