"UFP" and "USA"

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by stupidname, Nov 17, 2007.

  1. stupidname

    stupidname Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 19, 2005
    The similarity between the names "the United Federation of Planets" and "the United States of America" has only recently occurred to me. Was the similarity deliberate? It makes allegory a bit more... obvious, I suppose.

    And I suppose this also relates to how Americanised the whole of Earth was. Something that is often understated as American viewers necessarily can't really have an objective view of it.

  2. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

    Nov 22, 2001
    Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
    It's sort of like asking why are Time Lords from Doctor Who so British. The obvious answer is that T.V. shows generally reflect the sensibilities of the country that produces it.

    The Federation definitely has some similarities to the United States, but it could also be said to have more in common with the United Nations in general. It's actually interesting that in Trek, the United States is generally mentioned in the past tense as if it no longer exists (as it currently stands) by the 23rd-Century, so I don't how American that can be, IMO...
  3. felixofgolden

    felixofgolden Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Apr 30, 2007
    Then shouldn't it be United Planets of the Federation?
    Really though it was more of a United Nations thing, but with planets instead of countries. Or the League of Nations in 1919.
  4. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

    Apr 29, 2005
    The US exists as a political entity until at least 2079 per the 53-star flag dialogue in the TNG ep "The Royale"
  5. Navaros

    Navaros Commodore Commodore

    Aug 15, 2005
    UFP is codespeak for USA in my view. Plus, by pretending all Earth cultures assimilated into USA culture, it means they don't have to bother to deal with any of the hard issues, like religious wars in the Middle East.
  6. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Mar 2, 2002
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    I think that the fairest thing to say is that the exact nature that the writers have intended for the UFP to have has evolved over time.

    When TOS first started, in fact, the writers hadn't invented the Federation yet. The Enterprise was described as being a "United Earth" starship in "The Corbomite Maneuver;" clearly, United Earth was the state that our heroes originally were envisioned as serving. The Federation and its Starfleet were first established in "Court Martial."

    In "Journey to Babel," we hear reference to tensions amongst the Federation's Members over whether or not Coridan will be added -- tension so high that it could apparently lead to war. The people making the decision over whether Coridan will be added are called "Ambassadors" -- suggesting that the Federation is now to be seen as a parallel to the United Nations.

    Throughout the course of TOS and the early TOS movies, however, we very clearly see that Starfleet is now regarded as a Federation organization -- setting the Federation apart from the United Nations, in spite of the intended allegory, by giving it an armed force and, thus, a legitimate authority to use violence, one of the primary characteristics of a state. So the allegory of "UFP = UN" is starting to bend here, and now the UFP is starting to resemble an interstellar state. The allegory is made all the more statist, so to speak, when we encounter non-Starfleet individuals who have the legal authority to place McCoy under arrest in Star Trek III, calling themselves "Federation Security," implying a Federation-level law enforcement organization. We further hear of a "Federation Council," but we hear very little of it.

    So, as with United Earth before it, no substancial information about the Federation that we might use to link it to any one particular modern state for allegorical purposes exists... until Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Here, we encounter for the first time an individual identified as the President of the United Federation of Planets. We see the President giving orders to the Federation Starfleet, and we see the Federation Council and President holding Admiral Kirk's court-martial. This starts to suggest the United States, at least insofar as they use both the American concept of a "president" and most of the characters retain American Midwestern accents. That the Federation Council has the authority to stand as jury in a Starfleet court-martial also suggests that the Starfleet exists because the Council has raised it -- in the same way that the armed forces of the United States exist because Congress has raised them. Still, we don't hear about the President or the Council making binding laws on Federation Members, or determining all foreign policy, and Star Trek IV also suggests that Kirk and Company were able to avoid being apprehended by the Federation simply by virtue of being on Vulcan -- a planet that is supposedly a Federation Member. This seems inconsistent with the idea of the Federation as a state, since, after all, one could not very well avoid capture by US Federal authorities just by hanging out in Massachusets.

    In Star Trek VI, however, the depiction of the Federation takes another step in the direction of "interstellar state," and starts to suggest a pseduo-American allegory. We see the Federation President conducting foreign policy towards the Klingon Empire on behalf of all Federation Member worlds, even negotiating and signing a binding peace treaty. The President is also the target of an assassination plot that the conspirators believe will lead to a war, in parallel with the assassination of the Klingon Chancellor, who is clearly the Klingon head of government. So the implication seems to be that the Federation President is both head of government and head of state.

    We also see the President more explicitly being depicted as having complete authority over Starfleet -- proposals are made to the President and not the full Council, further suggesting an American model (since, after all, the US armed forces are under the operation control of the US President and not the US Congress). Still, by this point, there have also been several examples of Starfleet taking orders from the full Council in TNG; this may be seen as contradicting an American model, or, at the very least, as complicating it.

    TNG, however, brings us a step further in the direction of "Federation as interstellar state" model when we see that the Federation Council, in "Forces of Nature," has declared a Federation-wide "speed limit" of Warp 5. We have previously seen the Council making decisions that are binding on Starfleet, but, if I recall correctly, this is the first time we see that the Council can make laws that are binding on everyone within the Federation. The legislative nature of the Federation Council is re-enforced with references to the Council debating over whether or not to ratify the Federation-Cardassian Treaty in TNG's "Journey's End;" treaty ratification, in addition to once again establishing the Federation's authority to conduct foreign affairs and making binding law over its Member worlds, treaty ratification is a clear trait of a state's legislature. With these episodes, then, it becomes clear that the Federation Council is a legislature.

    DS9 brings us back to a more explicitly American model. In "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost," the Federation Starfleet is once again depicted as answering primarily to the Federation President. When Sisko and Leyton propose an upgrade in Starfleet security and in security on Earth, they propose it to President Jaresh-Inyo, not the full Council. The President is also referred to as being Starfleet's "commander-in-chief," further suggesting an American model. Jaresh-Inyo is also referred to as the "elected President;" this would seem to clearly establish an American model, at least for the Federation Presidency, since the head of government in a parliamentary system is usually appointed from the parliament. (The State of Israel was a brief exception to this rule in the early 21st Century, when the Prime Minister was popularly elected.)

    On top of this, the Federation President -- in spite of his not being from Earth -- is clearly depicted as having the authority to place Earth, a Federation Member world, under martial law. This would seem to solidify the Federation-as-interstellar-state model, as opposed to a Federation-as-UN or Federation-as-alliance model; confederations and alliances do not have the authority to place their members under martial law and direct central control, but states do. NATO cannot place France under martial law -- but Great Britain can certainly place England under martial law, and apparently the Federation can place its Members under it, too.

    A later DS9 episode, "Extreme Measures," further establishes the existence of a Federation Cabinet. This would seem to be the final nail in the coffin of any view other than that of the Federation as an interstellar state; states have cabinets, alliances do not. This would be compatible with both a parliamentary or American-style presidential system of government, but previous evidence, as I outlined above, indicates an American-influenced model.

    One of the primary traits of a state is that all politics references or flows back to the state itself; authority is derived from the state. We've already seen other state-like traits by the time of TNG/DS9 -- it controls a specific territory, it has the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, it is recognized by other interstellar states such as the Klingon Empire, etc. The state nature of the Federation is further driven home in TNG/DS9 through numerous references to authoritative Federation governmental bodies:

    Archaeological Council
    Astronomical Committee
    Bureau of Agricultural Affairs
    Bureau of Industrialization
    Bureau of Planetary Treaties
    Central Bureau of Penology
    Department of Cartography
    Department of Temporal Investigations
    Naval Patrol
    Science Council
    Science Bureau

    Clearly, all relevant bureaucracy is built around the Federation by this point -- another clear trait of a state.

    Several episodes of TNG, DS9, and VOY also make reference to a Federation Constitution and a Federation Charter. The Federation Constitution is referenced in "The Drumhead" and "The Perfect Mate" (TNG); in "The Drumhead," it is established that the Constitution contains twelve "Gurantees" ensuring individual rights. The Seventh Guarantee is referenced, and it is clearly based on the United States Constitution's Fifth Amendment protecting suspects from being forced to give self-incriminating testimony. "Author, Author" (VOY) also refers to a Guarantee relating to artists' intellectual property rights. DS9's "Accession" establishes that the Federation Charter bans caste-based discrimination. Clearly, then, the Federation Charter/Constitution is at least in part inspired by the US Constitution.

    The Federation is also established to have a judicial system with ultimate power of judicial review in DS9's "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?". In that episode, Julian Bashir's father vows to fight the Federation-wide ban on genetic engineering "all the way to the Federation Supreme Court," further implying a US-style government.

    So over time, the depiction of the Federation changed from that of a UN-style organization to that of an American-style interstellar state. However, even in later films and series, the Federation is not strictly US-based. Why? The Federation Council is consistently depicted as having far more authority over the operations of Starfleet than the US Congress does over the American armed forces, and more influence over foreign affairs. In "Valiant (DS9)," the Federation Council sends a message to Ferengi Grand Nagus Zek proposing an alliance during the Dominion War; they have the power to serve as jury on court-martials in ST4; they give operational orders to the Enterprise crew in "The Defector" (TNG); they determine that the Founders will not be given the cure to the morphogenic virus in "The Dogs of War" (DS9). The US Congress, while active with oversight, does not have the kind of operational authority over the US armed forces that the Federation Council does over Starfleet (as current history is no doubt demonstrating). In the US system, there is a clear separation of powers, and operational control of the armed forces falls to the President (though Congress retains oversight rights). The lack of a clear separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches, and the increased involvement of the legislature over Starfleet, suggets parliamentary influences.

    So, to me, the implication would seem to be a primarily American-based model, with some parliamentary influences. Clearly, the President is popularly-elected, but, clearly, he must share more power with the Council -- and the Council with him -- than is typical in American presidentialism. It's obviously strongly influenced by the American government, but there's a distinct suggestion of parliamentary influences. Either way, though, the depiction of the Federation has generally remained consistent with the characteristics of constitutional liberal democracy (though, interestingly enough, it has never been established how members of the Federation Council are determined).
  7. stupidname

    stupidname Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 19, 2005
    That's an incredible reply. A great insight into the possible comparison between the USA and the UFP.


    But I was actually asking specifically about the phrases "United Federation of Planets" and the "United States of America". Whether the similarity between the structures was deliberate, to ease allegories, or whether it's a (fairly predictable) linguistic coincidence.

    Does anyone have any insight into that?
  8. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Mar 2, 2002
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland

    *shrugs* I suppose. It's hard to say. "United (Noun) of (Noun)" is a reasonably common construction for state names -- "United (States) of (America)," "United (Kingdom) of (Great Britain)," etc. The original name of the UN was "United Nations Organization," which is vaguely similar.

    Of course, there is a difference in the name of the UFP vs. USA. With the US, it's "Adjective" "Sub-state composition" of "Geographic Location." Whereas, with the UFP, it's "Adjective" "Government" of "Sub-state composition." For the UFP to more closely parallel the US's name structure, it would need to be something like the Federated Planets of the Alpha Quadrant or some such -- or, to put it another way, for the US's name to parallel that of the Federation, it would need to be the American Union of States.
  9. KDoug

    KDoug Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Nov 8, 2007
    Maryland, USA, Earth
    Absolutely. Another related question is if there's a United Earth, why are the vast majority of Humans in Starfleet Caucasian? After all, the largest racial group on Earth is Asian.

    The real-world answer is that, since Star Trek is made in the US, the racial makeup of the cast reflects the population of the US, not the whole Earth.
  10. M'rk son of Mogh

    M'rk son of Mogh Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 18, 2001
    Ontario, Canada
    United Nations of Earth
    United Federation of Planets

    You just see the USA similarity because it's an American show.
  11. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    ...One might also see a bit of "in-American" playfulness in this. Why, in the future we can have a Union and a (con)Federation in the same political entity!

    Timo Saloniemi
  12. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    I said out, dammit!
    They both have "united" in them.

    So what?
  13. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Oct 30, 1999
    Yep. Obvious.

    Earth = America
    UFP = UN
    Kirk = JFK

    From there you could go into all the Cold War analogies of how the Klingons are the Russians etc, but it was never all that direct and has changed a lot over time, so that the Klingons are now also Vikings, Spartans, Samurai and charming space pirates, which of course is good. Lockstep metaphors are boring and klunky. Mixing it up is more fun.

    The Cold War metaphors are just a starting point. The great thing about Star Trek is how the mythos can be added to over time, ideally without too much distruption to continuity. And that brings us around to Canon Wars...
  14. STARTREK11

    STARTREK11 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Sep 20, 2007
    we americans can only go upwards and forwards.


    we are an advanced race and we will achieve near god hood in an estimated 1000 years or even sooner as technological progress in america is advancing at an exponnential rate.

    already last month america has managed last week to teleport atoms through fibre optical cables.

    in a thousand years we will be so advanced that americans will almost certainly achieve godhood.

    once we achieve godhood we will make ABS worship us form their caves as punishment for their terrorist crimes.
  15. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Mar 2, 2002
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    Considering that no American in this thread has said anything that was particularly nationalistic, I'm not sure why you've chosen this thread as a forum to criticize American nationalism.
  16. Dorothy_Zbornak

    Dorothy_Zbornak Commodore Commodore

    Jul 14, 2004
    As a sidenote, it was called the 'Earth Federation' in "Friday's Child", which I always found interesting...
  17. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    ...But only after the Capellans (or their Klingon wormtongue?) had established the lingo. The Capellans considered Kirk and Spock "Earthmen" alike, and in Capellan view, the political power behind our heroes was "Earth", not the UFP. Had Kirk tried to argue the semantics, he'd have appeared even more of a wuss in comparison with the Klingon than he really was.

    Timo Saloniemi
  18. Plum

    Plum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Dec 28, 2004
    Out on the water...
    Brill work Sci. Terrific post! :) Except...

    Depends on where in Mass. :p

    The best part of your post is the progression from a more relevant concept of world government the old show was trying to convey and the digression into US allegory as opposed to UN council over the years. I do think the UN spirit was high around the time TOS was being made (the building in New York was opened in 1967 I believe). People forget how American the UN used to be, after all, Americans created it in the hope that the horror of WWII and any large scale war would be avoided. Star Trek mirrored that sympathy a lot, I feel. The guys who made that show knew what war was really all about, and peace was their answer. The UN was a hope for peace as well.
  19. timmy84

    timmy84 Commodore Commodore

    May 5, 2003
    I don't usually reference specific posters, but Sci, that was a great post. Very well written.

    The only thing I saw that I would argue with (a small point, and I only mention it because honestly, considering what the original poster was trying to discuss, I would rather discuss this) is I was under the impression the Federation President was elected by the Federation Council, not the Federation as a whole.

    It would make sense that way. Out of the major interstellar governments (which of course you believe the UFP is) it is also the largest. A democracy of that size for a single leader to be elected from would be daunting. Billions of people voting on someone. Even if a person attains a supermajority of the vote, billions and dozens of worlds would be disenfranchised in their leadership. And as you mentioned, Federation power seems to vary on a per world basis (more on that later).

    Of course, it hasn't been established that Federation Councilors (I believe thats their title) are elected, so being a democracy may only extend to planetary governments.

    And speaking of that, leads to a USA UFP comparison. Earth. From what we have seen, I am also of the opinion that Earth is what the District of Columbia was originally envisioned as within the US. A neutral region for the Federal government to convene. Not to the extreme (for example, since DC isn't a state, it does not get 10th Amendment protections), but it explains how the Federation President can declare martial law and have thousands of Starfleet officers deployed across the planet, while Kirk couldn't even be arrested on Vulcan.

    Sorry for detracting the original discussion. I just had to put this in.

  20. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Mar 2, 2002
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    Thanks to Plum and timmy84 for their kind words! :)

    True. I suppose it depends on whether or not the Vulcan government knew that Kirk and Co. were on the planet. It's entirely possible that the Temple authorities kept their presence quiet until Kirk and Co. had already communicated that they were returning to Earth for court martial.

    That's a really interesting point -- that at one time, the UN had major backing from the US, and was seen as being a very "American" institution. It's too bad that things have come to a point of late where the UN and US are so often seen as having contradictory goals, because I really think that at the end of the day, their basic goals -- the maintenance of international peace and the implementation of international law -- remain the same.

    Well, there's no direct evidence either way, canonically. Our only clues as to the president's determination come from "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" on DS9. The scripts contain the following information on the subject:

    From the script for "Homefront:"

    Then, towards the episode's finale:

    Later, in "Paradise Lost," we get this snippet of information:

    So, we see a consistent reference to the Federation President being elected.

    This, combined with the fact that the office is referred to as "President," strongly implies popular election. It doesn't establish it definitively, but -- a head of government who is determined by a legislature is usually called a "Prime Minister" or "Premier," not "President." In fact, usually when a head of government is determined by a legislature, there is a separate head of state -- usually a ceremonial monarch or elected ceremonial president -- who has the legal authority to formally appoint that head of government ("Prime Minister") on the basis of who can command the support of the majority of the legislature. That's why, for instance, Kevin Rudd of the Commonwealth of Australia is called "Prime Minister-designate" rather than "Prime Minister-elect."

    I'm not aware of any situation where someone whose full formal title reads "President of the [Formal Name of the State]" is actually determined by the legislature. The closest I can think of is the Italian Republic, where the Prime Minister's full title, translated to English, is "President of the Council of Ministers" (the Council of Ministers being the English translation of the formal name for the Italian Cabinet), in contrast to the Italian President, whose full title, translated to English, is "President of the Italian Republic." The President of the Italian Republic himself is popularly elected.

    The full title of the Federation President, for the record, was formally established as "President of the United Federation of Planets" onscreen in Star Trek IV, when the President gave a speech over subspace telling ships to stay away from Earth. What's interesting here, though, is that the character is referred to as "Council President" in the credits. The term "Federation Council President" or "President of the Federation Council" has no basis in dialoge or canon, but people have sometimes taken the obviously contradictory credits at face value. (One wonders if they also accept Star Trek VI's credits' misspelling of Uhura's name. ;) )

    So while the idea of the Federation President being elected by the Council is possible, I find it highly unlikely. The terminology is inconsistent, there are several references to his being elected, and there is no other head of state referenced who would be capable of appointing him on the basis of the majority of Councillors' confidence -- no Federation Monarch or Governor-General, so far as we know.

    The Federation government does bear resemblance to parliamentary systems insofar as the President and Council share much more power than under US-style presidential systems, but the preponderance of evidence seems to indicate US-style popular elections.

    True -- but, there again, presumably the UFP has the technology to efficiently count all the votes. (I mean, really, if they still haven't been able to come up with a reliable way to count by the 22nd Century, I'd be scared for the future of civilization!)

    Yes, but that's an inherent feature of any democracy, because, simply put, there's never going to be a situation where everyone gets their way or gets what they want. That's unavoidable, and it's there in both presidential and parliamentary systems. Even if someone gets a supermajority in the Federation Council (which would, under your scenerio, be more accurately called the Federation Parliament), for instance, there are still going to be billions of Federation citizens who would prefer that someone else be the Federation President (who would, under your scenerio, be more accurately called Federation Prime Minister). There's no system of government where the selection process for the head of government isn't going to lead to billions of people not being represented by the eventual leader.

    I'm not sure about that. It certainly seemed to when Star Trek IV was made, since the creative intents evolved over time, but the preponderance of evidence seems to point towards a federal republic-type of government, and I can think of a number of ways to reconcile the apparent discontinuity between ST4's having Kirk and Co. evade capture by staying on Vulcan and later films' and eps' depictions of the Federation as a more unified state.

    True. I think we can accept the term "Federation Councillor." It hasn't been canonically used, but it's often used in the novels, and I see no reason not to use it here.

    Well, I don't see any evidence that United Earth is meant to be seen as having any separate legal status than any other Federation Member. If nothing else, the ability of the Federation President to declare martial law on Earth but inability of the Federation government to force extradition of Kirk from Vulcan almost one hundred years earlier doesn't necessarily imply separate legal statuses. It can imply evolving realities of power politics as theoretical legal authorities become actual realities over time (just like the theoretically sovereign US government sometimes didn't have full control over its states until after the Civil War). Or it could imply that the Vulcan government was breaking Federation law. Or it could imply that the legal status of Vulcan is different from other Federation Members. And, on top of that, the President's ability to declare martial law on Earth doesn't imply an inability to do so on other Federation planets.

    If we start to go towards artistic intent, Ronald D. Moore, in posting about the writing of "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost," said this about the UE government and about the selection of Federation Presidents:

    So apparently the intent of the writers was that the President is popularly elected and that United Earth continues to exist within the UFP -- which is, after all, as its name dictates, a federation.

    If you're interested, a number of novels deal with the nature of the Federation and United Earth governments, and are quite good reads, in particular the following:

    * A Time to Kill by David Mack
    * A Time to Heal by David Mack
    * A Time for War, A Time for Peace by Keith R.A. DeCandido
    * Articles of the Federation by Keith R.A. DeCandido

    Kill establishes that Jaresh-Inyo was in the final year of his first term during "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost," and that Leyton's tricking him into declaring martial law led to the election of Federation Councillor Min Zife of Bolarus to the presidency, with his term commencing in 2373. Heal establishes that when the Federation President resigns or dies while in office, the Federation Council appoints one of their own as President Pro Tempore for one month, while a special election is called. War/Peace establishes that the President is popularly elected from a list of candidates submitted to the Federation Council. The full Council then votes on whether or not the candidates submitted are qualified and offers them official candidacy. Election Day involves every Federation citizen voting, and it takes a week to count all of the votes, with the count being conducted by two independent auditing firms. The President is elected for a term of four years, with no term limits, and works closely with the Council, appointing Councillors to the Council's various committees (referred to as "sub-councils").

    For more detail, read Memory Beta's article Federation Presidents.

    The ENT novel The Good That Men Do, by contrast, gives comparatively little info about United Earth's government, but it does establish that UE has a Prime Minister (Nathan Samuels), which is consistent with the short story "Eleven Hours Out" in Tales of the Dominion War. A related novel, Starfleet Corps of Engineers: The Future Begins, makes reference to a United Earth President, but this is consistent with the idea that UE is a parliamentary republic like Ireland or Italy.