by Max Barry

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by The Dictatorship of Rho Ophiuchi. . 21 reads.

An Overview of Rho Ophiuchi

Rho Ophiuchi is a small, efficient nation, with a population of 24.2 million, and notable for its barren, inhospitable landscape, extremely low taxes, and complete absence of social welfare. The country is a capitalistic autocracy, where the government mostly runs itself without input from the people, save those wealthy enough to sway the opinions of the politically influential. However, the lack of the will in the government to do much of anything means that no matter what the government decides, it rarely has an effect on the nation. However, the two things it considers important enough to fund are industrial subsidies and education.


The minute, corrupt, pro-business, and well-organized Rho Ophiuchan government, or what there is of one, juggles the competing demands of Industry and Education, which, together, make up the vast majority of its budget. The most abnormal part of the Rho Ophiuchan government are its extremely low taxes - the tax rate is a mere 2.9%, one of the lowest rates in the pacific. In fact, many have hypothesized that this low tax rate may be the only thing keeping the nation together - the conditions may be bad, but there is almost no where else with taxes as low. This low tax rate can only be achieved due to the abnormal frugality of the Rho Ophiuchan government, which does not have programs, as many other nations do, in welfare, spirituality, environment, social policy, or public transport, and has extremely streamlined administration, law and order, and healthcare departments. Although a department of defense does exist, no one is quite sure what is does, as Rho Ophiuchi does not have any military to speak of. Close examination by professionals revealed that the department of defense is really an organization dedicated to selling military decorations to anyone who will pay to get a "medal of honor," as well as pay crucial government cronies using the defense budget. From this point forward, this organization will be referred to as the department of cronyism.

The Rho Ophiuchan government is notorious for arresting anyone who disagrees with them, and then doing almost nothing else. In general, dissidents who make themselves known (whether through protest, media, or "contempt of cop," (the last one being a term commonly used in reference to the implicit crime of disagreeing with any sort of government official), tend to either leave the country quickly, have their house struck by lightning, or merely disappear, presumably abducted by a group of teenagers who were paid half a Kilocredit to be secret agents for a few hours and abduct them (Which, as it turns out, is a highly effective strategy due to the number of teenagers who are wannabe-spies and also want to be on the good side of the government.). However, contrary to some rumors, this sort of thing is quite rare, with this happening to only a dozen or two people per year. No one is really quite sure where these people go, but most assume they are shoved into boxes, labeled as canned goods, and mailed to Johannesburg or something.

The Rho Ophiuchan government is composed of three major branches - the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. Of these three, the legislative branch is by far the most powerful, but the executive and judicial branches can sometimes exert their relatively small power for a long time to bring changes that would be impossible for the rapidly changing legislative branch to accomplish. The executive branch is by far the simplest of the three, with a President who is never actually elected, but rather is either appointed (if the old one dies, or when the executive branch was being formed in the first place), which has happened exactly once, on April 7th, 1993, or is overthrown in a military coup, which also happened exactly once, during the takeover of the current incumbent between November 20th and November 22nd, 2020. The executive branch is in charge of enforcing the law and keeping a copy of official government records (which are also kept by the other two branches), making it relevant, but not overbearing to the function of the government. A president can only be removed by death or coup. The legislative branch is composed of two bodies, the Board of Corporate Representation and the Board of Economic Representation. The Board of Corporate Representation is made of the chief executive officers of the largest 500 corporations in Rho Ophiuchi by revenue, which are granted their positions by being appointed by their respective corporations, and then represent the interests of their corporations in the board. The Board of Economic Representation is similar, but instead it allows the CEOs of the largest 500 corporations by revenue to appoint a number of representatives proportional to the revenues of their respective corporations, with the 500th largest corporation in Rho Ophiuchi normalized to 0.5, and the numbers rounded up. The Board of Economic Representation has the power to propose laws, which are voted on, and then given to the Board of Corporate Representation to verify. If the laws are passed with a 50% majority in both administrations, they are then put into effect. While the president cannot explicitly veto these, they can use their discretion on enforcement, meaning that a good portion of the laws are simply not enforced by police. They can still be enforced in court, but only in civil cases, meaning the offender will sometimes declare bankruptcy and move on. The judicial branch is the most traditional of the three, with two hundred and fifty-six district courts that can appeal to sixteen circuit courts, that can then appeal to a supreme court. The judges on these courts are appointed for ten years, twenty years, and life, respectively. Interestingly, the judicial system is widely regarded as the least corrupt and most democratic part of the Rho Ophiuchan government.

The actual people with power in Rho Ophiuchi are, more than anything else, the owners of large, private, corporations. Many of these people keep to the shadows, and very few ever really show their faces, for fear of assassination, or even of discovery, for some. However, public corporations so hold a significant amount of political power as well, and there does therefore exist a roundabout way for random citizens to influence the government, though it does depend directly on wealth to do so. Buy buying stock in large coporations, citezens can then participate in board member elections, most notably the CEO, who, in corporations large enough, is immediately admitted to the Board of Corporate Representation, and gets to appoint a number of members proportional to the corporation's size in the Board of Economic Representation. To this end, there are niche political parties, but they support competing business interests; it would be impossible for a party advocating civil rights (or its opposite), political freedoms, socialism, or anything that was not directly beneficial to large corporations and wealthy individuals to get off of the ground due to the extremely privatized, plutocratic, and byzantine political system.


The Rho Ophiuchan economy is currently facing an unemployment crisis due to the 23% unemployment level, which is wreaking havoc on the economy in multiple ways. Although this number was down from 26% a few months ago, this still remains a major crisis and strain on the political system. The economy, composed almost entirely of private industry, is fiercely capitalistic, with most, viewing the government as completely incompetent, would find the proposal of socialism in Rho Ophiuchi abhorrent. The largest sectors in Rho Ophiuchi are the chemical, automobile manufacturing, retail, and agricultural sectors, making the nation mostly self-sufficient in regards to food and most industrial products. However, there is a distinct lack of service-sector jobs in Rho Ophiuchi, mainly due to the relatively low income levels.

The currency of Rho Ophiuchi is the Rho Ophiuchan Credit, with the average income being 118,695 Credits per year, but with a significant disparity between incomes, with the richest 10% of citizens earning 437,506 Credits per year while the poor average 22,735 Credits per year, a ratio of 19.2 to 1. While this may at first sound like a lot of income, the Rho Ophiuchan credit is a relatively low-value currency, with a loaf of bread being worth around 9 credits, most new cars being worth between 100 and 400 Kilocredits, and an inexpensive, 40 m^2 apartment costing around 2 Kilocredits per month.

The well-off in Rho Ophiuchi usually occupy equipment maintenance or low-level managerial positions in the many industrial plants nearly covering the region, while the poor are usually either working 12-hour days in these factories, or unemployed and working odd jobs. Due to the lack of a social safety net, many of the impoverished turn to crime, but carrying a firearm can act as a good deterrent for petty thieves. The top 1% or so of Rho Ophiuchi, in contrast, lead relatively prosperous lives, and either own a lot of stock in various businesses, own a medium-to-large corporation, or are one of the senior directors at such corporations. However, a good portion of them reside outside of Rho Ophiuchi, and only use Rho Ophiuchan citizenship as a tax-dodging strategy.

However, the Rho Ophiuchan economy is above all dirty. As there are almost no environmental regulations in Rho Ophiuchi, the factories, power plants, and chemical facilities all emit their own types of waste, the most notable of which are waste heat, carbon dioxide, sulfur trioxide, ozone, and dinitrogen tetroxide. Although particulate matter and nuclear waste are also present in small amounts in the skies, these five are the most important. First of all, Rho Ophiuchi has no shortage of electricity, due to sizable oil and uranium reserves and loose regulation. However, the downside of this is that the per capita energy consumption of Rho Ophiuchi is one of the highest in the world, leading to the losing of several terawatts of waste heat, mainly in industrial ventures. This heats the country by around twenty-five degrees Celsius above the average, which can lead to daytime temperatures of fifty degrees Celsius, and nighttime temperatures of thirty-five Celsius. While this is a problem, several entrepreneurs are looking to create centralized air conditioning plants, and provide cold air as a utility to combat the problem. Carbon dioxide is one of the banes of the existance of factory owners, but not for the reasons most would expect. Rho Ophiuchi goes through roughly thirty billion barrels of oil per year, and while only a third of that is burned for electricity directly, the rest is manufactured into random chemical products, plastics, and who knows what else. This, combined with frequent fires from the high temperatures, frequently lead to local carbon dioxide concentrations above one percent. While no one cares about global warming in Rho Ophiuchi, mainly due to local waste heat issues, the high carbon dioxide concentrations can impede the mental judgement of many on particularly bad days, making it an impairment to productivity, and a major nuisance for factory owners. Sulfur trioxide is released by mishandling of sulfuric acid, and can recombine with sulfuric acid in particularly poor circumstances to create acid rain, which all buildings must therefore be hardened against. Ozone, and to a lesser extent particulate matter, can combine with water vapor in the perpetually cloudy atmosphere, and form a thick blanket of smog which covers the entire nation. Although this problem is mostly cosmetic, many still complain about it nonetheless. Lastly, dinitrogen tetroxide, a hexatomic acid, is sometimes also found in the atmosphere, and will sometimes create a weird "red rain" under particularly bad circumstances. The red rain is considered a symbol of bad luck, possibly due to the tendency of dinitrogen tetroxide to be hypergolic with almost every material imaginable, and consequently start fires everywhere.


The population of Rho Ophiuchi can be divided into two distinct groups, depending on the reason that the people are there. The first group is the group of people who moved to Rho Ophiuchi so they would not have to pay taxes. This group comprises most of the well-off in the country. The second group mainly consists of people who were either exiled from another country, born in Rho Ophiuchi and could not move out, or the like. They tend to be notably less happy about their situation than the first group, and are usually very poor, working in factory jobs or the like. Interestingly, though there are two distinct socioeconomic classes, there are people from all over the world in each one, partly due to the recent establishment of Rho Ophiuchi by corporate, not national, interests.

While contraceptives exist in Rho Ophiuchi, they are generally unproven, expensive, and in a development phase. This makes the average birth rate quite high, at 5.8 children per woman. Although Rho Ophiuchi is relatively densely-packed, the country has not existed for that long, and between inherent governmental instabilities and high levels of emigration, no one in power is too concerned about a population crisis. What those in power are concerned about is life expectancy. The life expectancy of Rho Ophiuchi has been going up over the last several years, and is currently at just under 66 years, however many feel that this is still extremely low, especially when compared with the common 90-year life expectancies in neighboring nations. As such, raising life expectancy has been a major concern for those in power for quite a while, and this trend will likely continue into the future. The reasons for this low life expectancy are mainly pollution, crime, and disease-related. Although 43.8% of all deaths happen due to cancer, and 9.2% due to old age, neither of these are preventable, and so cannot be easily fixed. However, 29.2% of all deaths occur due to heart disease, 10.6% due to exposure in the harsh climate (mainly hyperthermia-related), and 6.5% due to murder. These are the causes of death that the nation is currently working on solving.


The history of Rho Ophiuchi, compared with most countries, is quite short. The city was established in 1963 by a number of oil corporations that had realized that the region had massive oil reserves. This created a massive demand for workers in the region, and a city then sprang up in the ccenter of the area, housing the workers needed for extracting and refining the oil, and then their support services. This caused a massive economic boom, the repercussions of which are still felt today. In this period, called by many the "golden age" of Rho Ophiuchi, the country was more or less stateless, being ruled directly and unofficially by a group of large corporations in an anarcho-capitalist system. During most of the 1960s the oil industry in the region grew and grew, causing the city to reach upwards of two hundred and fifty thousand residents by 1970, remarkable growth for such a small city. Although the il industry began to stagnate in the 1970s, the abundance of the resource in Rho Ophiuchi caused a boom in automobile manufacturing, which was noted by many to have caused another massive boost to the number of workers required. As there were jobs available, people moved to Rho Ophiuchi, and the city grew to a population of four million by the end of the 1970s. This growth continued well into the 1980s, but abruptly came to an end at 9 million in 1987 during a failed revolution. During the late 1970s and the earty-to-mid 1980s, there had been a steadily increasing number of strikes among the workers of the nation, which came to an abrupt head in 1987 when many of the workers declared a communist revolution. As almost everyone had multiple firearms (usually automatic), most of the workers already had their hands on weapons, but little did they consider that everyone else also had firearms. This was a fatal miscalculation for the revolution, because while the revolting workers all had automatic weapons, the defending corporations and security agents also had firearms. This, in effect, lead to one of the bloodiest civil wars ever known, with the entire city being turned into a war zone for eight years. By 1993, most of the corporations were getting tired of the increasingly sporadic victories they were receiving, and began consolidating their forces, realizing that to combat this problem an actual government would be needed to provide centralized control to their forces. However, still trying to follow anarcho-capitalistic ideals as closely as they could, they structured the government so that it was still very dependent on the cooperation of the corporations to do much of anything, and would have very little power after the war was over. With the new centralised coordination for their forces, the corporations finally managed to gain the upper hand, subduing the revolt by 1995. However, the country was dramatically changed after this, with an existent (although extremely small) government, and much higher unemployment levels, due to the unappealing nature of doing business somewhere that was recently wracked by civil war, and though the country continued to grow, this was now mainly due to the high birth rate. This state has continued, without substantial change, to the present day.


The nation is a city-state, with borders in the shape of a square, one hundred kilometers on a side. This makes the population density extremely high, but the prevalence of urban farming in the city allows the population to largely grow their own food. This, and the city's large automobile manufacturing and chemical industries, contribute toward the nation's extremely high power consumption, which is supplied through a combination of nuclear fission, petroleum-based combustion, and geothermal energy. The weather in the area is relatively constant, with daytime temperatures artificially raised through the release of waste heat from industrial processes, sometimes up to well above fifty degrees Celsius. Together with the perpetual cloud of thick smog over the nation, this makes life difficult for the nation's residents.

The nation's landscape depends on the part of the nation itself. There is a core in the central city which contains two or three million people, which is almost as prosperous as a developed nation, but the rest of the country is covered with massive slums of various kinds. Unemployment is at extremely high numbers, with more than a fifth of the workforce unemployed. This contributes greatly to the nation's extremely high crime rate, which, combined with the passive-aggressive attitude of most of those who do follow the rules, and the inhospitablity of the climate, makes the nation one of the most avoided nations in the world.

Rho Ophiuchi's geography can be divided into several vague regions, delineated by factors such as property values, pollution levels, and the amount of large corporate presences in the area. In the areas with the lowest property values exist extremely large mining firms, which create an extremely hazardous, albeit extremely productive environment. In these areas also exist oil wells and geothermal power plants, all of which contribute to the acidic air and extremely bad pollution levels. While these areas are dangerous, they also have extremely low property values, and are not generally patrolled, leading to massive slums sometimes cropping up in-between mines.

The areas with low, but not extremely low property values tend to get covered with a pretty even mixture of industrial plants and slums as well, but these industrial plants are usually manufacturing-based, instead of extraction-based. As the automobile manufacturing and chemical industries are the nation's largest income source, most factories in this area are automobile manufacturing plants, petroleum refineries, chemical plants, or the like, with other types of manufacturing being prevalent as well. These factories turn on at six AM, turn off at six PM, and this timekeeping keeps time of almost the entire nation. Workers generally either squat in cobbled-together slums made from trash and materials rejected by factories and mining facilities, and pasted together with dried clay and mud, or live in cramped, but decently sanitary, apartment complexes build on factory premises, and paying for them with company currency.

The areas with medium property values tend to be full of mid-sized apartment buildings, most with hydroponics going on inside, run partially by the tenants. It is common in this region to offer someone a hydroponic-capable apartment at a low price, on the condition that the tenant forfeits all the surplus hydroponically-grown produce to the apartment building, which can then supplement its income by selling it to supermarkets. This leads to a lot of extremely-small apartments being occupied by people that not only have jobs outside of the apartment building, but have to spend several hours a day tending to the hydroponics inside their apartment. 16-hour workdays are therefore extremely common.

The very few areas with high property values are part of the central core mentioned earlier, which actually is almost as wealthy as some developed countries, however much of its populace is only able to maintain this level of wealth with extremely long workdays as well. High-rise apartments, commercial towers, and extremely large multi-story shopping centers make up the landscape in this area.


There also exists an interesting contrast between the government of the nation and the citizens of the nation in terms of armament. While Rho Ophiuchi possesses no military to speak of, the citizens are usually well-armed, tending to have at least two firearms on them at all times. This has lead to an interesting case of the nation largely being patrolled by corporations, especially due to the lack of public property - most of the roads are corporate-owned, and are either paved with advertisements or have constant tolls, but these roads are usually considerably safer than public roads.