Sci fi author Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov

Welcome to Mars Colony

What can a novella by Isaac Asimov tell us about public financial management?

In his 1952 classic The Martian Way, Asimov describes the adventures of space scavengers from a fictional Mars Colony. As Earthlings seek to colonise the rest of the solar system, they are charged with justifying the increasingly costly settlements on Mars, Venus and the Moon which have become drains on Earth’s fragile economy.

The novella presented some intriguing parallels to many issues faced by governments and public organisations today and provided a great starting point for our discussion. We’ve taken a few liberties with the story, however.

As we progress through each week, we’ll be using our own very liberal adaptation to introduce you to some key concepts of basic public financial management, to help you develop your own understanding and ask questions about acquiring and spending public monies.

Each week of the course opens and closes with a short segment from the adapted narrative. You can download the narrative in its entirety below, or go through each segment in turn to see how the main characters grapple with the issues, procedures and institutions that affect how successfully they’re able to manage public finances, and draw your own conclusions in the comments section within each step.

Our adapted narrative begins in the next step, where we join the colonists at the start of their mission as they consider how to bring the financial management of Mars Colony into line.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Public Financial Management: How Is Your Money Spent?

SOAS University of London