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I have a nation, Arunya, which functions under different magical rules from the rest of the world. The entity governing their magic is much more closely tied to the state due to historical factors, the relatively smaller size, and greater ease of control over critical points. Said entity also provides them with a form of extremely powerful mineral wealth - the power of their dead ancestors' souls condensed into crystalline form. Said crystals shatter easily and are mostly inert but respond to a form of runic language that is tightly controlled by the clerical classes. These crystals; however, are compatible with other forms of magic and can be brought away from the providing entity's area of control.

Let's say by resource curse I'm using the definition where the presence of an extremely valuable natural resource in a geographic region causes economic and political weakness due to overreliance on and overconfidence in the resource for state and individual revenues, creating authoritarianism and economic underdevelopment. Let's also assume that, under strict economic controls and with a population of 20 to 30 million during the early modern period, the crystals are capable of replenishing to support a robust military apparatus.

To counteract resource curse, there exists a strong sociocultural taboo against the wanton export of these crystals partly because it's tantamount to selling your ancestors souls for money, and also because unsustainable export-level intensity extraction practices drain the supply much more quickly than it can be replenished by deaths on the island nation. Furthermore, the people of this nation have had several centuries to work out functional economic relationships. Recently, extraction of the resources has come under the sole control of the imperial clergy-government after previously being held in fief by the nobility. Some export of the goods are allowed under the aegis of the government, and smuggling is generally punished harshly. Sale on the domestic market is generally handled by the central government though I still haven't worked out the economics.

I'm not sure if this all is enough; however, to avert the resource curse. Specifically, my goals with this system are to:

  1. Allow the crystals to be used in the mass manufacture of energy weapons (guns propelled by exploding crystals) or the powering of specially-designed engines. This is to allow the creation of a bourgeois industrialist class in cities built over or near the mines while also simulating the effect of guns on individualism and authoritarianism,
  2. Create a monopoly that the central imperial government uses to control all levels of society while,
  3. Leaving room for a semblance of liberal democracy to develop healthily (as healthy as the French Revolution can be) without overly heavy influence from the mining class and also creating a healthy and diversified economy.

That said, are the safeguards I've introduced above sufficient for my conditions? What are the effects of resource curse that I'll inevitably have to deal with, and what effects might I safely be able to avoid with mild adjustment?

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  • $\begingroup$ If you don't want resource curse in your world, can't you just decide that it isn't a factor? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 3, 2021 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry but I'm personally a tad pedantic when it comes to worldbuilding. I can't really flesh my magic system out really well without running in circles so I figured I'd focus on socioeconomic aspects. I'm trying to build a world and write a piece on revolutions that goes against what I think are overused tropes and severe simplifications but I do want to steer it a certain way and resource curse is not a road I want to travel down. $\endgroup$
    – o0V0o
    Nov 3, 2021 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ So don't travel down that road. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 3, 2021 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ (a) This is the first question in a long time that I believe could realistically use the reality-check tag. Bravo! I suggest you add it. (b) I assume you defined the phrase "resource curse" in your first paragraph - but you don't actually say you did it. What, exactly, is your "resource curse?" (c) On a tangent, I think you have a serious resource availability problem. Unless the process of transforming souls into crystals produces a LOT of crystals, using exploding crystals in weapons sounds like your real curse is that you'll run out of them really, really, quickly. $\endgroup$ Nov 3, 2021 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ (a) Done! Thanks for the suggestion! (b) By resource curse I'm using the typical definition - where the presence of an extremely valuable natural resource in a geographic region causes economic and political weakness due to overreliance on and overconfidence in the resource for state and individual revenues, creating authoritarianism and economic underdevelopment (c) Ah whoops! For the sake of argument let's assume that the amount of 'soul' quanta used in a given explosion or other outburst of energy isn't too much, and that a single human soul stores a lot of power for harnessing $\endgroup$
    – o0V0o
    Nov 3, 2021 at 15:30

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/there exists a strong sociocultural taboo against the wanton export of these crystals partly because it's tantamount to selling your ancestors souls for money/

Sell crystals made from foreigners that you capture for that purpose.

I take from OP that these crystals are not like coal that needs to sit in the ground for several million years. /with a population of 20 to 30 million during the early modern period, the crystals are capable of replenishing/. People can be made right into crystals when they die.

You can replenish them with foreign people that you catch. Arunya is a small area and I take that other neighboring areas are relatively larger. People from Arunya make armed expeditions to these neighboring countries and either catch persons to bring home and turn into crystals or pay middlemen in these areas to provide captive persons. The crystal powered weaponry used by Arunyans makes it easy to overpower their neighbors and there are crystal weapons developed to incapacitate but not kill persons for capture. It would be much like the slave trade was but instead of keeping persons for labor they would be turned into crystals once back in the area where the providing entity allows crystal production.

Some persons in Arunya keep breeding populations of slaves which would be a good revelation partway through the book - babies can be turned into fine crystals. The people of Arunya do have crystals made from their own ancestors but these are kept for household use and sold only in the most disgraceful financial emergencies.

Manpower is needed for the crystal "slave trade" which spreads the financial benefits out. Also like fishermen seeking unfished areas, competing groups of Arunyans make expeditions into more remote and distant populated areas for the prospect of catching the inhabitants unaware and bringing back lots of people to make into crystals.

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  • $\begingroup$ That is a very interesting idea. I neglected to mention that the soul captire process only applies to Arunne citizens because weird magical things (the Doylist explanation is that it creates a religious tie to the state where Arunya's citizens aim to die and rejoin the 'great cause' as a resource for their fellows to use). The Arunne are actually terrified of steppong off their shores because death off the mainland means death away from the soul capture mechanism. Tho maybe I could consider changing it... $\endgroup$
    – o0V0o
    Nov 4, 2021 at 1:36

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