With all of the political drama in our American Presidential election cycle, I thought now would be a good time to look at some of the political systems that are depicted in speculative fiction.
For purposes of this post, I want to focus on what seems to be mankind’s best case scenario in the near future: The United Federation of Planets.
Also, in a little attempt at fun, I will try to imagine what our current political candidates would look like in the Federation at the end.
The history of the United Federation of Planets is long and rich, but I will focus on The Original Series Films/The Next Generation/Deep Space Nine/Voyager incarnation, since it arguably has the most source material to pull from. (Enterprise, you are not allowed in because you are awful)
Founded as an attempt to unify disparate but like-minded planetary governments, the Federation seems to best fit the description of a democratic (little “d”) polity with an executive, legislative, and judicial branch with strong federalist leanings but a stronger centralized power. Starfleet, as the military and peace-keeping force of the Federation, is the subject of pretty much every television show and film in the Star Trek universe… but there’s a lot more to the Federation.
While the various planets of the Federation seem mostly self-governed, they all participate in the Federation Council, which is their legislature. There isn’t a lot of detail on how exactly this works, but the gist of it is that it’s a republican (again, little “r”) system that the power to deal with interplanetary treaties, crises, and colonization.
The economic nature of the Federation is perhaps its boldest attribute. It is portrayed as a society that has evolved beyond the use of money… something I have a hard time conceiving. The first mention of this “New World Economy” (Tom Paris’ language, not mine) comes in a reaction by Captain Kirk to a random woman when they travel back to 1980’s Earth. “They still use money!” he says in disgust. Notably, there are a few TOS movie foibles that don’t exactly stick with the idea of abandoning currency as a whole, but for the most part the economy is based on supplies, progress, and the ongoing desire to expand and progress. I envision it as a sort of bartering socialist meritocracy. Goods are exchanged for their subjective value, the “state” provides the basic needs for everyone, and you excel based on your contributions to society alone. Sounds neat, right?
Imagning how our society would even evolve to such a point right now is tough...
The Federation was also interesting in that it was a kind of self-replicating entity. It was defined by the space occupied by its member worlds, but it also actively sought to colonize uninhabited worlds to expand the reach of its polity. Imagine a wealthy, imperialistic country that didn’t try to mess with any indigenous peoples and only sought exploration for its own sake. Then put them in a chunk of outer space with thousands (millions?) of uninhabited worlds to be explored and colonized. The colonists who volunteered for such expeditions lived frontier-style lives in rough environments, and one can see how a supply-based meritocracy could thrive in such a setting. The goal was for these colonies to receive support from the Federation until they could sustain their own population and become member worlds in their own right.
These colonists were often the first to contact alien species or face the fallout of political breakdowns between the Federation and its neighbors. Several episodes in the first seasons of Deep Space Nine dealt with the issue of colonists who were forced out of their planets because the Federation ceded them to a neighboring, militaristic culture during treaty organizations. They refused to go, having built their whole lives there, and took up arms in defense of their homes by soldiers who came to forcibly relocate them. They were deemed terrorists by everyone. Hijinks and tragedy ensued and it was awesome.
The big wrinkle here is the danger of infringing upon pre-existing alien life, which is why the Federation and Starfleet held the Prime Directive as sacrosanct. Being deeply aware of its own imperialistic history, the human race sought to repeat the success of the past without dragging its brutal habit of subjugation into the future.
So it came up with an idea: If an alien species is sentient, we leave it alone. Of course, things are never that simple, and how/when/if to interfere and/or break the Prime Directive is the subject of many a Trek episode. But no matter what, all Starfleet officers take it very, very seriously.
Current American Presidential Candidate Comparison:
Trump: He would be a really, really old Captain Kirk. Brash, daring, full of conviction and bold ideas (sorry, all you Kirk-loving Democrats!) but also a little too red-eyed and unsteady to give anything but an old ship to.
Cruz: Neelix. He’s the guy that no one really likes on Voyager, but he kind of does a job that no one else wants to do and he seems to be useful on occasion. Smarmy, not-funny depsite depserately wanting to be so, and even though he’s the Hospitatlity Officer we all know that, if it came down to it, no one really wants to talk to him about anything at all. Plus, you know, the whole “not born here” thing.
Rubio: He’s a Ferengi. And not a cool one, like Quark or Nog, but one from season 1 of TNG... Just a random one. He’s the guy creeping up on you with the weird fur boa and laser whip and addressing liberals as “hu-MAN.”
Clinton: Admiral Nechayev, I think. She’s polished and looks the part, but you know she’s kind of a bitch and if it serves her, she will throw your butt under the train and keep on smiling.
Close second would be the Borg Queen.
No matter how many times you blow up her Cube/Campaign, she keeps coming back because she’s just so well connected.
Sanders: Curzon Dax. Cantankerous old fart who says what he wants and is often right, no matter who he pisses off.
Thanks for reading!
image credits to memory alpha and the internet at large