This article was originally posted to the Terra/Sol Games blog at http://terrasolgames.com on March 27, 2012, and is reprinted here and in the April 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller with the author’s permission.
The Twilight Sector Setting envisions a number of Stellar Nations, each with its own culture and guiding principles. These give each its own distinct flavor, from the centrally planned societies of the Archenar and Oster republics to the organized chaos that is the Orion’s. What each has in common though is how 30th century technology has affected their economies.
In our version of the 30th century, technology, primarily through robotics and artificial intelligence and especially where the two converge, has ramped up productivity to a level far beyond what we can conceive of today. For example US per capita GDP in 2010 was approximately $48,000 US dollars. The lowest imagined GDP in our setting belongs to the Mauryans at 126,000 credits or about 2.6 times the current US GDP. An average stellar nation would have a GDP closer to 160,000 credits or about 3.3 times current US GDP.
At the same time this increase in productivity has not been because of human endeavor but because of the increased efficiency provided by human technological creations (robots and AIs). What that leaves us with is impressively rich societies with not enough jobs to go around. Human ingenuity is still the engine behind the 30th century economic miracle but fewer and fewer humans are able to provide meaningful contributions to economic productivity.
All that boils down to a 30% unemployment rate being the norm in most Stellar Nations within the Known Galaxy. That high unemployment rate has necessitated a considerable government dole to keep societal peace.
Now the dole would vary widely in the setting ranging from a low of 7% of GDP for the stingy and relatively poor Mauryan’s to a high of 30% in the Deramus Enclave. So let’s use the Orion Confederation as an example of what the government dole would look like as they fall roughly in the middle at 18% of GDP. This would equal annual dole benefits of approximately 28,000 credits per dolee. Now benefits would range from medical benefits (including longevity treatments) to housing and food allowances as well as some walking about money so you can go to the tri-dee or take that lunar vacation you’ve been wanting. In short the benefits would provide for a lower middle class life style as we currently understand it.
Now being on the dole wouldn’t necessarily provide an idyllic life style and so many dolees would probably seek supplemental work to provide additional income. For that reason there would most likely be an underground economy of work for hire and handicrafts (because people will get tired of the sterile monotony of mass produced items) that a great many people would take part in. The governments in most Stellar Nations would likely look the other way on this underground economy realizing that it is an important tool in creating social stability and is far more valuable in that role than for any tax revenue it might produce.
How does this affect my game?
The dole provides ample background fodder for many characters and adventures, from the coffin apartment buildings we previously outlined in the article on 30th century living spaces to an underground economy. All of these are rich veins to mine for adventure opportunities.