So, in roughing out the basic historical timeline of this project o’ mine, I have decided that the two most important aspects of the 24th century are:

1st, the birth of a post-scarcity on Earth, causing a second depression until the economy can adapt, thus giving rise to a new utopian society.

2nd, the planetary colonies of Mars, Venus and Mercury, hitherto owned by their parent states, seceding from Earth and becoming independent political entities.

Is there a sensible reason why the early years of the former, (I.e. the second depression) would result in the latter taking place soon after?

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    $\begingroup$ Why had the colonies not long-since seceded? Surely there's nothing in particular a colony world needs from Earth that can come in reasonable quantity also at a reasonable rate. What does "post scarcity" mean if there is still an "economy?" Post scarcity is when the automatic stuff-producing machines can make everything including stuff-producing machines. $\endgroup$
    – Boba Fit
    Jan 13 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ "causing a second depression until the economy can adapt" doesn't gel with "post scarcity", unless you're using "second depression" in a particularly weird way (or are using "post scarcity" in a way that doesn't mean a lack of scarcity at all, which is weirder still). $\endgroup$ Jan 13 at 20:21

8 Answers 8


Blame Someone Else

It was not obvious at first that the depression was the toothing pains of an emerging post-scarcity society. The big company owners made sure of that. They had the most to lose.

Propaganda campaigns and lobbying blamed the depression on the Colonies. They blamed it on the Aliens. They blamed it on the incompetent Leftist Government. They blamed it on the poor and the sick, the disabled and the gosh-darned homosexuals. They blamed it on those new-fangled "Transhumans" with their pristine robot bodies. They don't eat or sleep or buy property -- what do they contribute to society!

It worked. The Colonies on Mars, Venus and Mercury did not like the corporate fat-cats talking smack about them. They did not like what they perceived as a dying Earth sucking up all their budget to subsidize its economy.

So they left. Imagine their surprise when the Earth rose from its own ashes.


So, a completely contrary answer to that of @darron.

Firstly - I'm going to point to the Rat Utopia Experiment - that when all the needs of rats were met - they lived in 'Utopia' - they eventually died out because there were no more births.

Next, I can't remember the source of the quote but it's something like "If we ever achieved utopia, the first thing we'd do is burn it down so that something interesting would happen"

So, from those two premises - here are 2 reasons why Planets might secede from a post-scarcity world:

Reason 1:

"Religious or Societal Work Ethic"

Whether it's from the zeal of the Amish or from the colonists pioneering spirit - the culture on the planets has evolved to place a significant value on Hard Work. Not just in the productive sense, but also in the religious/spiritual sense. They hold that hard work is good for the soul and the personal growth of the person. This was initially borne out of the necessities of early colonist life - but over time became fully integrated into every aspect of society. Children are expected to spend 2-3 hours a day on community work projects from a young age (once they can walk, talk and understand instruction) so that this work ethic is drilled into them.

2: Similar to point 1, but more observation than introspection:

They see what is happening to Earth and they are worried that the Post-Scarcity society will rob Humans of some of their Humanity and will lead to societal collapse. They have no wish to interfere with Earth, they just want to be left alone and they don't want to accept the rule from the increasingly decadent and out-of-touch earth.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 just for the "burn it down" quote. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 14 at 7:37
  • $\begingroup$ "when all the needs of rats were met - they lived in 'Utopia' - they eventually died out because there were no more births" - the link you provide does not describe anything remotely resembling that. $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Jan 15 at 4:14
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    $\begingroup$ @N.Virgo "thereafter exhibited a variety of abnormal, often destructive, behaviors including refusal to engage in courtship, females abandoning their young. By the 600th day, the population was on its way to extinction. Though physically able to reproduce, the mice had lost the social skills required to mate $\endgroup$ Jan 15 at 6:20

I think we need to better define the nature of this post-scarcity "depression" before we can tackle your actual question. I'll posit the following:

Post-scarcity means that the price of most goods goes to essentially zero. So while the "depression" would cause none of the usual sources of human misery, it's reasonable to think it that would sow complete chaos at every level within the mechanisms of capitalism. Consider: all corporate profitability - zero. Stock markets crash to pennies on the dollar. Most savings wiped out (nevermind that there's really no reason you need those savings savings anymore). People would be losing their minds. That in turn will cause enormous political upheaval worldwide. Riots. Revolutions. Cities burning.

So. Now to address your actual question:

The Colonies would see all of this unfolding on Earth at alarming speed, and would want to cut all ties, economic, social, and political, ASAP to protect themselves from contagion. That naturally includes declaring independence. No time to think things through or see how it plays out - civilization is at stake!

Alternatively: The Colonies may simply see the chaos on Earth as an opportunity to assert a pre-existing movement for independence due to the more typical grievances of historical secession movements.



Bear in mind that what you're looking for must, of necessity, be entirely contrived. That's because developing planetary economies for even one world is a bit beyond the scope of Stack Exchange (the book rule). However, I believe that in a general sense, a contrived solution can be had.


  • A post-scarcity economy is almost never what people think it is. It is not a condition where everything anybody could ever want is provided for them free of charge. In fact, a post-scarcity economy is no more likely to bring about a utopia than any other economy. This is because it is impossible for everything to no longer be scarce. Every planet has limits. Limited mineral and agricultural resources (or, at least, limited access to those resources) are the most common problem.1 What could be true is unlimited energy and information/education. Possibly basic foods and enough resources for very basic needs (a clothing allotment, basic housing,2 etc.). The problem arises when somebody wants prime rib, but it's impossible for everyone to eat prime rib whenever they want. So, we must admit that there's no such thing as universal post-scarcity. This is a good thing. It's what will make your story work.

  • A depression occurs when, for whatever reason (too much unemployment, locked up credit - e.g. lending institutions become land rich and cash poor, or an upside-down supply-and-demand curve for critical resources, etc.) money stops moving or its value drops in an economy. Most people don't realize that it is not the presence of money (or even value) that drives an economy, but the movement of money (spending it...) leading to the production and/or improvement of things (real property, research, trinkets to buy, etc.), which leads in its turn to establishing the value of money.

  • In your case, a depression caused by the advent of a "post-scarcity economy" must of necessity mean that there was a massive jump in the efficiency of automation leading to many of the basics people need to live being suddenly inexpensive to acquire. One would think that the drop in price would strengthen the economy (and normally it would), but in this case, it also requires an absolutely massive loss of jobs — mostly manufacturing and its administration (the chain reaction would be staggering). That's the only way I can see to get a depression out of a post-scarcity economy (even at the beginning). This means that a huge percentage of your population is suddenly on the dole, and it's not their money (through employment) that's paying for the post-scarcity goods, but inflationary spending by the government. Nasty.

The crisis

I believe it is believable that Earth's planetary government would react to this problem by leaning on its colonies to stem the tide of economic depression. What are they asking the colonies to do?

  1. Employ people. Earth suddenly has too many people and it's a bit awkward to celebrate the advent of a post-scarcity economy with a war (the government wants one, it's desperate for it, but it can't start it... more about that later). So, Earth is willing to reduce tariffs on imports and decrease the costs of her exports, so long as the colonies implement massive emigration-based employment initiatives.

  2. Buy stuff. Earth can't reduce the cost of those exports too much, because what they need is for the colonies to take over the "move the money around" job that is usually the duty of employed people. That means production doesn't drop in value even while it's ramping up substantially due to the tech that brought about the post-scarcity economy.

And, just because it tickles my recent-history conspiracy funny bone...

  1. Finally, Earth knows perfectly well that they can't foist enough people onto the colonies to fix the problem. Worse, the more they ship out, the more dissatisfaction with Earth increases because people emigrating from Earth will naturally feel they have the right to enjoy the post-scarcity economy — and getting shipped off to the colonies means one can't enjoy it at all (i.e., the people don't want to go. Who would when the government is paying you unemployment?). But the unemployed have gotta go. Thus, a manufactured plague is created to thin the population that won't ship out.


Now, let's look at all that from, say, Mars' point of view.

  • Earth suddenly has a technology that seriously sets her ahead in the political-strength race. If she can provide for at least the basic needs of her people, she needn't depend on the colonies to help with that. So, the colonies see a future where Earth's imports are likely to drop, which will affect their economies.

  • Earth's efforts to stem the tide of the economic depression puts a considerable amount of stress on the colonies. Accepting all those emigrants and the demands for Earth-based investment and the colonies' own imports quite literally threatens to drag the colonies into Earth's economic depression.

  • Finally, that plague is no small thing... and Earth just demanded that plague-ridden zombies a potentially exposed population be welcomed into the colonies.


Slam the gates shut. No new emigration, conversion to an introverted economy that depends less on Earth, meaning shifting jobs from export-related employment to self-sustaining employment. And keep the money in the colony. (Mars first!) Increased military spending can help make up for the loss of Earth-bound exports and the swift negotiation for a league-of-planets-except-for-Earth coalition immediately starts.

But there's something you can't ignore...

Secession is not something any government is willing to put up with. The moment the colonies secede, it'll start a war. It always starts a war.3 And to make things worse... Earth wants a war to thin that unemployed population and to generate new jobs to replace those lost to the shift to a post-scarcity economy. Earth will be looking for a reason to fight, she simply doesn't want to be perceived as wanting that fight. The colonies just handed her the solution to her economic problems on a silver platter.

And that's why the idea of post-scarcity economies leading to utopias is, in my personal opinion, breathtakingly short-sighted. What such an economy really creates is a deeper class separation between those who are forced to depend on the post-scarcity basics and those with enough wealth that they can enjoy the obviously scarce resources that are unavailable to the rest of the population. It's a nice idea... but it's an unstable economic condition that's far more likely to result in revolution than it is universal peace.

ONE MORE THING... Now that I've finished writing this, I just realized (with no small amount of embarrassment) that what I've done is develop a significant portion of your plot for you. That is NOT worldbuilding. That's off-topic (too story-based) storybuilding. In other words, this question should have been closed.

Why is it storybuilding and not worldbuilding? Because you're asking us to help you rationalize a choice made by your colonies. Per the Help Center, questions about the choices of individuals and organizations are off-topic.

Also per the Help Center, we're here to help you build your world, not to tell your story. Please do not ask storybuilding questions. This was a freebie.

1The problem most people who believe in the utopic value of a post-scarcity economy is that (e.g.) Star Trek-style replicators can't make anything out of thin air. An iron beam still requires iron. The manufacturing process may be tremendously simplified (and, therefore, access to the beam much simpler and its cost much lower), but every ounce of iron is still required. And with every beam in our example used for construction, more iron must be mined from the ground. That example demonstrates why post-scarcity economies cannot be utopic. There are always limits, always restrictions, and always scarcity. It's just that what causes the scarcity changes. However, this isn't the place for an in-depth analysis of the differences between an actual post-scarcity economy and what most writers think it is.

2If you're not thinking the word "projects," then you, dear reader, really have a rosy view of what a post-scarcity economy can do. It can't provide everyone with five acres and a 3,000 square-foot house in the Hamptons. Post-scarcity housing must take the form of housing projects (large apartment buildings), better known as human warehousing. Re-read footnote #1.

3Secession that doesn't lead to a war is called negotiated independence. But in the case of a government suffering from an economic depression, no such negotiation would ever be permitted unless the regions seeking independence were a substantial part of the economic problem.

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    $\begingroup$ Post-scarcity societies are not real. The term means whatever most people think it does. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 14 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ /Now that I've finished writing this, I just realized (with no small amount of embarrassment) that what I've done is develop a significant portion of your plot for you. That is NOT worldbuilding. / It is OK JBH! At the end of the day this is all a creative writing exercise. You did good! I am glad you posted it. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 14 at 20:46

Assuming you're suspending disbelief and people can survive on Venus and Mercury despite the atmosphere, heat, and other factors, it would really depend. I'm no expert, but I think a bit more information is necessary. If the colonies are self-sufficient, which would include manufacturing, hydroponics, its own economy, a water source, and so on and so forth. All of these would also need to be abundant enough to provide for however large the population of these planets is. If they can't meet these criteria, they would need to stay colonies, otherwise, they'd be in danger of collapse and extinction depending on the severity.

So, if they're self-sufficient enough to avoid their own issues, they might suffer a little if there was trading between the worlds and colonies, but they might pull it off. Of course, this would have political consequences. Considering these colonies are less habitable and likely less populated (unless they were terraformed, or I'm unaware of something), the new Utopian Earth might be spiteful, seeing as the colonies made the decision to rebel and sever their ties during a time of crisis. Assuming Utopian Earth is once again powerful and highly populated, they could very well return to the colonies that attempted to rebel previously in order to reclaim the lost territory, and perhaps any resources the lost as a consequence. This would also allow them to eliminate potential threats before they grew to power and became legitimate competitors.


Warlords take over!

frazetta mars


And there is no better antidote to macroeconomics and poltico-sociological ruminations than some smokingly hot hottie warlords! What is it about being a warlord that means you can barely wear clothes? Whatever it is I like it. These colonies were not being routinely policed any more, and just like the Roman empire when it stopped policing its provinces, warlords took over.

Mercury just has 2 warlords because it is little but Mars and Venus have several - warlords and warladies, and also some pristine transhumanist warpeople. United in their lust for battle and scanty clothes and lust!

  • $\begingroup$ Half-banana half-human. All yours. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 17 at 17:10

The colonies were not economically and materially self-sufficient, and were afraid that changing conditions on Earth would make them redundant.

As is often the case throughout history, the colonies would provide raw materials to the home country, which would send them finished materials in turn. So for instance instead of mining for heavy metals here on Earth, which is a filthy and ecologically disruptive process, we make the Martians do it (it isn't as though Mars has an ecology to disrupt), take the resulting minerals, and process them into electronics and spaceships and all kinds of consumer goods. As long as transport costs are low enough, focusing these industries in one place lets them benefit from economies of scale and there's no real incentive to establish new industries in the colonies. They don't have to worry about Earth cutting off their supply because an embargo would hurt everyone. Trade flows freely and everyone is happy.

But now, Earth has a source of material that is going to make it post-scarcity - there will (presumably) be such abundance of raw material, and everything else, that Earth will have no need to buy it off of the outer colonies. Sure, maybe Earth will keep shipping finished goods to them out of the kindness of its heart; it can afford to. But do you really want your whole planetary civilization to rest on someone else's charity? Is that a situation your people will see as viable? Or will they want to take their fate into their own hands?

Since they can no longer be certain of buying the goods they need from Earth, the colonies seceded so that they could make preparations to compel Earth to supply those goods - whether by going to war, or by espionage, or through a treaty.


Economic soliton

A topological soliton is a point between two patterned environments where the conflicting patterns meet and fail to reconcile. Probably the most familiar everyday* example is the weird counter-loops that appeared old-school phone cords:

Phone cord with multiple topological solitons

Solitons can occur in non-physical contexts. The ones in the phone cord are topological -- they appear in the physical surface geometry of the cord. In math, solitons can arise at the meeting between two incompatible regions.

I propose to extend this concept into the economic space:

Prior to becoming a post-scarcity society, Earth's economies are all organized around scarcity, just like the economies of all the colonies. This fact drives almost every aspect of human life, and it certainly shapes the political and economic relationships between Earth and her colonies.

Solving the problem of scarcity is nice, but will also be hugely disruptive to the status quo. Even setting aside the fact that rich and powerful people in the colonies will recognize this as a direct threat to their supremacy (and will happily destroy civilization rather than lose their status), it's also the case that invalidating most economic arrangements on Earth will inescapably undermine almost every aspect of her relationships with the colonies.

Once it becomes clear that all economies on Earth are about to be hit by the equivalent of a size-4000 earthquake, all the colonies are going to want to disconnect themselves from Earth before the effects of that quake propagate to them. They don't necessarily want to permanently sever ties, they just want to isolate themselves from the initial turbulence. Life on a colony is precarious! They can't afford the risk of potential societal collapse, because it would likely cause the immediate death of everybody in the space habitat.

What's more, it might not be possible to establish new relationships for a while, or possibly ever. The colonies might be unable to transition to a similar post-scarcity economy, or to make lesser changes that enable new useful relationships with Earth. It might never be possible, because the conditions in a sealed habitat can never support a post-scarcity society. In this case, you'd have an economic soliton between Earth and the colony.

Isolating themselves requires decisively terminating all economic and political relationships. It is not a declaration of war, but it is a break.

  • $\begingroup$ The link is strange. It calls topological defects solitons. A Soliton is usually a completely different type of thing, and I cannot see any references in the parts that call defects solitons. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 15 at 1:51

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