2018-02-19 04:33:09 UTC
SF is full of interstellar states, up to and including some that include huge percentages of the galaxy, or all of it, such as the classic _Foundation_ series.
Now, obviously this only works if you have FTL travel (FTL communications other than travel are optional but very useful). But if you have fast enough FTL tech, there's no inherent reason why states couldn't come together across interstellar distances, just as current-day travel tech enables continent-wide or bigger states, at least in potential.
But, there are other issues with a galactic-scale state, such as complexity. Using Sagan's old figure of ~400 billion stars in the Milky Way, let us say for the sake of argument that one star in a thousand has a useful world that might be considered habitable for colonization. That leaves us with 400 million worlds.
(That's a conservative estimate, BTW because at high tech levels lots of different kinds of world could be useful for settlement. But assume 1/1000.)
Let us also say that our FTL tech is good enough that we can get from any point within the galactic disk to any other point within one Terran year, and it takes a Terran year to cross the disk from rim to rim. Just for illustration.
So if all 400 million worlds are part of the galactic union, how can they be plausibly governed? Representative democracy?You'd need an entire world just to house the legislature, if representation is no more than 1 to a world. If we subdivide the galaxy into smaller states of say 1000 worlds each, and each one gets 1 representative, that reduces our central legislature to a mere 400,000 members. Now all we need is a good-size city to house the legislature.
We could go old school, like Asimov, and posit an Emperor. The Emperor of the galaxy and his 400 million planetary dukes...
What SF writers have addressed this problem in a creative or halfway plausible way?
One is Lloyd Biggle, who wrote the Jan Darzek stories in the 1970s. He posits that the Milky Way is ruled by such a multi-world, multi-species state, and the practical governing is done by a planet-sized computer AI called Supreme. For practical purposes, Supreme is the galactic government, though there are bureaucratic organizations that serve it and a council that sort of supervises it. But in a society made up of millions upon millions of words and thousands of intelligent species, supervising it is kind of a hypothetical issue.