Zombie Apocalypse Bleg

I need help. I’m teaching an experiment course next term that will be a semester-long constitutional convention. It’s not a plug-n-play simulation, and I’m not telling the students how to run it. Their first task will be to create their own organizational structure and rules of procedure, then work on devising a constitution. I don’t really care if they complete the task (it’s almost better if they don’t, so they better understand that it’s not a simple thing to do), because the primary purposes are to 1) get them thinking about various ways of designing governing structures, and 2) to develop organizational and problem-solving skills.

(I have been thinking a lot lately about how to save the liberal arts from the growing preference for pre-professional education and disdain for the supposed “want fries with that” majors. I think the evidence shows that the liberal arts are a good training ground for business careers, but we liberal arts folks don’t do a good job of selling that point or of consciously building into our classes the skills employers need.)

To make the simulation more demanding and to try to prevent them from immediately coalescing around a reformulation of the U.S. Constitution, I am assigning students particular states to represent, with each state having different interests. I am using Will Truman’s Trumanverse map for this.

What I’m looking for is a set of variables on which to distinguish the states, to give them divergent interests in the constitutional design. I’d like to have about 10, to keep the complexity manageable. I’m looking for variables that can be treated as binary (e.g., rural/urban), or at the most complex, marked as mixed. Of course all of them should have political significance. I have some in mind, of course, but I’ve found that crowd-sourcing things like this is a great way to reveal really good ideas I might overlook.

Suggestions?

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[P.S. Now that I’ve finished the mad dash to prepare my file for review (I had 4 weeks instead of the usual 4 months, which is fine, but hectic) I’ll soon post the next installment in the Presidency course.]

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105 thoughts on “Zombie Apocalypse Bleg

  1. Nice project, James.

    Living in the Great State of Madawaska, I have one suggestion — employment, meaning ’employer type.’

    Maine, I mean Madawaska, is unusual (South Dakota, too) in that about 90% of the workforce is employed by small businesses of 50 or fewer employers; and there are more self-employed people then usual. In an interview once, one of the founders of Staples told me that this is because of a lack of jobs; people create their own; and it’s not necessarily entrepreneurial. We also have many people who have multiple jobs, often working for different places through different seasons of the year.

    I suggest this because the policies of one state with lots of large employers will look very different from the policies of a state with lots of small employers; impacting everything from unemployment, to insurance, to the types of financial services offered.

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    • This is a great example of the value of crowd-sourcing. I’ve been thinking of agricultural/industrial, but I hadn’t thought of big-business v. small-business or levels of employment.

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      • This is a half-formed idea, perhaps you can use it.

        But thinking of resources in a different way might be of value.

        My example, again from Madawaska and bordering states, is the northern forest here, which we often view as a traditional resource that provides paper and building material, wild life, etc. But it’s also a carbon sink. In researching a piece for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s magazine, I talked to a lot of people about this forest; and one of the most interesting things I heard was from a climate researcher; she said it absorbs more carbon every day (even as a working forest) then the eastern seaboard of the US produces.

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  2. Weather/climate doesn’t lend itself to a neat binary, but it seems important. Energy concerns, environmentalism, infrastructure, public transportation, and many other things are dramatically impacted by weather/climate.

    You could perhaps create a small matrix using a few variables. Maybe a place is either always warm, experiences seasons, or always cold. And each place is either dry or wet. That gives six possible configurations, which should be relatively manageable (especially since they might just be treated as too variables, e.g., dry states may align regardless of temperature).

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    • The regions are real, so I’m not going to go all GRRM on their climate and seasons, but energy concerns are good, and you’ve made me think about water issues. I’m not sure about public transit. The conceit on which the course is built is that society collapsed completely, and we’re just now beginning to successfully rebuild it. How quickly could cities that sustained 90% population losses rebuild public transit? I honestly don’t know.

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  3. The 12 western states on Will’s map cover an area of which a very large part (on average about 40% of the area) are public lands held currently held by the federal government. It’s not a binary variable, but for those 12 it’s an order of magnitude larger issue than for the others. Similarly, the southwestern group from Shasto over to Lakota and then south to Tejas have to resolve water sharing issues that generally don’t exist — certainly not on the same scale — elsewhere, so may be much more interested in how inter-state squabbles are to be resolved.

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    • There is no federal government to hold those lands anymore. It’s not even clear that those regions have recovered from anarchy and rebuilt governments yet. That depends on how many students I have–the more students I have, the more states I need to assign delegates to, so the more states that have at least nascent governments. And due to my location, I’m going to put the Great Lakes states in the Trumanverse at the top of the list. But for sure those governments will now own their own public lands.

      But water, yes, I hadn’t thought of water, which is weird, since it’s one of my issues.

      And I fully agree with the current political salience of the public lands issue. I have a hard time conveying to my Midwestern students how important an issue it is out west. It’s just not an issue around here, so they don’t really grok it.

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      • Ah, I didn’t realize the geographic scope (or rather, potential lack thereof) in the exercise. For some reason, I envisioned assigning blocks of states to each student in order to insure that the big geographic differences came into play, and making the blocks smaller if there were more students.

        It might be interesting if the initial set of states assigned were grouped along the Mississippi River rather than the Great Lakes. Big variations in weather and energy endowments. Lots of issues regarding The River that cross state boundaries (if the students need suggestions, start with the list of things the Army Corps of Engineers currently does, then tack on the idea of interstate tariffs on through traffic). The biggest city in that group of states is far from centrally located and even lacks direct access to The River.

        I’m already looking forward to a series of posts keeping us all informed on how the students do with this.

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      • Michael,

        I’m assuming communications systems are still fractured, and there’s only sketchy information about places that are farther away. The scenario assumes these states are leaders in a union movement, and others–if they have rebuilt or manage to rebuild–may later want to join.

        The Mississippi idea is really good. At least this first time around I’m going to play off my students’ better regional understanding of the Great Lakes area, but there’s a good logic to doing a Mississippi corridor set. If this class goes well, I may teach it regularly, and that would be a good approach to try.

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      • I’m assuming communications systems are still fractured, and there’s only sketchy information about places that are farther away.

        I was guessing that, and most contemporary transportation as well; if you’ve got an intact national road and/or rail network and fuels for it, then you’ve got reasonable communications. That forces the core(s) for reunification to be along some water corridors: East Coast, West Coast, the Great Lakes or the Mississippi/Ohio valleys.

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      • In the north, roads will break down even without traffic. In several generations they’d be a mess–still recognizable for what they were, but with the pavement crumbled and good size trees growing in the middle of them. Railroads could be repurposed for manual or steam transportation, but you’d still have the problem of stuff growing between the rails, mostly brush which could easily be cut down, but probably also trees, which would raise the ties and warp the rails–I’m saying 4 generations have passed, so we’re talking about trees in the range of 80 years old, full-grown maples, oaks, sycamores, and so on. Maybe within local areas they kept the tracks in order, but not in the big cross-country spaces.

        At least that’s my thinking. Which means I’m right there with you on the importance of waterways. And maybe that’s all worth emphasizing so that they have to think about where–institutionally–to locate responsibility for infrastructure (re)development. While today we take the federal highways for granted as a fairly obvious authority of the federal government, when we created the first national road in the early 1800s, there was serious discussion about whether the feds could legitimately do so or not.

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      • You would think that having lived on the East Coast for ten years and done a good bit of hiking and canoeing there, I would remember about the rain and the damned trees in the eastern part of the country (suppressed unpleasant memories, perhaps). I’m used to being able to show you wagon ruts twice that old that are still recognizable, and burn scars 60 years old where the trees are widely scattered and none are more than 12-15′ tall. One person with a corn knife could keep the rail bed clear of trees for 20 miles in either direction. Even that might not be necessary in some places, because the grass fires would do the job for free.

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  4. How weird can you get with this? I think it’d be interesting to have some states where people age backwards (ala Benjamin Button) such that their most productive years are towards the end of their life, which would totally screw with social programs and normal voting patterns.

    Practically, the following could all rekindle some real-life constitutional crises: allowing slavery; have a substantial population with foreign relatives; where the national minority/majority demographics are flipped (i.e., whites constitute 28% of the population instead of 72%); have an orthodox religious majority; routinely face terrorist attacks from their neighbors.

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    • All the laws of nature hold. It’s dystopian, but not truly sci fic (except for the zombies, who don’t actually appear–this all occurs after the zombie hordes have vanished…or so we hope).

      I have tentatively thought of the potential for slavery, religious orthodoxy, and terrorism/incursions by neighboring regions, but I’m not sure. Having others mention them makes me think more seriously about them.

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      • One thing you might consider is a resource rich state who’s governance isn’t democratic in any way at the time of this convention. Imagine it’s been established via pure force – say, from defense against other states or from confiscation. So the current holders of the minerals (a band or an individual) have more or less unilateral control over governmental functions.

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      • Border states vs non-border states. Presuming this was world-wide catastrophe, other nation-states will be similarly reorganizing. With no guarantee what shape they may take (Will Canada become totalitarian? Will Mexico become a light on a hill?), border states are going to have to think differently about defense and immigration. Such states might also have dreams of annexing neighboring lands that are advantageous, with the process by which that might happen being fodder for discussion.

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      • A good enough idea that even I managed to think of it! More seriously, yes. My assumption is that just about all governments collapsed, except maybe for some very local ones, and I’ve been trying to think of how new states–really in the proper meaning of “state,” as an independent country of its own, rather than as provinces–would reform. Some militaristic authoritarian ones seem rather inevitable, don’t they?

        But I hadn’t thought about minerals anymore than I’d thought about water. So I need to keep natural resources in the mix here. That’s a good thought.


        I assume Canada and Mexico have collapsed as well (unless our border fence kept the zombies out of Mexico, thus proving a great boon that country!). I’d even thought about including parts of the former Canada in here, until I decided to use Will’s map, which doesn’t include Canada.

        But you’ve got me thinking–the Quebecois would be an interesting twist that broadened the students’ grasp of the types of issues other newly democratizing countries have to deal with. Maybe I can get Will to draw a special map with new states in the old territories of Ontario and Quebec?

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      • Even if you don’t do that, the border states will need to think about defense and immigration differently. Right now, only the latter is really an issue, since we don’t have any real threats along our borders. There is no guarantee that will remain the case in your scenario. If I lived in a border state and had no idea what was being cooked up across the way, I’d push real hard for a huge military.

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      • Well, they’re all border states now, right? They’re independent of each other–If you’re in Champlain, Ulsterland is as much a border problem as whatever’s across the river to the north. Security issues, from each other as well as from places outside that set of states that are sufficiently stably governed to participate in the convention, will be an important issue.

        And if students don’t seem to have thought up enough issues to occupy their time, I’ll have a whole list like this to hint at.

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  5. Economics are going to be pretty weird.
    You should say how close you are to rebuilding civilization.
    Many cities by the sea don’t make much sense if you don’t
    have functional shipping networks.

    In fact, cities in general don’t make much sense until
    you have a functional agricultural system that doesn’t
    take all the labor.

    What tech we talking? 1800’s (plows yes, cars no?)?

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  6. Great idea!

    1. I like zic’s idea. How about a state/region where people still do a lot of homesteading or sustenance levels of employment. I.e. family farms that are largely meant to feed the family. Is that too low tech?

    2. You can go alt-history and have a Mormon-esque or Amish-esque religion really take over one area even more so.

    3. A post-Industrial area. This could tie in with 1. The state used to be an industrial powerhouse but lost everything because of globalization. Think the Rust Belt writ large. This state can also be dealing with a rapidly aging population because young people flee, flee, flee. They want to find ways to share the wealth and staunch the flow. Maybe the natural resources are largely gone as well.

    4. A super-wealthy region that has seemingly every benefit in the world. Great natural resources, cities, pristine farmland, the best universities in the nation. They have wealth and everyone else resents them for it. Perhaps they want federalism so they can enact strict residency requirements and prevent too much migration.

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    • Nice ideas. The Mormon or Amish angle would work really well for the religious aspect. Maybe more for Mormons, as the Amish are rather opposed to temporal political power, but it still might be relevant to have them as an important reality in, say, Queenland (would that one cover the Pennsylvania “Dutch”?).

      Subsistence agriculture is definitely in, as is post-industrial but slowly reviving production. The superwealthy area, well, I’m assuming near-total infrastructure collapse. But I have been thinking certain states need to be in distinctly better shape–more well-off, better governed–than others.

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      • In WWZ (a horrible movie), the Israelis managed to be okay for longer because they believed the intelligence of the zombie apocalypse and built a very big wall.

        Can you have one region that took all the precautions and succeeded and kept the U.S. Constitution/our general government but on a smaller scale?

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      • Yes, and I’ve pegged that region as Will’s Allegheny, because it is small, has a good combination of industrial and agricultural bases, and has the water at it’s back as a natural barrier (in my world, water’s somehow an effective defense against zombies–I’m not sure why yet, but I need to come up with something because for damn sure someone’s going to ask, even though the answer’s irrelevant to their task at hand).

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      • The water thing works *extremely* well with the Trumanverse map, because waterways were overwhelmingly used as borders (far more than they were in real life).

        I know next to nothing about Zombies, but I’d think traversing water would be a problem for them because they don’t generally seem like swimming types. They can build a bridge, but they’d probably have a strong instinctual aversion to doing so.

        (Someone with more zombie-knowledge can tell me how wrong I am.)

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      • in my world, water’s somehow an effective defense against zombies–I’m not sure why yet, but I need to come up with something because for damn sure someone’s going to ask, even though the answer’s irrelevant to their task at hand

        Because they’re like the Wicked Witch of the West and melt in water.

        Season 2 of Revolution, with it’s patriot zombies, should be required watching.

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      • Vampires have a hard time crossing running water too. They can cross the ocean, but only by lining the ship’s hold with their native soil. Zombies too, perhaps because the water breaks the connection to the grave they emerged from?

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      • “Because I am your professor and I say so!”

        Weirdly enough, I think a totally random explanation will prove more satisfying, even if they dispute the rational.

        “Zombies can’t breath underwater.”

        “But they don’t need oxygen–they’re dead!”

        “Their brains are dead, but their tissues still absorb oxygen, and without it their muscles don’t work. Trust me, I’m asthmatic, and I know how weak muscles get due to lack of oxygen.”

        “Well, I don’t know, but…ok.”

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      • Honestly, from the zombie movies I’ve seen, I’d expect zombies would just keep walking across the bed of the lake, river, etc. Maybe a good mucky soil would trap them, but then they’d just be down there…waiting…waiting…

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      • Zombies are already rotting. Trying to cross any large body of water would make them very soggy. Also, since they are dead, their cells don’t synthesise ATP and the osmotic pumps on their cell membranes do not work. By the time a zombie crossed a river, most of its cells would have lysed and there wouldn’t be anything keeping it together.

        If the zombies are animated by dread necromancy, then large bodies of water ground magical energy and attempts to wade through such water would deactivate the zombie.

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      • since they are dead, their cells don’t synthesise ATP and the osmotic pumps on their cell membranes do not work. By the time a zombie crossed a river, most of its cells would have lysed and there wouldn’t be anything keeping it together.

        That has the advantage of sounding scientific and being beyond their comorehension, hence beyond their ability to argue, so we won’t get bogged down kn that ussue.

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  7. As I wrote in my SCOTUS squib, I’m super busy today. But a variable you might insert into the equation, especially if you are creating a post-apocalyptic scenario, would be “infrastructure.” The really good news is that you can sculpt your background story so that this can be something of an equalizer for other kinds of economic advantages or disadvantages, as places with a lot of surviving industrial or agricultural capacity might have suffered significant infrastructure degradation, while other places have good roads and rail still available. Representatives from well-infrastructured regions might view their advantages as catalysts for their own growth and seek to localize rather than nationalize infrastructure development, or the converse.

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  8. James, I’m thinking purely of my own financial interests now, and hoping you’ll assign this book as part of the required reading, since it’s post-apocalyptic and I’m a contributor.

    On a side note; the publisher has a really interesting business model, worth checking out. The link goes to the book’s listing on the publisher’s website.

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    • Awesome. I doubt I’ll assign it, but I’ll definitely encourage my students to look at it, and hopefully some will pony up.

      For the record, the assigned texts will be constitution-building manuals that have been drafted by INGOs to help newly democratizing states draft governing structures. My dream is that one day I get an email from a former student saying, “Hey, I’m helping Frajinistania draft their Constitution, and we’re using the nth version of that InterPeace manual that we used in your class.”

      • The Constitution-making Handbook, InterPeace. http://www.constitutionmakingforpeace.org/the-constitution-making-handbook

      • “A Practical Guide to Constitution Building,” International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).

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  9. How dicey do you want to get? Do you want to account for ethnic differences in the various states of the Trumanverse and how that influences their own local politics, making things either more internally cohesive, or on the other side of the coin, giving people an affinity for ‘people like them’ in other states but not everyone in their own?

    Transportation was mentioned earlier, but it’s the regional interconnections that matter, not municipal networks. The loss of a federal government would certainly affect the road network, but perhaps not so much the rail network. (depending on how much private nation spanning corporations are able to keep control of their assets). In any case, rivers will probably become more important (as a recent trivia showed, they’re still pretty important in the here and now verse) and mountains will become much bigger obstacles. Vandalia and Appalachia become very isolated and very poor (the way they were for most of American history prior to the New Deal and WW2), likewise Arapaho and its three northern neighbors, while St Louis, in contrast, becomes one of the most important centers of commerce on the continent (that it straddles 4 states in the Trumanverse as far as I can tell makes an interesting dynamic)

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    • Hmm, I hadn’t thought of ethnicity. That’s a real possibility. I don’t mind getting dicey, because I really want them grappling with the types of issues other newly democratizing countries grapple with. I don’t want them coming up with simplistic “ideal” solutions that don’t account for probable real world conditions.

      I agree about Vandalia, which makes the name chosen by Will just perfect. I’m planning to have their neighboring states be unhappy about raids by Vandals.

      Nice point about St. Louis.

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    • Hmm, there are at least two possible meanings in that question.

      On the first level, they know their great-great grandparents lived in a unified country called the United States of America, and they still have the schoolbooks that explain it, so they see value in a larger union, if they can make it happen, and set it up rightly.

      On the second level, due to differing interests, states will want a union for differing purposes that may not all be mutually compatible, some will want a stronger one while others will prefer a more federal or confederal approach, and some will just plain want it more than others.

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      • A map of some territory doesn’t define what kind of entity you’re trying to make a constitution for, necessarily. Is there still to be a United States of America, or is that concept on the table? Etc.

        But yes, that would have answered my question in a general way if I’d clicked on that.

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      • I get you now. It will be for whatever states are represented at the convention, which will be less than the total number of states in the Trumanverse because I won’t have that many students. Whether it’s potentially for the other states as well, and potentially for new states from the former Canada and/or Mexico, that will be up to the students to decide.

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  10. we liberal arts folks don’t do a good job of selling that point or of consciously building into our classes the skills employers need

    In this case, the ability to sit in meetings for an entire semester while producing no concrete results?

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    • Awesome. We academics can probably put up a good challenge to any business on that score.

      I’ve recently been serving as a coordinator for my collegium (a grouping of departments). The person who’s been replacing me next year is impressed that I prepare an agenda, and says she’s going to “cut and paste” (her actual words) my agenda structure. It makes me cringe to think that having an agenda for a meeting is a great accomplishment, but I actually served on an ad hoc committee she chaired, where for month after month she came in and began by asking, “what should we talk about today?”

      And that may go a long way towards explaining why we don’t know how to emphasize how our courses help prepare students for careers. That and the fact that most of us have never worked in any meaningful capacity outside academia.

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      • “It makes me cringe to think that having an agenda for a meeting is a great accomplishment…”

        i lol’d from the bottom of my heart. bro daps.

        that said, this is a neat as hell class. if you have a pedagogy center/retreat/whatever i hope you consider presenting on it. it blends all the good liberal arts stuff into a tasty package for the kids these days ™.

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      • I mostly agree with this; an agenda is not an accomplishment.

        But I do think there’s some gender stuff here that might deserve frisking; one is that women might not prepare an agenda because they generally perceive that the discussion should be governed by some consensus of the group; an agenda is one person asserting authority over the discussion. The flip side would be men who prepare an agenda but don’t include a topic of ‘other things that should be discussed.’

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      • If it goes well, I do intend to present on it. In fact I’m planning to eventually do a presentation on “How to quit whining that nobody respects the liberal arts and take responsibility for making sure they have a good reason to and then selling them on it.”

        I get irate at the “but they should respect us because we’re so valuable” idea, which is so ridiculously passive-aggressive. It also gets bound up with the “education isn’t a commodity so we shouldn’t have to market it” idiocy I see from everyone except economists and business profs. Maybe it’s not a commodity, but that doesn’t exempt it from the demands of marketing.

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      • ,

        That could be, but I’m not sure the issue is primarily gender. One can still have discussion and try to reach a consensus while having an agenda that lays out what the particular issues for the day are. And I have female colleagues who will always have a clear agenda (our Dean, even in meetings where she shouldn’t be the one setting the agenda, will have one), and male colleagues who run meetings without one.

        I can see it as a conscious choice of organizational style, but in my personal experience it’s normally been an unconscious matter of personal organization–organized people have agendas, disorganized peopled don’t, as a general rule.

        That said, politically agenda control is a hugely powerful tool, so when I have something I want to achieve, I don’t hesitate to use agenda control to try to dominate the proceedings. This can range from subtly placing an issue at a particular point in the sequence where I think it is most likely to get the right kind of attention (which can be non-attention, as in, “I want this to get a yes vote without people taking time to discuss it”), to placing something at the back end of the agenda in the expectation we won’t ever get to it (and that can be based on how I feel about the issue or how I feel about the person–I don’t go around looking for people to f**k with, because mostly I just want to be left alone, but I use any means I can to punish people who f**k with me).

        In my collegium, though, my general goal is just to run a good meeting that completes the administrative work that the collegia were created to do. My big personal issues there tend to be, “hey, I want to get this new class listed in the catalog,” to which I can reliably predict incurious unanimity. Fortunately, we are a very collegial collegium.

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      • Yeah, I don’t want to argue it; meetings run by wishy-washy people who think with their mouths instead of prepare ahead of time suck.

        Took me a while to learn that; and I do think it’s something of a girl thing, which is why I brought it up.

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      • Speaking of gender, maybe have the zombie virus have had a disproportionate effect on men, and say the population is 75% female, and thus for the purposes of the exercise, all the women in the class represent 1.5x as many votes as the men?

        Just to see what sort of monkey wrench that throws in there.

        You could do a similar computation with a minority group, instead. You know, people with sickle cell recessive genes don’t get the zombie disease or whatever.

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  11. Incidentally, for those who are interested, here is an overlay between the Trumanverse map and the real one. It got messed up in the midwest, though. But it’s on-target everywhere else.

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  12. No disrespect to the Trumanverse map and maybe the lower 48 sufficiently cover the diversity of the scenario you’re crafting, but a bunch of interesting places are missing: Alaska and Hawaii, but also Guam, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, etc. Maybe they’re reducible to population, language, and geography variables, but their absence stood out in the Trumanverse map to me.

    I had an excellent negotiation simulation session for an undergrad class, a post-conflict reconstruction / peacebuilding scenario with Bosnia-Kosovo-Balkans type setup. One thing the professor did during the course of the session was bring news reports like, “militant group from side of conflict X has just conducted a bombing against a civilian target”. I don’t know if the scenario you’re crafting calls for the students/delegates to be operating incommunicado?, but I can imagine outside the convention events/circumstances that could influence delegations. These may fall inside our outside that news category, but came to mind:
    – Does the state face border disputes?
    – Is the state menaced by a foreign power?
    – Does the state face the threat of piracy?

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    • No offense taken. They were primarily left out of the Trumanverse map because they’re left as-is. For Hanley’s purposes, though, I’d assume that they’re not really a part of the equation – except maybe Alaska – because their connection to us is political more than geological and cultural. The absense of Canada is probably a bigger issue. I might work on that for him, time permitting.

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    • — news updates; great idea.

      — I have until August, so no hurry. Even if you assume most of Ontario and Quebec are not yet re-organized into effective political units, one or two from each could be cool. How easy is it for you to redraw/erase lines? I kind of like the idea of having the areas further away from the Great Lakes be treated as unknown. Like there could be those states along the western seaboard, we’ve heard some rumors anyway, but nobody here really knows.

      Or I could just be getting too cutesy with that. I’m not sure.

      But what program did you use to draw these up?

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      • Adobe Photoshop.

        By way of benign coincidence, I was actually reading up on the history of the Canadian provinces just the other day. I hope I can track down the links I found.

        I would definitely run with the “No man’s land” part. I might actually create distinct maps for your purposes and mine (not that I will ever use mine, so maybe I’ll just make yours). With what you’ve said about water, Baffin Island (Helluland) could become a significant refuge. How much cold would it be worth to avoid zombies? Also dependent on electricity availability and needs.

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      • Cool. If you don’t have time/interest, maybe shoot me your files and I’ll beg the wife to erase lines for me. Or maybe have some places blank, and others with dashed lines indicating what we think the boundaries are.

        And come to think of it, to replicate the U.S. Constitutional Convention, I should have a few states disputing territory with each other.

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  13. I’m from the Long Island of the Trumanverse, which I’m presuming also includes Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island in addition to Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. This is going to be the msot heavily urbanized and smallest state. As such, its going to want a lot of federal or national spending on infrastructure so it will favor of a stronger than weaker federal government. Based on its real world equivalents its going to favor a liberal social policy and welfare state measures but not necessarily heavy regulation of business. Its probably going to go for things high tax, high services, and low regulation. Its going to want a liberal immigration policy that allows as many people in as possible.

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    • I wonder of James will let us set up a betting pool? He could put up copies of whatever the students get and we could do some sort of “sealed envelope” predictions of the outcome to remain closed until the end of the semester and then we’ll open them and he can make fun of them. I’d probably bet that the students end up with much weaker state government than we have; more authority in the central government and where there is delegation, more of it to the locals rather than the states.

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    • — Thanks. That’s far enough east that its inclusion depends on the number of students, but I’m going to go ahead and write up a description for it in case, and that’s a very helpful synopsis.

      — How could I stop you from doing so? As a libertarian, why would I stop you from doing so?

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      • The geography, history, and population of Long Island state are going to call out for activist but not too activist government. NYC and area have long been a center of liberal-left politics in the United States since the late 19th century. Its also a very finance and business centered place and combines the two impulses relatively well.

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      • I think that a lot of how things are defined would change in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse. Immigration, for example, would become a non-issue. It is likely that Long Island would favor a more robust government generally, but how that preference would manifest itself would be different. Severely so.

        They might prefer a larger Anti-Zombie Defense Force, for example, on the basis that zombyism would spread far more quickly in LI than in less densely populated places.. Though they could actually take the opposite tact since the zombie aversion to water would result in them having far fewer points of entry. It would depend on the level of threat.

        The finance industry would itself be almost entirely different, I bet. I don’t think that would make for very good bread and butter. They would probably maintain as a corporate hub if it was felt that they were more safe rather than less safe against zombyism than West Virginia or corporations being more dispersed generally

        But more broadly, we cannot view post-ZA politics through the current political prism. The words (activist government, liberal, conservative, etc.) might be the same, but would have very different meanings.

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      • Though they could actually take the opposite tact since the zombie aversion to water would result in them having far fewer points of entry.

        Damn, I’m going to have to be consistent, eh? There’s a whole literary world creation project here in this backstory. But maybe all the commuters brought the xombie* virus back home and then the island became a trap instead of a refuge?
        ___________________
        * I typed that by accident, but I kind of like it. Maybe that will become my contribution to the xombie literature.

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      • For the past several months, I’ve been working on a creative project. About a month ago, I finally sought to answer the question “Now how am I going to explain life on Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter?”

        Which has me researching planet habitability, terraforming, and creating an entire fictional backstory for a bunch of alien refugees. It’s amazing how these things expand. Because this ultimately had nothing to do with the aliens apart from my need to explain them.

        (This is actually also what has me looking into Canada, where the aliens will also be quietly and later not-so-quietly settling.)

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      • Besides the whole professional courtesy thing, the sealed-envelope bit wouldn’t work without your participation at some point. It seemed to me appropriate to ask.

        All you need is for the zombie outbreak to be self-limiting, and there are lots of ways to plot that. They’re too dumb to drink water and collapse from dehydration about a few days. They’re really dead and fall apart after enough of the connective tissue decomposes. It’s a virus, half the population is naturally immune and can’t be infected, so once the susceptible half has been chopped up it’s over. Some combination of the above.

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      • Ha. I’m thinking Mars Attacks, where polka music made the Martians heads explode.

        Or go all China Miéville and have transmutation; humans combined with crows that can eat the zombies (other scavengers word work, too); but you can only transmogrify so many people, and it takes effort and resources.

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      • I wouldn’t want to make the effort of organizing it myself, but I’d have no objections at all, and would be happy to assist (as contrasted to lead).

        As to updates, weekly updates next fall would be easy enough.

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      • …but I’d have no objections at all, and would be happy to assist (as contrasted to lead).

        Setting up a little server to do the sealed envelope bit is probably the easiest part. Categories? Intermediate results? I’ll have to think about what a contest should actually look like.

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      • Damn, I’m going to have to be consistent, eh? There’s a whole literary world creation project here in this backstory.

        “In order to bake an apple pie, you must first create a universe”

        (hobbits are optional, though)

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  14. Historically, the structure of labor markets has been a big flashpoint between states (e.g., the fears by Northerners that slavery would depress wages, as well as more modern conflicts between the low-wage, low-tax, low-cost-of-living Southern states and coastal Northern states that are higher on all three measures). This somewhat ties in with Zic’s suggestion above, but you could have some states with differing wage distributions and labor market structures–maybe some have strong unions and some don’t, or some have a lower Gini coefficient than others for some other reason.

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    • An interesting thought. I’d be inclined to think unions would be victims of a zombie apocalypse, but perhaps I assume that in one or two states they kept factories organized and running after the owning firms simply disappeared as the owners died. And they might press for something to preserve their position and maybe extend it to other states.

      And inequality would be easy to model, too. Maybe some states are more communitarian/equalitarian, while others have significant indquality, and of course it’s the well-to-do elite that dominate the selection of their convention delegate.

      Of course I need to make sure the states aren’t so at odds that they’d have no reason to even try to join together, and the differences so overwhelming that students can’t overcome the differences.

      Don’t mind my rambling–I’m using this as a place to take notes. And I’m happy to have people respond to my musings with their own thoughts. This is a nuce brainstorming session.

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      • Guilds, depending on how far you let tech slide in your scenario.

        How far is an interesting question. Some big hydro electricity is likely to still exist (do zombies care about dams?). There will be at least tens of millions of small generators/alternators from cars that can be driven by low-head hydro or small wind turbines or even animals. On the order of a billion miles of pre-formed copper and aluminum wire is available, although insulation may be an issue [1]. IIRC four-stroke engines can be adapted to be driven by steam, although they’re not very efficient. John Michael Greer writes regularly about the Salvage Society.

        [1] 30 years back, a friend bought a house in NJ built in 1905. We found out after he moved in that part of the kitchen power was run on naked copper wire mounted on ceramic insulators nailed to the floor joists. The engineering inspector had ignored the wires, assuming they were old, dead and simply never been removed.

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      • Is anyone surprised that it’s Michael Cain who gives me good thoughts on energy? ;)

        Bare copper wire? Shudder. A couple months ago I finally got the last of the old knob and tube wiring out if my house. Glad to have it gone. I had a few spots where the insulation was gone, but no actual lengths of bare copper wire. Now I just need to wire up the last two two light fixtures–we’re all getting tired of rooting around in the pantry in the dark.

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      • Is anyone surprised that it’s Michael Cain who gives me good thoughts on energy? ;)

        I try to suggest things that would make the class scenario work. One of these days I’ll have to write a guest post on why I think the technology fall after a zombie apocalypse that kills 90% of the population will be much farther than most things that get published. Suffice it to say that for someone who can point and say, “Take this metal lathe; be careful with those refractory bricks,” the phrase “chained to their desk” by the local warlord is likely to be rather explicit in its meaning.

        Start from the example of the Romans, whose tech was much less complex, who were fairly compulsive documenters, and who lost far less than 90% of the population, and whose fall cost Western Europe the arch for centuries and hydraulic cement for even longer.

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  15. One sort of counterfactual that might be worth exploring is how freedom of religion is handled if zombie making is part of some particular religious tradition. In the real world, teenagers who play at Ouija boards and demonic summoning don’t create serious consequences for the rest of us. However, in a world where zombies are actual that may not be the case. Given that there are zombies, the probability that there are dark gods which plan to enslave/ destroy all of mankind increases.

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  16. If you totally want to get all political and crap (and why wouldn’t you?), you could focus on the excesses of the ultra-local governments… perhaps the Montana Freemen would make a very big point of discussing how free they were from the excesses of government, even as they establish a nigh-military level of discipline among their society. Compare to the totalitarian mini-governments that show up elsewhere that (might?) allow insane levels of free time outside of guard duty/sexytime.

    Show a place where communism would work. Show a place where capitalism would… and, of course, you’d have to have stacked the deck beforehand to show how and why they’d work… but discuss how the decks had been stacked.

    That’s just offa the top of me head, though.

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    • That’s an interesting idea. It might be hard to incorporate, since the assumption would be that all states choosing to participate in the convention actually are willing to consider a union, while the folks you mention probably wouldn’t. But I could certainly build in differing perspectives on how much power to keep locally vs. how much to shift to a union-level government.

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  17. You might consider a resurgence of prohibition/the war on drugs. Add on top of morality scolds the practical considerations of zombie identification. Drunks/inebriated people in general throw up strong false zombie flags and are liable to get themselves killed. In a pre-zombie world if you see a guy staggering around groaning you yell “Go home Carl, you’re drunk.” In a post zombie world humans would have been behaviorally selected: the ones who yelled Go home Carl, you’re drunk” and the ones who tried to help Carl out got eaten to extinction. The humans who shot Carl in the head survived.

    Suddenly there’s a very concrete social impetus behind banning being inebriated to the degree that you’re liable to stagger about and be incoherent.

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