The potential political philosophy of the Empire

The Empire seems to be a mixture of the elements of the British Empire (ship names), Roman Empire (Senators, Patrons, Clients) and the Middle Ages (Imperial Navy Ranks). Yet it has a political system that has fundamentally novel ideas, not seen in those eras and it is also strange why they would be actually quite popular and considered by many a beacon of freedom.

In short, one element of their political philosophy may be "exit over voice".

The concepts of Exit and Voice were introduced by economist Albert O. Hirschman, read this for an introduction:,_Voice,_and_Loyalty


"The basic concept is as follows: members of an organization, whether a business, a nation or any other form of human grouping, have essentially two possible responses when they perceive that the organization is demonstrating a decrease in quality or benefit to the member: they can exit (withdraw from the relationship); or, they can voice (attempt to repair or improve the relationship through communication of the complaint, grievance or proposal for change). For example, the citizens of a country may respond to increasing political repression in two ways: emigrate or protest. Similarly, employees can choose to quit their unpleasant job, or express their concerns in an effort to improve the situation. Disgruntled customers can choose to shop elsewhere, or they ask for the manager.

Exit and voice themselves represent a union between economic and political action. Exit is associated with Adam Smith's invisible hand, in which buyers and sellers are free to move silently through the market, constantly forming and destroying relationships. Voice, on the other hand, is by nature political and at times confrontational."

To put it succintly, what we do here and now in modern countries and also probably the Federation does, too, namely: holding regular elections every few years elections, is Voice.

The Empire uses a system in which Senators set the tax rates and the services provided for their supporters who can choose to support one Senator or move to another any time, no need to wait for an electon. Thus it is more like choosing between competing companies, or moving to a different country with different tax levels and government services provided. Granted I am not sure what difference choosing a different Patron or Client under the same Senator makes to a citizen, but clearly by choosing the Client of another Senators' Patron a citizen can reduce his taxes or get better government services. In short it is like choosing from a competing market of insurance companies, it is Exit.

Is Exit or Voice better? Well, that really depends. Since Exit is very much the basic logic of the free market, and Voice is very much like the logic of democracy, if you are a fairly well-to-do person and want to get good services at a competitive price, if you want maximal efficiency, Exit is usually your friend. But if you are poor and need some kind of a basic social security net, like the NHS ensured healthcare, democracy and thus Voice is probably your friend.

Several Senators have actually reduced the tax rate of their supporters to zero. This is actually an expected outcome of the Exit competition: it is more efficient to pay directly for services, or get a specific insurance for each and every of your foreseeable problems than a flat rate for a complex bunch of services. Since Exit competition is all about efficiency, instead of a Senator (or the Federation) providing me an NHS type comprehensive health insurance (healthcare services), if I am a childless man who eats a lot of sugar can choose a cheaper insurance package from a cheaper provider which does not include childbirth but does include full dental including nice cosmetic dental stuff. So if there are ample private insurance companies the most competitive tax rate for health and similar services is always zero, as people will pick and choose instead of wanting a whole package, assuming of course that taxes only function as such insurance fees and not covering things like infrastructure or defense expenses. I don't really know how those Senators finance those expenses. Maybe from their private wealth.

If I am an entrepreneur selling mining lasers, I would probably want to set up shop in the jurisdiction in the zero tax rates Senator. Exit. But if I am poor and disabled, my best bet is rather Felicia Winters than Imperial Slavery (even though it is not really slavery: it is serfdom.)

Suppose, then, that the philosophy of the Empire is ROUGHLY comparable to the philosophy of modern day libertarians: they generally want small government, little intervention, low tax rates and laissez-faire. People with such views always figure in the long run that "Exit over Voice" - a term borrowed from University of Warwick philosopher Nick Land - is in their interest. (Albeit the Alliance sound like libertarians too!)

Does the rest of the their political system seem to ensure small government? Since Senators set and collect their own taxes, being effectively Private Government Service Providers, it sounds like they don't want a big government on the level of the Senate and Emperor as they would have to finance it, it would reduce their own tax incomes. Suppose there is a rule that Senators in favor of any new law must finance its enforcement, any new spending for a new government program comes out of the pocket of the supporting Senators. Since money they can spend is directly increases their power (money is power) while any common imperial policy is only indirectly contributing to their power, moreover Senators voting nay to any policy get to offer more attractive tax cuts or government services to their supporters, thus pledging to a lot of Imperial spending could mean their supporters evaporate and they are facing bankruptcy, I think Senators would be strongly incentivized to be in favor of small government.

Another potential danger is that Senators would support laws that are only sporadically enforced, thus spending money and yet being able to use those laws to oppress some people, undermine their enemies by selective enforcement. One possible solution is if they must finance the cost of enforcement but have no say in how much they are willing to spend on it, it would be determined by an entirely independent Executive branch enforcing every law professionally.

Which Executive branch would be rather obviously the Emperor. Since Senators are rich and powerful, a President would be a pawn in their hands. The Executive branch needs to be unusually powerful in such cases, which is represented by the title of Emperor.

The two common function of government is services and rule-enforcement. Services are something each Senator can provide on their own to their own supporters from the taxes he or she collects from them, Empire-wide rules are made by the Senate and enforced by the Emperor sending the bill for the cost of enforcement to the Senators who voted in favor of it. This would, again, ensure a fairly small government, Senators being vary to hand a blank cheque to the Emperor for enforcing new rules they fancy, they would most likely stick to mainly limited libertarian rules, like, prevent violent crime (space piracy) and fraud and not much else.

One example of an exception is in the I think already canonized Reclamantion novel, where there are strict rules about how to treat Imperial Slaves, work hours, safety, food, healthcare, free time, housing and even holidays off-planet and these are enforced by the agents of the Emperor. Clearly as Senators tend to be rich and own many Imperial Slaves their good treatment cannot be ensured by a Senatorial Committee, it would be undermined, bribed, intimidated etc. But when the Emperor's agents show up, even Senators tremble. I like to think that when pilots who pledged to serve the Emperor, like myself, deliver corruption reports, they are usually about protecting the rights of those clearly very vulnerable people.
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