Star Trek: STV – Where no referendum has gone before #startrekstv

May 6, 2009

First of all a confession, without any shame, I am a Star Trek geek.  I don’t dress up as a Klingon or anything, but I like it a lot.  So in the next week there are two exciting things going on: 1) the biggest election of my lifetime (so far) with a real chance to begin the process of electoral reform in Canada on May 12 and 2) the Star Trek prequel movie is coming out which could lead to the rebirth of a healthy Star Trek storyline.

Are these two passions related in any way?  Not really, but that won’t stop me! Because it occurred to me the other day that the electoral system that a society chooses to use says a lot about what they value in democracy and it influences the way their society grows by giving different incentives to leaders.  So, the thought experiment for Star Trek fans is, which electoral systems would the civilizations in the Star Trek universe use?

I’m going to tell you what I think but first we need a few ground rules.  Lets assume every Star Trek civilization has some form of representative democracy that involve an election system of some kind.  We’ll try to limit ourselves to existing electoral systems in use around the world or plausible ones that could be created.  Here is a map of electoral systems in use around the world right now and the wikipedia page on electoral systems to give you an idea of what they are.

I’ll update the page as I think of more and you should feel free to add comments here on what I got wrong or right or what the races I missed would use.  You can also join the discussion on twitter with #startrekstv.

Note: to star trek pedants, I realize star trek STV sounds like I may be talking about the “movie” Star Trek V: the Final Frontier, but since I have decided to ignore the entire existence of that horrible film and there is no reason to talk about said film I didn’t think it would be too confusing.

The Electoral Systems of the Races of Star Trek

Klingons – FPTP – Clearly the Klingons would use a single member plurality system, or First-Past-The-Post (FPTP), which is used currently in Canada, US, Britain, India and a few other places.  FPTP is winner take all, you don’t need consensus, or a majority you just need to be the strongest one in the room and the last one standing.  Is it an honourable system?  Its simple and I suppose it seems honourable if honour is equivalent to strength for you rather than wisdom or fairness.  In addition to FPTP used on Earth of course, the Klingons would not just throw away all the votes for the losing candidates, they’d have the losing candidates killed, fair’s fair.

Romulans – Closed List MMP – The Romulans are a logical bunch, a trait they got from their Vulcan ancestors, and they actually do have a democracy in Star Trek with a Roman style senate.  However, they don’t seem too interested in grass roots movements or losing control of the central levers of power. So it seems like the Romulans would use a robust proportional system that placates the people but then rig it so that they have as much control over who wins as possible.  One way to do that is to use a list proportional system like Mixed Member Proportional but instead of openly published lists, which is what we normally do on Earth and is  a good idea, the Romulans would have closed, secret lists chosen by the party.  Of course, in addition to that, the ‘parties’ in the Romulan Senate are probably just fronts that pretend to hate each other to convince the electorate there is competition.

Vulcans – ??? – I’m still undecided on what the  Vulcans would use. Vulcans are very logical so perhaps they’d use the most reasonable and logical system, STV.  But they probably aren’t actually interested in fairness as much as balance so they may aim for something that is less combatative than a standard electoral system, something that requires a great deal of consensus or even a unanimous vote.  One idea is that they would use an electoral college system that always requires unanimous votes.  Once a local representative is chosen they go to the central legislature and analyse policies until unanimity is reached.  One thing I’m sure of is they would not allow campaign advertising which tends to play on emotions or a long campaign period.  The various candidates would list their policies in detail.  Then all citizens would have a week to study them and then choose, without discussion, the most logical candidates.

Ferengi – Pure Capitrocracy – The Ferengi are definetly not interested in fairness, voter choice or even the most logical choice.  They want to be lead by those with the best business acumen who can increase the profits of the empire the most.  So, every four years the government would be replaced by the CEOs of the most profitable corporations of the previous four years. Ministerial jobs such as Environment would be selected based on the leading corporations from different industries such as resources and mining.

Borg – Continuous, Online Forced Consensus Voting – Ok, the Borg are a little different, they really do vote I’m sure. Its a plurality system, sort of.  Once more than half the collective decides, “one drone one vote”, then all other drones who disagreed are reprogrammed to agree with the decision. So after the fact it is always a completely unanimous democracy, ‘perfect’ as the Borg would say.

Humans/Federation – STV – The Federation of United Planets is primarily interested in fairness, equality and hearing all voices.  Despite accusations of being a ‘Homo Sapiens only club’ they would want broad representation of the many varied viewpoints on each planet and across the federation.  So clearly they would want a largely proportional system that also has local representation.  Each planet would need to send multiple representatives so that they are not viewed through a single, oversimplying stereotype.  Decisions in the government would be made using a parliamentary system where a majority rules but the majority would need to be formed through consensus and coalitions between individual representatives from different worlds or multi-world parties if these formed.

Now, what do you think?  I left out a lot of civilizations and I’m sure you disagree with something in my analysis, let me know.

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4 Responses to “Star Trek: STV – Where no referendum has gone before #startrekstv”

  1. Tide Waters Says:

    This is terrific, Mark. And yes, I confess to being a Trekker. Love the philosophical explorations, especially the ones that came up in The Next Generation series.

  2. Ragnar Says:

    Bajorans are obviously a devoutly religious race who use a simple democratic facade which is probably a fptp westminster kinda system but in reality they are actualy a theocracy much like Iran. While they have a elected officials representing civil authority they must be endorsed by religious councils and can be over ruled or interfered with at any time by their Kai (Ayatolaah) by passing or voiding laws , proclaiming Fatwas or simply speaking out against their civil leaders

  3. Dan Says:

    Shouldn’t borg be at-large/block vote?

  4. Mark Crowley Says:

    Good one Dan, I hadn’t thought of that


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