On Secession

I note that there are no provisions here for secession of nations. Oversight, deliberate, or covered elsewhere by other provisions and principles?

Ah, secession. Let me explain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Ultimately, the problem here is ontological. Specifically, while we’re used to (and our nation-states are, in many ways, used to) thinking of themselves as lumps of sovereign territory that happen to have people living on them, the Empire thinks of itself (because of its origin as a union of polities that were themselves outgrowths of overlapping PPLs) as a compact between sophonts that happen to live on huge tracts of land.

To an Earth nation, sovereignty (over territory and all that happens therein) is a Westphalian fundamental. To the Empire, and those others that follow its pattern, sovereignty is a bundle of a few specialized property rights which it acquires, often purchasing, over the territory in which its subscribers are domiciled for the sake of ease of administration. It’s a distinctly secondary matter, enough so that there’s a serious if minority Senate branch (the Disillusionist Tendency) that firmly believes getting into the whole sovereign-rights-management business back when the PPLs transitioned into the Old Empires was a terrible misstep that should be corrected forthwith – and doing so would leave the Empire still there.

A secondary complication is that what makes one an Imperial citizen-shareholder is signing the Imperial Charter and purchasing a citizen-share. That’s it. Something that is both (a) entirely disconnected from where you might happen to be domiciled (permanent non-resident citizenships are a thing, even), and which (b) is an individual contract, not a collective contract.

The combination of these things makes secession a hideously complicated problem. For one thing, it’s easy enough for a nation here to decide to secede, what with collective decision-making and territorial sovereignty, but citizenship there is a matter of individual contract with the Empire, which any would-be secessionist nation, even a former constituent nation entire, has no power to break. And I would deem it very unlikely that the Empire is going to kick out citizen-shareholders who want to remain such, even if it could find a way to weasel that through as “due process of law”, which is itself very doubtful.

So the secessionists are going to end up with a whole bunch of permanent residents with Imperial citizenship scattered through their territory, and all the galaxy knows how the Empire tends to react when someone abuses, expropriates, or otherwise mistreats their citizen-shareholders. (That is, after all, one of the things that makes it a premium citizenship brand.)

And then there’s the question of those sovereign rights, which the Empire technically has paid for, one way or another, and thus owns. And, as a several matter from citizenship, has no particular obligation to sell just because the people who own other property rights over the same volume have changed citizenship; people and volume aren’t tied together.

But even in the best case, when the secession is amicable and the secessionists are more than happy to buy those rights back from the Exchequer: Is the Empire going to sell the sovereign rights of its citizen-shareholders out from underneath them to a governance that obviously wants to do things that the Empire doesn’t approve of (whatever it’s seceding over), technically several or no? I do not think so, somehow – and that’s assuming that there isn’t a held-in-trust clause in there that means they can’t sell them to anyone but the holder of the ownership right anyway.

At which point, whether it keeps them or returns them to the holder of the ownership right, the map of this seceded territory is starting to look downright fractal.

(Bear in mind that with the exception of that extremely circumscribed eminent domain clause, it’s not like the Empire has the power to force anyone to move if they don’t want to. If Citizen Lived-In-This-House-300-Years-And-Dammit-I-Ain’t-Movin’ declines to go voluntarily, then he has just created an Imperial Exclave the size of his yard and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. Short of starting a war.)

So, to sum up my summing up, it’s deliberate in the sense that this was a giant can of worms which everyone greatly preferred not trying to solve, especially at the birth of a new empire of ecumenical ambition.

Besides, why would anyone ever want to leave anyway?

 

Migratory Definitions

Overheard in the Crescent Bar, Conclave Drift
6 months post the end of the Core War

“It’s a great speech, but it’s not going to work. You know that, right?”

“What’s the problem with it?”

“Well, mostly, that you’re trying to talk ‘political geostate’ to someone who speaks ‘sovereign service provider’.”

“What does that mean?”

“For one thing, it means that when you say ‘those people being unfairly excluded because of their beliefs’, what they hear is ‘that bunch of jerks who want service without signing up to our service agreement’.”

 

The Common Volumetric Accord

The Common Volumetric Accord is simply the current agreement (under the protocols of the Accord) concerning what will be considered sovereign territory among star nations, what will be recognized as free space, open to the passage of all, and what is not normally claimable as such. The Common Volumetric Accord implements the following basic principles:

  • In the situation in which one polity, or inter-polity coordinating body, controls a star system:
    • Sovereignty over that star system shall extend as a sphere one light-day (Imperial Standard Time)1 in radius from the primary star of that system; and likewise from any secondary, tertiary, etc., stars of that system, defined for the purposes of this Accord as self-luminous bodies exceeding in mass 2.4 x 1028 kg.
    • To exercise such a claim of sovereignty, the claim must be registered with at least one of the relevant galactographic institutes2, and the polity asserting its claim must possess the ability to assert the claimed sovereign rights; such registry and assertion shall vest the claimant with all currently unasserted sovereign rights over all matter and energy within the volume in question.
      • Such a successful claim shall not negate any property rights already held within the claimed volume; nor shall it appropriate in and of itself existing sovereign rights there held as part of such property rights claims; but further homesteading shall be subject to the established sovereignty3.
    • Within the volume bounded by the outer sphere of sovereignty and the inner sphere extending one light-watch (2.16 T-hours)5 from the aforementioned bodies, space shall be considered free for the passage of all; starships of any and all Accord polities are to be permitted free transit, and no domestic rights of search, seizure, excise, forfeiture, angary, or other such may be exercised against a vessel exercising this right to free navigation, nor shall any others wheresoever arising, save those provided for by the Accord on the Law of Free Space, or should such a vessel commit an act of war.
    • Within the volume bounded by the sphere extending one light-watch from the aforementioned bodies, navigation and transit, as all other matters, are subject to the domestic law of the sovereign body.
  • In the situation in which no single polity or coordinating body controls a star system, or with reference to bodies outside the light-day limit:
    • The volume of the star system not subsumed within single-body claims shall be considered free for the passage of all, as above, and no polity’s domestic law shall apply therein.
    • Any polity controlling a celestial body, planet, moon, asteroid, habitat, or other region may claim sovereignty over the surrounding space:
      • Such sovereignty, for a natural body, may extend as a sphere of radius equivalent to 12 times the average diameter of that body, or one-third of a light-second6, whichever is larger7.
      • Such sovereignty, for a habitat cluster or drift-habitat, may extend as a sphere of radius one-third of a light-second.
      • Such sovereignty, for an individual habitat other than a drift, may extend only to its immediate territorial space.
      • Control of one or more moons shall not extend to control of that body which they orbit, if not explicitly claimed and asserted; nor shall sovereignty over multiple bodies in a single system extend to sovereighty over volumes and routes between them, unless system sovereignty entire is asserted8.
    • Where such claims would overlap due to the motions of celestial bodies, the boundary between the two claimed sovereignties shall be deemed to exist at the point halfway between the two central points of the claimed sphere and no overlap shall take place.
      • For the purpose of ongoing civic functions, entities passing through and not remaining within foreign sovereignties due to the motions of celestial bodies shall be deemed to remain within the sovereign control of their original and final sovereignty.
      • Nor shall any transit and sojourn through foreign sovereignties due to the motions of celestial bodies impair the property or other rights attaching to those making transit.
    • In accordance with the spirit of the above, where a smaller sovereignty preexisted a larger one, and would exist within its sovereign volume, the smaller sovereignty shall enjoy a sovereign volume of one-half its usual radius.
      • Where one sovereignty shall exist entirely within another, it shall be the presumption that starships bound to and from, and/or registered within, the contained sovereignty shall enjoy a right to free navigation to and from its contained volume, notwithstanding exigent circumstance, and any disputes on this matter shall be adjudicated by the Central Conclave Court.
  • Where the claiming polity does not provide a minimum of advisory control for space traffic within the claimed volume, beacons must be established indicating the parameters of the claim9.
  • All claims made under the Common Volumetric Accord shall defer to explicit transfers of sovereign rights made by their lawful possessors at times subsequent to the initial claim.

One major omission in the Common Volumetric Accord concerns the status of worldbound civilizations (which are often multi-polity planets, to add to the difficulty). More civilized star nations recognize (and, indeed, defend) the sovereign rights of those civilizations within their own system, under the first clause of the Accord; indeed, it is customary to refrain from asserting territorial claims in the systems of pre-space species, or in the systems of non-worldbound species engaged in active system development. However, under the conventions of the Accord, where a non-worldbound species is not engaged in active system development, the secondary and tertiary bodies of their system become open for colonization, resource extraction, or other use by other star nations after a period of 144 years (one century, empire time)10.


Footnotes

  1. i.e., 26 T-hours, or 187.6 au. Which is to say, the Kuiper Belt is usually considered sovereign territory of a given system, while the Oort cloud is not.
  2. The Imperial Grand Survey, say.
  3. Which is to say: you can’t steal, or even start taxing and legislating for, preexisting independent habs and homesteads, however small, just because you have a flag and a shiny hat, and assume that interstellar law will back you up. They had their sovereign rights first. If you want them that badly and they don’t feel like selling them to you, you’re going to have to go to actual war for them, and risk the potential consequences of someone deciding to intervene. Or at the very least the PR problems associated with stomping around like a bunch of jackbooted space fascists4.
  4. No prizes for guessing which Presidium power was responsible for backing this contribution to creative political instability…
  5. i.e., 2.16 T-hours, or 15.58 au; that’s most of the system. Stargates are typically located further out among the outer ice giants, if any, which is why that outer region of free transit exists in the first place.
  6. 62,094 miles.
  7. The careful observer will note that this and subsequent allotments are all tiny: by these rules, Earth’s planetary sovereignty is a smidge under 100,000 miles in radius and doesn’t even reach Luna. This is entirely intentional.11
  8. A rule which exists because the possibility of someone squatting on a moonlet and claiming fees from everyone who used the parent gas giant for a gravity assist occurred to all parties within about a second of writing the above clauses… and so they felt it was worth being really explicit that the ability to build a dome on Amalthea wouldn’t make you King of Jupiter.
  9. Because you can’t expect people to respect laws they don’t know about, another contribution from the local reasonability enforcers.
  10. Use them or lose them!
  11. A careful, cynical observer might go on to point out that in addition to being minimalist, these rules are likely to create a great deal of inconvenient complexity – indeed, they seem almost tailormade to produce this kind of charlie-foxtrot (click here, then scroll up for the Manna quote immediately preceding) every time one tries to get anywhere.Such an observer would be entirely correct.

    They don’t give you much, and they make using the per-body rules annoying, as an incentive in two directions. The first being, quite simply, GET YOUR ASS TO SPACE. If you want anything in this game, you have to get out there and play, belike.

    And the second being incentive to learn to cooperate and create some sort of interpolity holding body to claim and hold system sovereignty, such that everyone else doesn’t have to put up with your patchwork-quilt craziness.

    (The extra intent here, for that matter, is that the default system should turn out to be annoying enough that people will form very weak and technically focused system sovereignty-holders because no-one, even their totally deserving selves, getting their imperialist dreams of making everyone passing through their volume descend to their knee-equivalents is still preferable to putting up with endless administrative overhead.)

Trope-a-Day: Royal Blood

Royal Blood: Averted, except inasmuch as those who know they’re going to grow up to be rúner are genetically engineered for a laundry list of desirable traits in people who are expected to hold sovereign authority and use it wisely, rarely, and with great caution.

(Of course, given the nature of civilization, it’s not like any of those traits are specific or restricted to the rúner)

Trope-a-Day: Privately Owned Society

Privately Owned Society: In what is now the Empire, long ago. Or now. Could go either way.

In its purest form, in the years immediately following the Drowning of the People. After deciding that democracy amounted to substituting a parade of replaceable jackasses for the old permanent jackasses on the thrones of tyranny – and subsequently tossing the first candidates for the position off a 400′ waterfall – society was indeed privately owned, there not being anything non-“private” left in the world. Law and contract enforcement was entrusted to for-hire and eleemosynary PPLs, justice and arbitration left in the hands of equally private deemsters, and pretty much every other necessary function that people not familiar with the theory of this sort of thing are now thinking of handled by one or another for-profit, non-profit, or cooperative (yes, kids, an internally syndicalist syndicate is every bit as much a free-market entity as a megacorporation) group.

Things evolved somewhat over the centuries, with various PPLs forming complex coordinating superstructure organizations out of efficiency, evolving towards de facto pseudo-monopoly in some areas, and for similar reasons ending up purchasing sovereign rights – which in Imperial parlance are a very limited subset of the bundle of property rights attached to real property, nowhere near as generous as what we would claim them to be on Earth – from their subscribers. These superstructures were, through evolution, the basis of the Old Empires and other pre-Imperial polities of Eliéra, and eventually for the Empire itself.

But is that a move away from a Privately Owned Society?

Well, the obvious answer is that the citizen-shareholders obviously do own the Empire and all its appurtenances. That’s what the shareholders part means. Hell, they can even dissolve it any time they like.

But a more sophisticated answer would be that the Drowning of the People marked a divergence point from our history in that it pretty much killed off all forms of legitimacy, governmentally speaking, as we use the term. You can look down pretty much every form of legitimacy/legitimate government mentioned in that Wikipedia article, and they’ve got a multi-thousand-year old philosophical tradition explaining how that’s a quaint slaver’s rationalization. You can’t legitimize the coercion of the non-consenting no matter how much bullshit you spread on it.

The only source of “legitimacy”, they would claim, is the free consent and contract of the individual, and that’s what they have. Their Divine Majesties’ Governance derives all of its power from literally every single Imperial citizen-shareholder having contracted its services – in the areas of law and contract enforcement, externality management, and some minor coordination functions – and clicked through to accept the terms and conditions of service – and, as Imperials point out laboriously to those missing the point, it has absolutely no existence apart from the sum of people who follow said service agreement…

(And, okay, the volume in which they own the purchased sovereign rights mentioned above. But even tenuous as they are, there’s an entire political faction – the Dissolutionist Tendency – which exists to argue that they should never have got into volume-management in the first place and should sell said rights right back to the citizen-shareholders.)

…and they have the seals and signatures on file to prove that, dammit.

All the terminology and practices reflect this. There’s no tax, for example, because the governance literally does not have the power to tax. All it can do is charge a Service Fee, and that service fee is strictly defined in the contract. And if you don’t pay, it’s not some special criminal offense of “tax evasion” with all manner of special investigatory powers and punishments attached; it’s plain old breach of contract.

Privately owned enough for you?

Very, Very Small States

“The Microstatic Commission is the Impies’ bad joke at the expense of the rest of us.  You don’t really think they care about thousands of tiny freeholds, do you?  It’s just another means they use to defeat anyone’s attempt to build real institutions and real stability in the Worlds, in the same way as they use the bully pulpit of their Presidium seat to defeat any attempts to give the Conclave some teeth.”

“They encumber the Accord with hundreds, at least, of insignificant delegations – and at the same time, by forcing their recognition and permitting them to equip themselves with military-grade weaponry, they hamstring any actual polity’s attempt to deal with separatist movements, money laundering, tax havens, smuggling, data havens, citizenships-of-convenience, and the other various violations of sophont rights that come along with permitting this promiscuous multiplication of sovereignties by anyone who can get a ship out beyond claimed volumes!”

– Ambassador Sev Mal Criol, League of Meridian

“The Imperials certainly do have their own reasons for propping up the Microstatic Commission and thereby all we free drifts and small freesoil worlds.  I’ve never believed otherwise – for myself, I think they do find us useful in their ideological competition with the centralizing factions in the Accord – and I doubt very much any of my colleagues are naïve enough to do so either.  But they don’t require that we agree with them, vote with them, fight with them, or trade with them – or, indeed, apparently do anything but exist – in exchange for lending the weight of their credence to our sovereignty, and so we don’t really care what those reasons are.”

“As long as they don’t change, anyway.  But for centuries past and for now, it’s helped keep us free and independent of the polities we abandoned and old-school imperialists like Sev Mal’s League, and that’s good enough for me.”

– Ambassador Restal ni Korat an Aiym, Autarchic Habitat of Koesnrat (pop. 47)

“Well, of course we have our own reasons, but they’re hardly as cynical as even Ambassador ni Korat an Aiym implies.  Just because it is a matter of ideology doesn’t mean that it’s not sincere – and I will ask you the same question I would ask any of the challengers of the Microstatic Commission’s members’ rights.  How many does it take to be considered sovereign?  A hundred, a thousand, a million?  A billion?  Why not a trillion, while we’re setting thresholds, and throw quite a few of the loudest complainers out of the Accord?”

“We maintain that this number is one – as our own constitutional arrangements would imply to anyone who studied them – because no larger kind of sovereignty existed until this one, and that one, and those other ones, came together to make them with their own powers.  And should some thousands, or some hundreds, or some tens, or even one alone choose to exercise it themselves, we’ll support them in that.  As a matter of principle.”

– Presiding Minister Calis Corith-ith-Corith, Empire of the Star

“All of these are true.”

– ‘Victoria Diarch’, pseudonymous extranet pundit