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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > Star Trek - Original Series

Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old July 30 2012, 01:21 AM   #1
Captain Shatner
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Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Point?

What is the Federation's system of government in Kirk's day? And what parallel track did history follow to reach that point?

We know, at any rate, that Soviet Russia must have survived into Kirk's day, even as a sub-state of the Federation. Chekov refers to Leningrad (modern-day St. Petersburg), which would indicate the the Soviet Regime had at least a nominal voice in the Russian government. Obviously, the Federation as a whole is a democracy founded on American ideals, as demonstrated in the episode "The Omega Glory," Kirk can even recite parts of the Constitution! Their history must have diverged from our own after the 1960s, because in the episode "Assignment: Earth," no visible difference can be seen. Obviously, Khan came out of the "Genetic Wars" placed sometime in the 1990s. Science seems to advanced hugely in some areas (interstellar travel!) and yet remained oddly primitive in others (tape-based computers?) Also, the Federation, for all its talk of equal rights of races, seems oddly dominated by humans. Consider the fact that Spock is the only non-Terran serving on the Enterprise!
Given the evidence, in comparison with later series, I would say the Terran Federation is not quite the ultra-pure democracy it is made out to be! Not only do Terrans dominate the corridors of the Enterprise, but every other ship that is seen in TOS has, (at the very least) a human captain.
I would also conclude that history probably diverged around the 1970s, with a scientific emphasis on physics over computerization.
Please reply, either if you agree with me or don't. I am always open to new evidence.
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Old July 30 2012, 02:09 AM   #2
BillJ
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

Captain Shatner wrote: View Post
Also, the Federation, for all its talk of equal rights of races, seems oddly dominated by humans. Consider the fact that Spock is the only non-Terran serving on the Enterprise!
Other Vulcans serving on the Enterprise is mentioned in the episode "Journey to Babel".
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Old July 30 2012, 02:19 AM   #3
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

There are many flavors of democracy in the real world, and the Federation seems to be one of them. But, I don't think there's any canonic evidence that it's a "pure democracy."

Doug
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Old July 30 2012, 02:25 AM   #4
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

Doug Otte wrote: View Post
There are many flavors of democracy in the real world, and the Federation seems to be one of them. But, I don't think there's any canonic evidence that it's a "pure democracy."

Doug
Do we have any real evidence of what type of government the Federation has? I know we all assume it's democracy, but I can't ever remember any direct references.
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Old July 30 2012, 05:15 AM   #5
T'Girl
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

In Errand of Mercy, Kirk informs Kor that the federation is a "democracy."

But (as previously noted) democracy can take many forms, so while the federation council might operate as a simply democracy, one vote per member, or one vote per species, the various member star systems could have a wide variety of government types. Ardana obviously wasn't a democracy, but is a federation member in good standing.

Kirk can even recite parts of the Constitution!
Kirk was from iowa, an American state, so while he could recite the constitution of the land of his birth, could Kirk have recited the equivalent document from another nation on Earth, or from another planet?

tape-based computers
Actual make a certain amount of sense. Right from the first pilot, we see alien cultures being able to access the Enterprise's computers, keeping some information (obviously not all) physically separate from the computer on individual drives ("tapes") would prevent them from being casually read if the computers aboard the Enterprise were to be hacked.

In TNG and VOY, look how often information is physically walk around the ship on handheld Padds, instead of being messaged electronically.

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Old July 30 2012, 06:02 AM   #6
Hugh Mann
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

I always assumed that the Federation was simply a United Nations writ large; each member state is largely left to its own internal machinations, with the caveat that it probably has to adhere to certain benchmarks for things like individual freedoms and whatnot. Starfleet should be a force maintained through mutual contribution from all the Federation's constituent members, like a UN Peacekeeping force, but with teeth.
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Old July 30 2012, 10:47 AM   #7
Timo
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

Chekov refers to Leningrad (modern-day St. Petersburg), which would indicate the the Soviet Regime had at least a nominal voice in the Russian government.
Huh? Does the survival of Berlin and the honoring of the city by the naming of the lunar colony New Berlin establish a continuing Nazi regime?

More specifically, "St. Petersburg" doesn't stand proof to a Czarist regime today, even if the fond reference clearly is to Peter the Great rather than the biblical figure.

Obviously, the Federation as a whole is a democracy founded on American ideals, as demonstrated in the episode "The Omega Glory," Kirk can even recite parts of the Constitution!
He can also quote Shakespeare, which doesn't mean he'd be in favor of unconstitutional monarchies and patricide.

As pointed out, he does say once (!) that the Federation (or perhaps Starfleet?) is a democratic body. This is stated to create a contrast to what the Klingon Empire is, though - so perhaps it doesn't amount to much. North Korea would be democratic in comparison with the Klingon Empire, or what Kirk thinks the Empire is like.

Their history must have diverged from our own after the 1960s, because in the episode "Assignment: Earth," no visible difference can be seen.
Nor in the episodes and movies taking place in the 1980s or the 1990s or the 2000s or the 2010s. Various differences are mentioned in dialogue, though.

Also, the Federation, for all its talk of equal rights of races, seems oddly dominated by humans.
Where is the concept of equal rights of races mentioned in TOS? Or in TNG, for that matter?

As for "true democracy", it we ignore the historical references (rule by demos, the warrior council) and go by modern semantics, this would mean that everybody gets to vote on things. No nation today practices such a thing: people generally vote for representatives, and on certain extremely rare occasions on issues, and there is no guarantee that their vote would give them any influence over any issues in either case. It's also always impossible to vote against representatives.

Democracy, or having a say through vote, is implemented through various structures that limit the right to have a say through vote. As said, there's quite a bit of democracy in North Korea in that sense, then. But we never hear of UFP citizens voting on anything, and the only things we know have been voted on at all (Starfleet inner circle votes notwithstanding) were Coridan membership in "Journey to Babel" and Jaresh-Inyo's presidency in "Homefront", neither of which involved citizens explicitly.

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Old July 30 2012, 06:31 PM   #8
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

Jaresh-Inyo said he was "elected," but by whom? If it was just the members of the council, without any input by the populace, then that would be a democracy of sorts. But we've never heard any one of our hero speaking of a general election by the populace of the total federation.

Laxana Troi (sp?) seemed to have obtain her ambassador's position by way of her family's prominate place in Betazed society. So perhaps Betazed is ruled by a unelected aristocracy.

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Old July 30 2012, 07:01 PM   #9
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

The one reason we might think Jaresh-Inyo was elected by a public vote is that later on, he expresses the feeling that he is content to "represent his people" (supposedly, the Grazerite culture, although plausibly it might be a political party unrelated to cultures or species, too). Perhaps he feels indebted to his voters? But this is never directly stated.

Star Trek technology would certainly allow people to vote rapidly and comprehensively on a variety of issues, from grand to trivial. Say, the decision to essentially commit an act of war in "Redemption" (the blockade of the Klingon border against Romulan intrusions) might have been asked from the UFP Council by Starfleet, but ultimately voted upon by the UFP citizenry, in real time via an internet-like system. I rather doubt this is the case,t hough.

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Old July 30 2012, 07:43 PM   #10
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

I always assumed the UFP to be a confederation, not a democracy.
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Old July 30 2012, 07:51 PM   #11
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

BillJ wrote: View Post
Captain Shatner wrote: View Post
Also, the Federation, for all its talk of equal rights of races, seems oddly dominated by humans. Consider the fact that Spock is the only non-Terran serving on the Enterprise!
Other Vulcans serving on the Enterprise is mentioned in the episode "Journey to Babel".
Not to derail this conversation, but....

CHAPEL: I've checked the blood bank. There isn't enough Vulcan blood and plasma to even begin such an operation of this type.
KIRK: There are other Vulcans aboard.
SAREK: My blood type is T-negative. Somewhat rare, even for a Vulcan.

(I think that Kirk might simply be referring to the Ambassador and to his two Vulcan aides who accompanied him on board--not to some crewmembers.)

And now back to the topic....
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Old July 30 2012, 07:52 PM   #12
Timo
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

What is "a democracy"? It's not among the types of government currently in existence. We have republics (with and without constitutionality), which limit democracy by channeling it through representation, and we have constitutional monarchies, which do the same but also limit monarchy through representation. We then have various other systems where democracy is even further limited by giving the voter a limited access to choosing the representation. But we have no system where representation would be bypassed the old Greek way and actual voting influence over issues granted to the general population. The last nation-sized true democracy probably died back when nations grew to be larger than ten thousand people in size...

KIRK: There are other Vulcans aboard.
Agreed that this probably refers to the delegates, as many a Spock-centric episode previously hinged on Spock being unique.

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Old July 30 2012, 08:34 PM   #13
Doug Otte
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

Timo wrote: View Post
But we have no system where representation would be bypassed the old Greek way and actual voting influence over issues granted to the general population. The last nation-sized true democracy probably died back when nations grew to be larger than ten thousand people in size...
In the USA, we have the growing annoyance of ballot referenda. We great unwashed are faced with a huge list of complicated and vague initiatives to buy bonds to increase the library budget, etc. without knowing the background or details.

Sometimes, the referendum just forces a bill to go before the legislature; other times, it actually enacts law.

The original design to have an indirect democracy was wise...

Doug
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Old July 30 2012, 09:33 PM   #14
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

Captain Shatner wrote: View Post
We know, at any rate, that Soviet Russia must have survived into Kirk's day, even as a sub-state of the Federation. Chekov refers to Leningrad (modern-day St. Petersburg), which would indicate the the Soviet Regime had at least a nominal voice in the Russian government.
Not really, as much as the current naming St.Petersburg would indicate that Russia is currently headed by a Czar (well, given Putin's propensity, not the best analogy, I know...). Maybe in the next 300 years the city is again renamed, not to honour the Soviet leader, but the Battle of Stalingrad against the forces of Nazism. We just don't know.

Captain Shatner wrote: View Post
Obviously, the Federation as a whole is a democracy founded on American ideals, as demonstrated in the episode "The Omega Glory," Kirk can even recite parts of the Constitution!
Again, not really. Due to widespread pop culture, I can quote parts of the US Constitution, and I'm not even American nor I live in a country founded on "American ideals".

Captain Shatner wrote: View Post
Given the evidence, in comparison with later series, I would say the Terran Federation is not quite the ultra-pure democracy it is made out to be!
It would be useful if you defined what you mean by "pure democracy".

T'Girl wrote: View Post
tape-based computers
Actual make a certain amount of sense. Right from the first pilot, we see alien cultures being able to access the Enterprise's computers, keeping some information (obviously not all) physically separate from the computer on individual drives ("tapes") would prevent them from being casually read if the computers aboard the Enterprise were to be hacked.

In TNG and VOY, look how often information is physically walk around the ship on handheld Padds, instead of being messaged electronically.
Good point. The same was seen in the recent Battlestar Galactica, with corded phones and no computer networks.

Jptrekker wrote: View Post
I always assumed the UFP to be a confederation, not a democracy.
The form of government and the set-up of the state are not the same thing. A state can be both a confederation (a confederated union of sovereign states) and a democracy.
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Old July 31 2012, 12:39 AM   #15
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Re: Is the Federation a True Democracy? And How Did It Reach That Poin

About St. Petersburg/Leningrad...

We don't have to take this as proof that the Soviet Union still existed in Trek's timeline past 1991, or even that the city's named reverted at some point to Leningrad, as in modern-day Russia, the oblast (federal district) is still called Leningrad. We can just say that Chekov was referring to the Oblast. AFAIK the few other times Leningrad is referred to could also be taken to refer to the Oblast.

Furthermore, many people in Russia continue to refer to the city in casual conversation as Leningrad, in much the same way that many people in the former South Viet Nam still refer to their old country's capital as Saigon despite the name change to Ho Chi Minh City. We could just assume that this pattern will continue into the future.

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