Galactipedia: The Banks of Naltor

From Galactipedia, the free galaxywide encyclopedia

The planet Naltor is noted for its mild climate, high social and technological development, and the precognitive abilities of its natives. These abilities have also made Naltor the center of the United Planets financial system.

The precognitive market analysts and loan officers of Naltor's banks have an exceptional track record of funding successful businesses. Their ability to predict crop blights, downturns, and other economic crises gives them unparalleled opportunities to hedge against losses. In the commercial banking sector, loan defaults are almost unheard of; if an applicant were going to default, they wouldn't get the loan in the first place.

Professor Ndru Kunk, Brande Chair of Economics at Colu Integrated University, observes that Naltorian investments often become self-fulfilling prophecies: "The predictions themselves influence the outcomes of any investment strategy or business venture... The stamp of Naltor-guaranteed investments makes any successful applicant an attractive prospect." Conversely, rejected ventures are usually abandoned by nervous entrepreneurs, freeing that capital for more productive outlets. Many investors on other worlds have amassed impressive fortunes simply by following the Naltorian markets.

This is not to suggest that all is perfect in Naltorian finance. Naltorian dreams are famously oblique, and only a few dreamers have the ability to parse the abstractions of finance through the imagery of the subconscious. In the aggregate, however, Naltorian investments significantly outperform other investors. This outstanding track record meant that investments historically gravitated towards Naltor to a degree that threatened to deplete the wealth of other worlds. It was this crisis of efficiency, along with the perennial border wars between Braal and Imsk, that necessitated the formation of the United Planets.

Even after the development of a common monetary policy and the redistributionary effects of limited fiscal union, however, Naltor continues to outperform its peers in the UP core worlds. The high wages and generous benefits of the financial sector attract the most talented precognitives, denying them to other professions such as medicine, planetary security, or public policy. Civic-minded volunteers such as Nura Nal, former leader of the Legion of Super-Heroes, are becoming increasingly rare. The financial "brain drain" has even spread to other planets such as Colu, which is sending more quantitative analysts to Naltor than in previous decades. The United Planets has formed a commission to study the issue.

Talk: Banks of Naltor

One of the charms of the Legion of Super-Heroes is that it presents a slightly juvenile and outdated vision of the future, a kind of Gene Roddenberry tomorrowland (though it predates Star Trek) in which every planet except Earth has one and only one defining shtick, usually built around the powers of its inhabitants. But as the series, its creators, and its fans have grown up, all have begun exploring those premises. The best efforts don't try to apologize for them or dilute them, but try to take those charmingly ridiculous premises seriously on their own terms.

Naltor poses some of the most interesting challenges in that regard, because it forces us to pay attention to something we don't normally think much about in the Legion's future: money. We know they still have money, and banks, and wealth (exhibit A: R. J. Brande), but we don't know much about how the planet of precognitives affects that. Jim Shooter first raised this question back in Adventure Comics #363, the second half of the Mantis Morlo story and the first appearance of Naltor, though his answer ("all stock dealing is done a month in advance to eliminate mass confusion!") just seems to kick the can down the road a bit. (Still, not too bad for a 15-year-old!)

So, where else could we take the planet of precogs? Are the greatest criminals from Naltor white-collar, inside-trader types who leak advance word on the future, or boiler room con artists who trade on their planet's good name to pump and dump junk stocks? What would the casinos on Ventura do to get their hands on that information or to keep others from getting it? And how do honest Naltorians keep the unscrupulous ones from ruining their good name - or their monopoly on foresight? Should Nura have joined Naltor's version of the SEC?

Or is it more interesting if you go the other way and assume that Naltorian precognition has actually made banking more efficient and, in a weird way, more transparent? I mean, if a Naltorian banker tells you your business plan isn't going to work, you'd probably take them pretty seriously. Any financial system will always have inefficiencies and losses, but a Naltorian system might minimize them to everyone's benefit.

But efficiency poses its problems, too. Naltor has generally been depicted as one of the most utopian planets in the UP, but all that wealth has to come from somewhere. A planet full of bankers who are never wrong would be hoovering it up from other worlds, creating inequality even among the prosperous systems. The world of the hyperrich precognitive supermodels would be the envy of the UP, and not necessarily in a good way. The creation of an integrated fiscal union - say, through a United Planets - might be the only way to solve the problem.

Basically, what I'm asking is, is Naltor a dystopian extension of finance as it is actually practiced in our world, or a utopian fantasy of what we like to think it could be? Our answers will say a lot about what kinds of futures we want to see in our fiction, and what we expect from the Legion.

Marc Singer is professor of Ancient Literatures and Graphic Cultures at Howard University in Metropolis (Columbia Sector), Earth.
Galactipedia: The Banks of Naltor Galactipedia: The Banks of Naltor Reviewed by Marc Singer on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 Rating: 5
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