View Single Post
Old August 19 2009, 12:28 PM   #11
Sci's Avatar
Location: Montgomery County, State of Maryland
Re: Star Trek: Governance

At the risk of covering some stuff that's already been covered...

PhasersOnStun wrote: View Post
I'm new around here, but not forums. So I did use the search function to see if there were previous threads on this subject, but didn't find any. So I apologize if this has been talked to death already.

I'm pretty familiar with TOS and movies I - XIII, along with the new reboot. I'm not that familiar with the other series, movies, and I've never read the novels or other text.

One thing I've always wondered is about the government of Earth, and by association, the United Federation of Planets. Maybe this is discussed in TNG, DS9, VOY, or ENT. But I'm very curious:

I'm guessing the governments of the Federation Planets are all independent (in other words, Vulcan has a Vulcan government, and Earth has an Earth government, etc.) So while we've seen the "Federation President" in movies, who's running earth?
The most that we know canonically is that the planetary state created with the unification of Earth is known as, understandably, United Earth (ENT: "The Forge"). Nathan Samuels was referred to as a United Earth Minister in "Demons"/"Terra Prime" (ENT).

Non-canonically, the Star Trek: Corps of Engineers novel The Future Begins establishes that during the Earth-Romulan War, a woman named Lydia Littlejohn served as President of United Earth. (This was actually a reference to the novel Starfleet: Year One, which was made almost immediately out-of-continuity with the canon when ENT began a month or so after it was published.) Meanwhile, the ENT novel The Good That Men Do establishes Nathan Samuels to be the Prime Minister of United Earth, and the Tales of the Dominion Wars short story "Eleven Hours Out" establishes that the United Earth Prime Minister, Federation President, and United States President all toured the City of San Francisco after the Breen attack in 2375 (established in the DS9 episode "The Changing Face of Evil").

Meanwhile, the Myriad Universes novel A Less Perfect Union establishes the U.E. legislature to be the Parliament of United Earth prior to the divergence of its timeline from the main timeline. (Myriad Universes novels are "What If...?" novels that are all set in unique timelines that differ from the normal timeline.) The ENT novel Kobayashi Maru makes reference to something called the United Earth Council, but it's unclear what the U.E. Council is.

I take all this as an indication that United Earth is a republican parliamentary democracy a la Ireland, Italy, Israel, or Germany -- with a mostly ceremonial President, a Prime Minister who holds the real power, and an elected Parliament whose support determines who the President appoints as Prime Minister.

There is a basic idea that Earth is a sort of "utopian" society, but is it run by a ruling oligarchy? Socialist society? In none of the works that I've seen do I recall any mention of earth people of the 23rd century voting, but that's not to say it wasn't there, or it's not in some of the works I'm not familiar with.
Trek does seem to avoid this. The DS9 episode "Paradise Lost" refers to the Federation President as the "legitimately elected president," though.

Verteron wrote: View Post
There's a Sisko quote from Paradise Lost where he says "Overthrowing a legitimately elected President and giving Starfleet direct control over the government? Sounds like a dictatorship to me.". This seems to indicate the Federation President is elected, but this could still be an 'election' among members of the Federation Council as opposed to a general election and popular vote.
I don't think that's likely. If the President was chosen by the Council, then he wouldn't really be the President of the United Federation of Planets; in English, the term for a head of government chosen by the legislature is "Prime Minister." There are some Prime Ministers that have different titles, like Chancellor or Taoiseach, but PM is the most common title. The closest to a PM holding the title of "President" would be something like the formal titles of the Spanish and Italian PMs, el Presidente del Gobierno de Espaņa (the President of the Government of Spain) and Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri (President of the Council of Ministers), respectively. In both those, the PM is called "President," but isn't viewed as the president of the state, but as president of the government of the state. We could fudge it and think that maybe the Federation President isn't actually President of the Federation but instead President of the Federation Cabinet or Government, except that his full title was established in Star Trek IV: the President of the United Federation of Planets. There's really no way to interpret him as being a PM rather than a President without jumping through way more linguistic hoops than I think is reasonable.

Speaking non-canonically, the novel A Time for War, A Time for Peace by Keith R.A. DeCandido establishes the following about Federation presidential elections:

Anonymous petitions for presidential candidacy are submitted to the Federation Council, which convenes for the purpose of determining which individuals so petitioned fulfill the legal requirements for candidacy. What those requirements exactly constitute is never established, though we do discover in this novel that an active-duty Starfleet Admiral (William Ross), a Federation Special Emissary, and a currently-serving head of government of a Federation Member State all qualify, and in later novels find that former Starfleet flag officers, Federation Councillors, former heads of government of Federation Member States, former and current Cabinet members, and, apparently, former Member State cabinet members, all legally qualify.

Once a potential candidate has been qualified, candidates then confirm their presidency with some sort of public announcement. (In War/Peace, Admiral Ross indicated that he had not submitted his name to the Council for candidacy and would not accept candidacy, instead endorsing Cestus III Governor Nanietta Bacco.) From there, the candidates campaign all across the Federation until election day.

On election day, all Federation citizens are allowed to vote for President in a non-partisan popular election -- a massive process because of the Federation's huge and far-flung population, including Starfleet officers serving on ships deployed far beyond the Federation's borders. The process of counting all votes takes approximately one week, and is verified by two independent auditing firms, before the victor is formally announced. We don't know exactly what system for determining winners is used -- the only election we see has one clear victor. Whether they have run-off elections if one candidate in a tri-polar or mutli-polar race only wins a plurality but not a majority of votes is unestablished. I would infer that they use first-past-the-post, but that's just my guess.

War/Peace also establishes that when a Federation President dies or resigns before the completion of his/her term, the Federation Council declared one of its members to serve as President Pro Tempore. From there, a special election is called in one standard month. After the election, the office of President Pro Tempore is vacated and the president-elect immediately takes office.

We don't know when the president normally takes office, though we do know that the special election seen in War/Peace, which occurred in November or October of 2379, occurred a year before the normal election would have. Federation Presidents serve for a term of four standard years, and can be re-elected to an unlimited number of terms. Most Presidents only serve two or three terms at most, however.

The sequel, Articles of the Federation, also by DeCandido, follows the first year in office of the victor of the War/Peace election, and establishes that the Federation President's office is located on the top floor, Floor Fifteen of the Federation's capitol, the Palais de la Concorde. The Palais de la Concorde is a huge cylindrical building located on the site of the current Place de la Concorde in Paris. Its first floor houses the Federation Council Chambers, Floor Two houses the Palais legal counsel office and transporter bay, Three through Eleven house the offices of Federation Councillors, Twelve houses the Federation's state dining room, and Thirteen and Fourteen house the Cabinet and Presidential staff, with Fifteen being dedicated to the Presidential Office, a private study, private transporter bay, two meeting rooms, and the reception area.

The Federation government is pretty obviously headquartered on Earth, but this is analogous to the Federal government of the U.S. being headquartered in one of its constituent states rather than the District, as it is now. One could argue this might be a better arrangement (as it does seem the Federation President has a tendency to meddle in what would otherwise seem to be Earth-specific affairs), but nonetheless this does seem to be the model we have.
The U.S. practice of headquartering its government in a Federal District whose citizens do not have legal quality in the U.S. Congress even as they have a unique cultural and political identity that separates them from from the neighboring states is a horrible system, and one I would hope the Federation does not copy. Citizens of the District of Columbia outnumber citizens of the State of Wyoming, yet they have no United States Representative and no United States Senators. They do not even have full control over the District government, which was created by Congress, whose decisions can be overturned by Congress any time it wants, and can be dissolved at Congress's pleasure -- interference in local affairs that the citizens of the states would never tolerate if the Congress tried to do that to their state governments. D.C. citizens get a non-voting Delegate who cannot even vote on the floor, even though they pay the same taxes as anyone else and are subject to federal law like everyone else. It's taxation without representation and legal inequality, and it needs to change, ASAP. The District of Columbia needs to be given statehood, and I hope that no one EVER copies that system again.

In any event, I don't think it's clear that the Federation often interferes in Earth-specific affairs. The most we know is that the Federation President can declare a State of Emergency on a Federation world, which they have done on Earth during the occasions when someone threatened Earth (V'Ger, the Whale Probe, the Borg, and the feared Dominion invasion).

The Federation President has, from time to time, apparently exercised some kind of direct rule on Earth, such as during the Whale Probe incident, and during the worldwide power outage in Paradise Lost, this may be just for unusual emergency situations rather than something that occurs day to day.
That wasn't direct rule -- that was a State of Emergency. That doesn't mean the U.E. government was dissolved during the State of Emergency. Former U.S. President George W. Bush declared a State of Emergency in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina, but that doesn't mean that he was directly ruling the State of Louisiana. (And remember that Earth is merely the most prominent of several planets under the jurisdiction of United Earth, which apparently includes Luna and several U.E. colonies.) In fact, more than likely United Earth declared its own State of Emergency simultaneously, as the State of Louisiana did.

As the base for the Federation government, I'm sure Earth's government works with the POTUFP more closely than many other world governments do, but nonetheless I'd like to think there's some kind of separation.
Agreed. They probably work most closely on issues of planetary defense. I certainly doubt the Federation gets involved in internal Earth politics, just like the U.S. federal government doesn't get involved in internal state politics.

The alternative would be to assume that all of Earth had somehow been declared as a 'federal district' and was ruled directly by the Federation, whilst other worlds maintained their own governments, but this seems somewhat unacceptable to me. Why should a bunch of aliens rule over Earth when they are supposed to be nominally representing their own planets to the federal government?
Agreed, and more. See above.

One imagines that with this vastly reduced bureaucracy there'd be no need for taxes (what would you tax anyway in a society with no money?) or all of the regulatory machina we have in our government today.
Star Trek has been wildly inconsistent with whether or not the Federation has a monetary system. Personally, I think it does -- stories like "Mudd's Women," "The Devil in the Dark," "The Trouble With Tribbles," and "Author, Author" make no sense if it doesn't -- but that one doesn't need money to survive comfortably, only to earn luxuries. I imagine the Federation government can tax those who become especially rich to make sure that they do not become too socially dominant.

neozeks wrote: View Post
What we're actually seeing is a 'post-scarcity' society, which is a fundamentally different form of society that cannot exist without ST's magic technologies, but seems like a natural way for things to go once anyone can have anything they want for free.
Energy, land and means of transportation are still finite though. I'd imagine that while everyone still freely gets enough credits (there was this site that had a nice, detailed theory on this) for comfortable living (sufficient housing, enough energy for replicating most stuff you need, ordinary transportation needs, medical coverage), you still have to earn, by working or saving, additional credits for more luxury stuff like a really beautiful house on a very good location, buying a more-energy-demanding or handmade object (didn't Scotty buy a boat?), a trip to the other side of the Federation and such.

Verteron wrote: View Post
neozeks wrote: View Post
I think I actually lean towards the indirect option. The direct option would be more democratic but considering just how huge and diverse the Federation and it's population are, the difficulties of campaigning and voting also seem quite huge. Computers and advanced communications could solve the problem, though.
The other interesting point to make about this option is that it doesn't require other planetary governments to be democratic. Since presumably they can send whoever they want to the Federation Council as their representatives, an indirect system would mean that on a non-democratic planet operating on a feudal system, for example (like the Klingons), they could send representatives from their High Council (if they ever joined the Federation) without having democracy 'forced' upon them. It seems more in line with the Federation's policies on inclusion.
I disagree, strongly. The Federation Constitution/Charter (the canon uses both names for it, and the novels introduce a third as its formal name: the Articles of the Federation) is established to guarantee to all Federation citizens certain rights, including freedom from self-incrimination (the Seventh Guarantee, established in TNG's "The Drumhead") and control over artistic works (the Twelfth Guarantee, established in VOY's "Author, Author"). And on top of that, it bans caste-based discrimination. So we have the strong implication that the Federation itself is a liberal democracy. How can a liberal democracy function if its constituent governments are not themselves liberal democracies?

Given Star Trek's commitment to American liberalism and the reflection of those values in its depiction of the Federation, I can't buy the idea that the Federation allows Member States to join that are not themselves liberal democracies.

PhasersOnStun wrote: View Post
Again, I'm not knowledgeable beyond a certain point, but I'd assumed that Vulcan was free, but not democratic.
I don't think there's any evidence to support this inference. We know that during ENT, Vulcan was under the control of the High Command, their military, with the Administrator of the High Command serving as de facto military dictator. But "Home" and "The Forge" established that this was a new state of affairs -- that after the P'Jem institute, the First Minister (which is an alternate English term for a Prime Minister) was dismissed and the High Command seized power. And the High Command was dissolved at the end of "Awakening."

The ENT novels The Good That Men Do and Kobayashi Maru establish that the Confederacy of Vulcan is now under the control of a democratically-elected Vulcan Council, with the newly-restored First Minister serving as head of government. T'Pau is the current First Minister of the Confederacy of Vulcan as of mid-2155.

The fact that they are "logical" implies to me that they, perhaps more than a more "emotional" society, would be more willing to give up governance to the Oligarchy or Elders or Priests or whomever is most qualified, and not contest it.
Hardly. If anything, a more logical populace is more likely to recognize that most oligarchies or inherited elites (be they aristocrats or the mere rich) tend to be self-serving and are rarely more qualified that individuals who have achieved power democratically. Vulcans may have a stronger propensity towards representative democracy -- there may be far fewer popular referendums on Vulcan than on Earth, for instance -- but no rational populace would accept the fiction that the elites can be trusted to do what's best for us without democratic accountability.

Then there's the most basic problem of any non-democracy:

A government can only function with the consent or acquiescence of its population. But how can a non-democratic government maintain the support of its population, particularly if it does not have an external enemy to scapegoat, as a Federated Vulcan would lack? Logically, a government needs to renew its popular consent... which means democracy.
Democratic socialism is the hope of human freedom.
Sci is offline   Reply With Quote