Running the Game: What’s a Red Market?

Brian G. asked this question on our Facebook page:

"The *Glory* adventure refers to one of the NPCs as part of the 'red market' dealing in 'red tech.' I can't find an explanation of what that
means. Is it just 'black market' dealing in 'illegal tech,' or something more specific?"

Sort of. It's a concept that doesn't have a lot of useful real-world referents.

Red markets are basically what black markets turn into when they don't have to hide from governments anymore. The economy that characters in anarchist space are taking part in when they use Guanxi networks to get goods & services tends to be a red market.

In a red market, exchange of goods is mediated & regulated by violence and/or the threat of violence. It's sort of the ultimate buyer beware situation; your only guarantee of a fair exchange is your ability to smite the seller if they screw you over. Black and gray markets basically work this way now, but the presence of government authorities keeps a lid on the worst excesses.

Also important to note that not all of anarchist space is like this. This is one of the things that sets the criminal world apart from autonomists & mutualists. Economies like Extropia don't have government authority, but they do have contract law to stabilize them. Predominantly autonomist economies like Locus have anarchocommunist social structures that prevent them from acting like red markets.

At the end of the day, though, it has a lot to do with mindset. The distinction between criminal red markets, autonomists & mutualists may seem sleight from a capitalist vantage point. They're all basically lawless, right? But for the people participating, this isn't the case. They self-identify as belonging to one camp or the other, and this should play out in terms of how their reputation networks react to certain kinds of behavior.

Example: Let's say you sell some shady tech that doesn't really work (or works with unintended consequences) in autonomist space. If you're dealing with the average anarchist on Locus, your @-rep is going to take a hit and most people will just think you're an asshole and not want to deal with you. In an Extropian framework, your @-rep would take a hit and you'd be seen as a terrible business person. In a Guanxi framework, however, nobody cares, and the buyer's only recourse is to come after you; the proof is in whether you end up dead.

Note that even autonomist spaces like Extropia & Locus have their anti-social criminal elements, of whom the character referred to in Glory is one.

A lot of people have asked how there can be criminals in the outer system. One way to be a criminal is to do stuff so heinous that even a place with no large government authority wants you around. Hopefully this post helps illustrate another, more subtle way to fall into the criminal camp: by using a red market style of doing business in a libertarian or anarchocommunist environment.