Question: Great Powers

It’s question-answering time again:

Would you mind if I request a list of “great powers” and their overall internal/external policies? I am very curious about major powers other than the Empire and the Republic.

Well… maybe not all of ‘em. There are some whose revelations I would prefer to save for story purposes, and I must leave myself some breathing room for the sake of future creative freedom, and all. But I can give you a bit of data.


There are two that stand notably above the rest:

The Empire of the Star

Well, as everybody knows, the Empire and its 300 worlds don’t have an internal policy, except possibly the policy that people who think that they ought to get an internal policy should be thrown off 400’ waterfalls.

…well, okay, that’s not entirely true. The governance’s internal policy is to benignly umpire matters such that everyone can enjoy their liberties howsoever they wish, which leaves it largely up to the people. What the people want is a measure of laissez-faire mixed with a measure of laissez les bons temps rouler, served over the gospel of libertism-technepraxism and garnished with a sprig of Gilded Age – excuse me, Solid Gold Age – excess. And so that’s what they get.

In official foreign policy terms that translates out to a relatively passive “free trade (unilaterally), free people (by shooting slavers with KEWs), and free gifts for anyone who wants to join up”, plus general peacekeeping in the sense of demonstrating force majeure to anyone whose brushfire war might turn into something more serious. Oh, and striking down with great vengeance and furious anger anyone who might try and stop the good times, of course. That goes without saying.

This leaves the rest of the foreign policy to be determined by corporations, branches, and individuals with an agenda, which resulting policy coheres only rarely with anything else.

Voniensa Republic

Internally, just like their Expy original, they’re basically a paper federal republic that the technocracy (in the literal sense) behind the scenes wears as a figurehat. You don’t need me to tell you what their domestic policy is like: “moneyless” society, working to better ourselves, replicators and asceticism, a societal fear of augmentation, biochauvinism and carbon chauvinism, yadda yadda etc. all packaged in a chewy idealistic shell. We’ve seen lots of episodes of it each week at 7pm Central Time, only with shaved monkeys instead of four-armed lizards.

Or, at least, that’s what the Core Worlds are like. Life is somewhat different in the Shell, because of certain uncomfortable economic necessities, but… tum-te-tum-te-tum, saving that for later.

Their external policy is determined more or less entirely by their one major external contact, their border with the Worlds, which they regard with fear, loathing, and a general sense of existential threatenedness. They’re not wrong, either, but especially in the wake of the Core War, they’re not at all sure what if anything they can do about it.

The Other Four Presidium Powers

Consolidated Waserai Echelons

The Consolidated Waserai Echelons are a hierarchical military oligarchy located towards the coreward-nadir region of the Worlds, controlling approximately 100 systems. Which sounds terribly dictatorial, except given the militant character and inborn public service ethic of the waserai, they aren’t for-the-sake-of-it assholes about it, and their government form actually suits them very well indeed, which even the Imperials would admit. And it means they don’t have to run a “socialized” economy, since the social institutions they built ab initio were strong enough that they didn’t have to socialize it. (They actually get along reasonably well, except for the few elements of compulsory collectivism and a general sense that the waserai should, y’know, pull the stick out from time to time.)

Externally, they’re upstanding galactic citizens who look out for the status quo and the general enforcement of galactic law, such as it is. They’re somewhat more interventionist than the Empire, albeit not by much, and do like to think of themselves as galactic peacekeepers – which is largely true, and makes the IN happy, since they’re glad to accept help when shooting them as need it. The Waserai Star Brigade, of course, takes the same basic view the other way round, a subject of much friendly debate in naval bars.

League of Meridian

The League of Meridian is a democratic federal republic of approximately 80 worlds to trailing, moderate and centrist in its politics, and pragmatic in its approach to them.

Or, depending on how you look at it, a bunch of smooth-talking weasels who wouldn’t recognize a moral principle on a nice, bright day and rewrite their policies every couple of years just to be extra-annoying. But in general, if there’s an issue, they’re somewhere right in the uncomfortable middle ground, scrabbling to find compromises.

Yeah, they’re basically just like us and them. IN SPACE!

Photonic Network

The Photonic Network is a pure-AI polity controlling 80 worlds or so to acme. Since their forms of identity are generally unfamiliar to protein intelligences, it’s fairly hard to say anything about what their internal policies look like, except the general statement that they mostly deal with resource and priority allocation among, and arbitration between, teleological threads.

Its external policies can be summed up as “keep our back yard quiet, and try not to get hopelessly entangled in organic affairs”. The few deviations from that are usually attributed to some cunning negotiation on the part of some other polity’s superintelligent AI population, or for reasons amounting to “we wouldn’t understand the answer if they told us as plainly as they could”.

They are, however, a reliable Presidium vote in favor of expanding sophont rights as far as possible, which is probably for nobler or at least more intellectually complex reasons than “sticking it to the carbon chauvinists”, but that’s as good a reason to suppose as any in the meantime.

Under-Blue-Star League

The Under-Blue-Star League, is, alas, the weak member of the Presidium right now. They used to be much more active (they were a founding member of the Accord, in fact), but their sixty-world polity has grown old, moribund, and rather grumpy these days.

Their external policy has, correspondingly, become rather isolationist, and their Presidium votes often slanted towards “what will cause us the least trouble”. Internally, though – well, the problem these days is that their external policy makes it correspondingly difficult to tell what’s going on within the League, unwelcoming to visitors as it has become. They used to be a family/clan-centric loose confederation with few centralized policies other than promoting trade, genetic diversity through exogamy, and technological development… and maybe they still are, or at least they’re not obviously not.

A great deal of time, newsbytes, and occasional violence swirls around, however, the contentious question of just who might replace them on the Presidium if this decline continues.

Other Notable Players

Equality Concord

The Equality Concord and its dozen worlds share the dubious distinction of being the galaxy’s only genuinely functional, non-corrupt, decent-standard-of-living-enabled, etc., communist state.

(As opposed to genuinely non-functional communist states, like the former People’s State of Bantral.)

That’s because the Concord’s founders recognized the fundamental problem of Real True Communism requiring a whole set of instincts and drives and incentives and desires that are not commonly found among sophonts as nature made them. So they studied the gentle art of sophotechnology, and they built themselves some nice bionic implants to fix that problem, and create the perfect collectivist people for their perfect collectivist utopia. And then, and this is the important bit, they avoided the classic trap by applying the implants to themselves before applying them to anyone else.

It works. It may not be the most innovative of regimes, or the wealthiest, or up there on whatever other metric you choose to apply, but it does work, and self-perpetuates quite nicely.

Pity about that whole “free will” thing, but you can’t make an omelette, right?

External-policy-wise, it’s quite active both in a missionary sense (for itself) and in general do-goodery to burnish its galactopolitical image. (Both of these tend to work mostly on the desperate of one kind or another; the mainstream still thinks they’re creepy as hell.)

They do have a strong defensive military, but avoid using it in most offensive roles – probably because its collective intelligence knows that if there was even a slight suggestion that they were expanding by forcible implantation, they’d be on the wrong end of a multilateral fleet before you could say hegemonizing swarm.

Rim Free Zone

The Rim Free Zone isn’t, technically, a polity. It is, however, 49 worlds scattered through the rimward end of the Shadow Systems, the biggest bloc in that location, and so it has to be called something.

It’s not a polity because it’s 49 worlds all adherent to anarchocapitalism, of one strain or another. Which strain you get depends on exactly where you are, ranging from polite and civilized as the North American Confederacy, through somewhat less reputable but still perfectly reasonable places like, say, New Hong Kong, all the way down to pits of scum and villainy like Jackson’s Whole. You pay your money – no, you literally pay your money – and you take your choice.

But they are a big and ugly enough bloc to figure into the interstellar political calculus as a Great Power because it turns out that you don’t need to be a government to be mighty troublesome for one. That, and 49 worlds full of anarchocapitalists have a lot of guns, belike.

18 thoughts on “Question: Great Powers

  1. Thank you very much for kind, detailed, and above all, really informative answer.
    May I ask (both) Leagues and Concord have any “founder/politically dominant species” like some other Great Powers?

    • The League of Meridian was founded by the sefir, but is about as polyspecific as the eldrae-founded Empire is, in proportion to its size.

      (It also, similarly, tries to be as racially egalitarian as it can: the chief difference is that the average Meridianite expends vast amounts of time, money, and policy to ensure that everyone feels included, not discriminated against, etc., etc., whereas your average Imperial tends not to notice what species people are unless they, for example, need to know whether to order more ammonia for their dinner party.)

      The Under-Blue-Star League is almost all voctonari; they aren’t deliberately speciesist, so they have the usual random immigrants, but they don’t welcome them either, as the polyspecific polities do.

      The Equality Concord is a funny case: in theory it’s polyspecific, but since it creeps the hell out of people, it’s dominated in practice by the five or six species who contributed the original founding groups. There are some sefir in there, along with some renegade kalatri, but the rest I’m going to keep under my hat for now.

  2. Also, I wonder exactly who/what founded Rim Free Zone…I suspect establishment of this form of government at Rim Frontier is far from the “natural” occurrence…(or perhaps, is it indeed a natural consequence?)

    • Well, the thing to remember about the Rim Free Zone is that it’s just a name hung on the region, not really a unified structure: all you have to do to be part of the Rim Free Zone is claim to be, and RFZ worlds (or the people living on them, rather) help, fight, and ignore each other pretty freely – and, by and large, were settled over time by various groups of anarchists ranging from ideologues through malcontents to out-and-out criminals finding their own way out…

      As for why there: well, if there’s one thing we know from history on the topic, it’s that governments really, really hate people who decide that they don’t need them, especially in large numbers or if they think it might be catching. Large anarchic movements tended to end up heading for the back end of the Shadow Systems because that put the pirates, slavers, warlike species that refuse to join the Accord, etc., etc., between them and the people who might otherwise be gunning for ’em.

      (It’s not like the RFZ finds them pleasant neighbors, either, but at least they’re only attacking them for profit and so can be dissuaded by making attacking them really expensive, as opposed to ideological attackers who won’t be discouraged so easily.)

  3. And Finally, could every Presidium Power(with sole exception of poor pathetic ultra-conservative control-freak baseline-obsessive Republic, of course) be qualified as hyper-advanced core market economy their own right?

    • The Empire, the Photonic Network, and the Under-Blue-Star League are all Core Markets, (by the accepted galactographic terminology – ), definitely.

      The Consolidated Waserai Echelons are a First Tier Market (mostly due to relying on massive zaibatsu-style conglomerates; these are losing their grip on the economy partly due to the influence of their more capitalistically-inclined client species, and it won’t be long before they’re promoted to being a Core Market), and so is the League of Meridian (in its case because its democratic legislature, despite having learned painfully over the centuries, still finds it hard to resist the urge to muck about with the economy one way or another).

      • Again, thank you very much for superb answers. You are most generous. Just three more questions, please.

        1. So Consolidated Waserai Echelons’ economy is mostly controlled by their client species? Also, are there any bias or discrimination against client species in Consolidated Waserai Echelons?

        2. I remember the mention of every Great Power has their own client races/nations and sphere of influence – so could I safely assume even almost single-species and constantly-decaying Under-Blue-Star League have such client species and satellite(or at least affiliated) states?

        3. And finally, how much far advanced Imperial science/technology compared with other Presidium Powers?

        • 1. Well, I probably wouldn’t go that far. The client species economies, though, do make up the most dynamic segment of the Echelons’ economy. The waserai zaibatsu, for want of a better term, are giant clunky organizations – they’re not economically nimble, they don’t change course easily, they’re not the most innovative, etc., etc., because that tends to be the case for conventionally organized megacorps – but they can get a hell of a lot of stuff done when they put their minds to it.

          So, y’know, if you want a cutting-edge laser rifle with all the latest technological trimmings, you go to one of their client-species’ companies. If, on the other hand, what you want is a million per-current-military-standard laser rifles by Tuesday, then you go to the zaibatsus. The balance is shifting, but it’s not shifted yet.

          (As far as bias goes – remarkably little. Both sides of the bargain, after all, understand mutual benefit, and the waserai hierarchy takes the notion of meritocracy seriously. It’s not perfect: you can certainly find waserai that look down on their client species for not being top soldiers, like them, just like you can find members of the client races who dislike the waserai as a bunch of “military thugs”, but neither of those is anything like the common view.)

          2. Yes, you can safely assume that. The Under-Blue-Star League is shedding them these days since their clients don’t necessarily feel that they’re getting enough out of the relationship these days, but they’re still around for now.

          3. I’m going to answer this one in a post so that everyone can see it.

      • Oops. Sorry, I almost forgot this question. How Republic managed to (eventually) become current monstrously colossal multinational state, dwarfing even the Empire through its sheer size alone? I think it cannot be attributed to mere dumb luck and/or irrational urge to conform to the baseline norm(in other word, living uncomfortably) – is there any special merit or cause responsible for this incomprehensible phenomenon?

        • The short answer is: different policies.

          The long answer is uncomfortably close to luck. Bear in mind that while the Empire is a few hundred worlds, the Associated Worlds as a whole – the entire sphere – are ten thousand or so worlds, larger than the Republic’s 8,000; and both the Worlds’ and the Republic’s spheres reflect expansion at a modestly slower rate than physics would permit (i.e., the speed at which stargates can be subluminally delivered to new star systems along the Periphery). This reflects that both the Empire (as the oldest active – i.e., elder races not included – starfaring species of the Worlds) and the Republic had the same initial advantage: being the first to space in their neighborhood, and as such getting to set the pattern for interstellar civilization therein.

          So the differences boil down to this: the Republic not only believes it has the Right Way to Live, it’s idealistically imperialist about pushing it on everyone else (and, in fairness, when you are The First, people tend to listen to your memes). Everyone ought to want to be part of the Republic, don’ch’know, and as the self-designated grown-ups on the block, they had no problem isolating and encysting other civilizations that wouldn’t play ball, establishing Prime-Directive-style no-contact protectorates around “undeveloped” worlds, engaging in assertive philanthropy, etc., etc.

          (There are certain other consequences of this for the make-up of the Republic sphere, obliquely alluded to in The Core War, which I shall leave as an exercise for the reader.)

          The Empire, on the other hand, really doesn’t, finds the notion of incorporating anyone who doesn’t want to be a member and who hasn’t already got with the program distasteful at best, and has pretty much no problem doing business with anyone who wants to do business, “undeveloped” or not. And that’s why the Worlds look the way they do.

          (There could easily be an alternate history out there in which the Imperial political factions backing “muscular libertism” were in the ascendant, leading to the Republic running smack into a Bright Empire of ten-thousand systems with no-doubt unfortunate military consequences… but that isn’t this history.)

      • And I wonder about relationship, general interaction and the balance of power between Presidium Powers…

        • Apart from what has been suggested in various past pieces, that’s something else I’m going to let come out in the works, rather than spoilering explicitly…

          (Although — okay, one point to always remember, regarding the Presidium powers, is that while their individual interests may vary, they are all to one degree or another willing participants in the Conclave’s underlying and unspoken purpose of ensuring that the interstellar status quo is maintained. They like things, by and large, just the way they’ve got them.)

      • 1. Thank you for answer. There are many interest-provoking tidbits! And it seems proportionally Republic is even more bigger than what I have imagined…(80% of Associated Worlds? Staggering!) However, It is good to see affirmation for Eldrae Empire is not just merely one of the oldest, but THE oldest space-faring polity in the Associated Worlds(except Matryoshka Brain dwelling elder races, of course).
        2. So my questions regarding Great/Presidium Powers are all currently unanswerable?:( Anyway, I deeply appreciate mortal peril of tarnishing spoilers and don’t wish to mangle super happy fun time prematurely and condemn myself.
        3. How about approx. population density/sapient life occurrence frequency/percentage of races successfully achieved spaceflight without rendering themselves extinct etc. of Associated Worlds? Is that also potential fun-despoiler?

      • So many intriguing information in answer itself…as always, I feel you are magnificently fabulous, Alistair!

      • Wait, does it mean Empire has the potential of becoming true Bright Empire, not fictional one, if they are trying really hard, screwing cost-effective-freedom-respecting policy and participating Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms(aka traditional-militant-evangelical Imperialism)?

        • Conquer the Worlds, you mean?

          Well, it would probably be theoretically possible from a purely technical and military point of view, albeit something that would require a massive military build-up (the easy part), throwing out the Ley Accords, and being ridiculously destructive and oppressive in the process.

          I can’t really envision any circumstances under which they’d, in modernity, see it as desirable so to do, though.

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