One of the cooler aspects of “The Expanse” has been the times when the series about big power and corporate conspiracies in the #23Rd Century commits sociology. We have already seen how the loose federation of asteroid stations, where anyone can get a ship and make money mining ice or hauling cargo, has become the prey of the big inner planet powers of #Earth and Mars. Mars, it has been mentioned more than once, is a society totally committed to the project of terraforming the Red Planet to make a new Earth.
But, in a recent episode, we saw the seamier side of Earth society through the eyes of a real stranger in a strange land, Gunnery Sergeant Bobbie Draper of the Martian Marines.
Some spoilers follow.
Earth of the 23rd Century has seen better days. An astonishing amount of the planet’s teeming population is on a welfare program called “basic” which involves the bare minimum amount of food, clothing, shelter, and services to survive and not very well either. Not enough jobs exist to accommodate the number of people who live on Earth, so the United Nations government taxes the productive part of the economy to maintain the nonproductive part. The idea of a guaranteed income has been advanced by some social scientists even today, the theory being that automation is going to destroy most of the jobs which the relatively uneducated have been able to hold. The slums that Bobbie Draper passes through on her way to see the ocean, something she has never seen before, is the result of that policy.
Draper sees a threadbare flea market where people on basic trade goods, primarily on a barter basis.
The universal healthcare system that Earth employs is not universal for people on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Many people do without the drugs they need. The tendency of Earth industries to be careless about radiation and toxic waste does not help.
Draper, who grew up hating Earth as the enemy of Mars, must have felt something akin to pity. One suspects that no one goes without on Mars. How an entire society is organized around one goal is an interesting question, with the answer unique in human history.
Those who have read the books know what Earth’s solution is for its underclass problem. But we’ll not mention that here, allowing the gentle reader to buy and read the excellent series or, perhaps, wait for the events to play out on the SyFy Channel.