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Me and my friend have a story we are working on, and in this story are alien civilizations that are around 500 or so years more advanced tham humans, one of these civilizations only has one country that is ruled by a sort of parliament like political party.

I wonder, is that actually believable that species would come together like that and only have one country? (P.s. there are regions just like in a normal country, but it is just names given to different regions and nothing more)

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    $\begingroup$ You mean how the European Union has a parliament of its own besides each country's legislative bodies, but on a planetary level? If so, remember that in the Star Wars canon the federation had a galactic parliament in Coruscant. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2022 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, why not? Not all species are as quarrellsome as Homo Sapiens. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2022 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ @DuncanDrake Which species is less quarrelsome than Homo Sapiens? (You should probably give an example from among those that build civilizations, since that's part of the question.) $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Nov 28, 2022 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Jedediah Ehhh the Salmaza Nahari of Kepler-62f for instance. OP is looking for alien civilization. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2022 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ Is it believable that multiple family groups would ever unify under one tribe? Or multiple tribes into one city? Or multiple cities into one kingdom? Or multiple kingdoms into one empire? Or multiple distinct USA colonies into one Federal Republic? Or multiple competitive (and often enemy) European nations into one European Union? The trend of history (possibly unfortunately?) is towards centralized power, and technology makes greater distances "smaller" in terms of administration, making larger areas less unstable to rule. $\endgroup$
    – Jamin Grey
    Nov 29, 2022 at 6:19

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Meeting other aliens could have prompted unification.

Look at California and Texas. Or Scotland and England. Or Bavaria and Westphalia. They are part of the US, UK, and Germany, respectively, because their similarities outweigh their differences, compared to the other nations around them.

Now imagine your aliens, trading and talking with each other, and making a big deal out of the fact that some tend to a different eye color and skin tone than the others. Oh, and the foreigners drive on the wrong side of the road, and attach ceremonial duties to hereditary nobility rather than an elected officials. Plenty to get chauvinistic about.

And then suddenly a starship shows up, and the people in it -- they have to admit, they are people -- have not just different eye color but a different number of eyes. Makes those internal differences seem petty, right? The other aliens are offering to sell nifty technology, but it looks as if they're playing various nations against each other. How long until the global coordinating bodies become a real world government?

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    $\begingroup$ Or how the British went from complaining about the no-good Irish to singing about how valiant the Irish were when the greater threat of Germany came along. Obvious survival-is-at-stake foreign threats trump domestic ones, and often unify multiple people groups, sometimes with enduring unity, sometimes just until the crisis has passed. $\endgroup$
    – Jamin Grey
    Nov 29, 2022 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ Agreed, if it occurs, it will likely be a global federal state that will have powers that deal with matters that are interplanetary in nature, while interplanetary would be handled by more regional governments (national, sub-national, local). $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Nov 29, 2022 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ Should also be pointed out that the UK is not an example of this. England and Scotland became "Britain" and later "The United Kingdom" when the King of Scotland and the King of England became the same person (King James I). California and Texas were briefly independent nations that for reasons willingly allowed their annexation into the United States. Not sure on the Bavaria and Westphalia situation. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Nov 29, 2022 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @hszmv: After 1603, England and Scotland were officially separate countries (with separate parliaments, currencies, and militaries) that had the same monarch (King James). It was only in 1707 that the (United) Kingdom of Great Britain became a thing. $\endgroup$
    – dan04
    Nov 29, 2022 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ @hszmv: There is no such thing as the "Parliament of England". (Fun fact: of the four natilons which make up the United Kingdom, England is the only one which does not have a national parliament.) By the Acts of Union (1707), the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland were merged into a unified Parliament of Great Britain; three centuries later, a separate Parliament of Scotland was recreated, but there still is no Parliament of England. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 30, 2022 at 5:38
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The Roman civilization at the time of the empire was ruled under a single nation, the Roman Empire. And they were more advanced than most of their neighbors.

So, yes, it's definitely possible for an entire civilization to be ruled under a single nation.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, from the 1st century BCE onwards the Roman Empire became almost synonymous with the entire Hellenistic civilization, Roman, Greek, or more or less Romanized or Hellenized. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 28, 2022 at 19:53
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Only if acted on by an outside threat

One of the hallmarks of intelligent life is that we learn things we do not naturally know from our environment and the people around us. This means that people who occupy the same social spaces and face the same environmental factors will learn different things than other people raised in other environments and around other people. This is an unavoidable fact of how intelligence works. No matter how alien a society is too us in thier general values, logic, and technology, the divergence of cultures is inevitable.

Another unavoidable aspect of intelligent life is selfishness... at least if said intelligent life is the result of evolution. Evolution requires that all organisms prioritize thier own genetic survival above the genetic survival of others. There are many cases where this means that the survival of kin can hold a higher importance than personal survival, but any organism that does not act in a selfish (or at the very least racist) way is at a competitive disadvantage because they are more likely to sacrifice thier life for other bloodlines that are not so selfless creating a more selfish next generation.

This means that for any planetary/interplanetary government to exist, you must accept the likelihood that it embodies many different cultures and ethnicities. This is not a problem really, there are many large nations like that today, but they only exist because of the existential threat that they pose to one another.

Fundamentally speaking, governments provide 3 services: Law, Welfare, and Protection.

When it comes to Law, many small nations is preferable to a single big one. Because your species is made up of many cultures, different regions will develop different value systems; so, the bigger your government gets, the harder it is to pass laws that will not incite rebellion. Take the United States for example. Each individual state is generally able to agree on the kinds of laws that should govern each state, but the supremacy of Federal Law has been a huge destabilizing factor since the signing of the US Constitution. Every time the Federal Government tries to regulate anything like Abortion, Gun Control, Socialized Medicine, etc... it becomes hugely divisive and risks secession and civil war as one culture or group of cultures imposes its values over another. Right or wrong, it is more stable to let each culture write thier own laws.

Welfare is also preferable at a small scale. Some cultures will inevitably become more prosperous than others which results in asymmetric costs. Because evolved intelligent life is inherently selfish, no intelligent being would want to pay into a welfare system to support people other than self and kin unless there was a perceived likelihood that such cost would be repaid. This is not just personal welfare but also includes things like one state bearing the burden of another state's debts, one company baring the tax burden to bail out another company, one state investing in another's infrastructure, etc. Alternatively, when you have a Federal system that refuses to redistribute the wealth, the poorer classes of people become angry, like how you see low income communities get upset about the lower quality of thier education. If your local economies are all in perfect balance, then Federal Welfare makes since, but when they become imbalanced it also provokes secession and civil war as one culture or group of cultures becomes parasitic to another.

Protection is the only core function of government where bigger is truly better. Not only does a larger federation allow you to add together the resources of many regions to form a bigger and stronger army, but it also allows you to combine the best of many cultures. One region may provide the best soldiers, another the best weapons, another the needed economic and logistical backing, etc. So, 50 regions united under 1 government can be much stronger than the sum of all 50 regions acting on thier own.

... and this is where the outside threat becomes so important. If an alien species were alone in the universe, then as it approaches total unity, the value of military protection goes down, meaning that all the government has left to offer is Law and Welfare. This is extremely unstable, and can only lead to secession or civil war. So for an entire species with all of its different ethnicities and cultures to unite under one government, and stay that way for any significant period of time, there needs to be an outside threat powerful enough to make everyone willing to give up the benefit of many smaller governments.

Possible Exceptions

There are 2 possible types of intelligence that might be alien enough to prefer global unity: Hive minds and AIs.

If all members of your species are part of a single hive mind, then there will only ever be one opinion about anything. In this case, there is no need for a government in the traditional since at all because all actions will be the result of a consensus. If you entire society decides today that that speed limit on the highway should be 120kph instead of 110kph, then no need for Law to enforce this choice because everyone already agrees it is the thing you should do, and if some people live in squalor, then everyone suffers; so, the consensus will do what it can to fix the problem. So, the functions of government that don't scale up well with individuals, are built in when your whole species thinks and acts as one.

Non-hive minded AI could also achieve a singular government because it does not need to defined by evolution. AI can be 100% altruistic; so, even if AI creates a lot of different cultures, they could all value each other enough to see welfare alone as reason enough to have a global government, and not become resentful about any imbalances.

While it is also technically possible for a totalitarian government to subjugate an entire species, but for the reasons mentioned above, this could only be a temporary and very unstable solution. No matter how many tools the government has at its disposal for keeping the people subjugated, you can only oppress the people for so long before somewhere in the collective intelligence of everyone below you, someone figures out a way to effectively depose you.

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  • $\begingroup$ Every independent and sovereign state with the ability to make war is a threat to eery other independent and sovereign state with the ability to make war. Any two independent and sovereign states which are incontact with each other will eventually go tot war with each other. The difference betweeen independent and sovereign states and dependent and nonsovereign states is that the independent and sovereign states have the power to make war. There will never be peace in a civiization or planet until it has one government over it. $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2022 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding Dependent and non-sovereign states also have the power to go to war, as do angry masses with no formal statehood. Since the end of WWII, civil and colonial wars have been far more common world wide than wars between different states. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_war#/media/… and more people have been killed in civil/colonial wars than inter-state wars images.angelpub.com/2016/01/35396/longpeace.png $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Nov 29, 2022 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the number of countries world-wide has been steadily increasing over the past 70ish years suggesting the increase in inter-state peace leads to the dissolution of large nations. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Nov 30, 2022 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki suggest rephrasing "only if acted on to an outside threat". The foundation for the EU was the European Coal and Steel Community, which was created voluntarily by those nations involved in the Second World War to try and prevent another war between them. It has worked very well so far, and disproves the argument that "only" an outside force can unite peoples. $\endgroup$
    – user20787
    Dec 1, 2022 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ @inappropriateCode The EU actually proves my point. Britain choose to leave almost immediately after the EU was formed when they realized the asymmetric welfare problems. They already had a strong economy; so, the EU hurt their economy. Also "to try and prevent another war between them" constitutes an external threat. At the time the EU was formed, the threat of war was real. If all perceived threats wain, the stability of the EU will wain with it as other richer nations will eventually also have more reasons to leave than to stay. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Dec 1, 2022 at 16:08
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Yes. One of the major themes in the work of the sinologist Lucian Pye is that "China is a civilization pretending to be a nation-state". He says that in a 1998 lecture available here, though I believe he first stated it, in a rather less quotable form, in his 1968 book The Spirit of Chinese Politics. And this is not the view of some crank; it's often one of the first ideas introduced in Western courses on Chinese history or politics (for example here).

Whether he is right at any particular point in time is debatable. On the one hand, you could note that in 1968 there existed two Chinese states (the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China); on the other hand, both of them adamantly insisted that there was only One China and made that central to their identity.

But the widespread reception and diffusion of the late Dr Pye's analysis shows that the idea was believable, so the answer to your question is "yes".

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    $\begingroup$ There are still two Chinese states. $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2022 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ I have grave concerns about factual accuracy for your linked course. Any claim about "longevity" ignores complete domination and replacement of the entire ruling hierarchy and principles of governance during the time of the Mongols, for starters. It's a not-infrequent observation of academia that the existence of a concept in academic circles does not necessarily make that concept correct or valid in reality. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Nov 29, 2022 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @StigHemmer That is a disputed point not relevant to this answer. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Dec 3, 2022 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham We don't need to consider here whether the claim is factually accurate. For my argument, we only need to note that Dr Pye's claim was considered worthy of inclusion in a course at a respectable university, and therefore "believable" (to use the word in the question). $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Dec 3, 2022 at 8:29
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Is it possible? We don't know. We have yet to accomplish it.

Unless you've not included some details, what you're talking about is a planetary (or bigger) government.

If you think about it, what's the difference between what you're looking for and the United States or the European Union? It's impractical not to have regional government. Cities have codes, Counties have codes, States have codes, Countries have codes, the Planet has codes.

What's changing? You're not using the word "countries" anywhere because here on Earth the word "country" has ethnic, racial, and political connotations. Your question does suggest some other questions:

  • Can one species have one or no religion?
  • Can one species have one or no political ideologies?
  • Can one species have one or no nationalities or regional cultures?

Here on Earth, the answer isn't just "no," it's "heck, no!" But that doesn't mean your civilizations can't.

So, as I said, you have a planetary government. It looks a bit like the United States or the European Union, only bigger and with none of the traditional competition for sovereignty. It means your species is capable of getting along better than ours is today — which has its own implications!

And those implications should be thought through by you. It's hard to imagine on the proverbial world with eight billion souls there isn't a single unhappy, grumpy, or selfish being. Because if you do have even one unhappy, gumpy, or selfish being, you have the seeds for sedition.

Mazel'tov! The nature of political representation is that it's not impossible to have a single planetary government, but it's unlikely that it wouldn't be constantly fighting partisans.

So the answer might be no... but don't let that stop you.

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There is no obvious upper limit on the size of a single nation state. The entire earth has never been under one government, but how could we know it to be impossible? We could even imagine the UN evolving into a world government. But maybe there's some reason it's impossible - earth is the only example of a world we know about, and we've never had a world government.

What we do know for sure is that you will be in good company if you write a novel with worlds under single governments. They are everywhere. Often they are bigger than a single world, but if you accept that, you have to buy single-world governments too. Consider the Federation of Planets, or Dune, or Earth and Mars in the Expanse series, or actually in any number of other works where those two planets (for instance) find themselves in conflict.

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Yes

We have accomplished it several times in our past.

When communication and travel were both much more primitive, a civilization could be viewed as "everyone you know about or can reach."

At one time, there were several villages that were all of civilization and they had a single government. Then we had the Romans as L.Dutch mentioned and the ancient Chinese, and the Mongolians (who came closest, I think), and Alexander the Great's empire. There are likely several others but you get the point.

Then, if you play with the definition civilization, you could say that the ancient Chinese definitely achieved it since they thought that their culture was the only one that was civilized. Therefor they had a single government that spanned all of civilization.

Also, you assume human motivation for aliens. Maybe their defense against predators and other threats was through cooperation and/or herd like behavior. If anything not of the herd was a threat then they would destroy or assimilate the threats.

Note that I don't think that it is likely that a group survives long enough to become a civilization without having to compete against each other for scarce resources but it might happen.

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Cultural Unification

Maybe it's piling on at this point, but I felt the other answers weren't quite hitting the target, which is that this should happen naturally if there is sufficient cultural unification. Some mentioned the "outside threat", which is a good trope to ensure unification happens, but I'm not sure it's necessary.

By cultural unification I mean that one culture begins to dominate the species. I believe we see the beginnings of that now, on Earth, with America, mainly because they are the largest producer of mass media (particularly television shows and movies), such that it's not unusual to talk to someone from Bulgaria or the Philippines or wherever and of course they are familiar with American music, television and movies. It's nearly unavoidable. There is, of course, in some places, staunch and very intentional resistance to American cultural pressure but the fact that the pressure exists is just a reality. It's easy to imagine that in 500 years, one culture dominates the world (the Chinese Communist Party, for example, would greatly prefer it is their culture, and not America's that dominates, thus "culture wars" are real, too).

This should escalate as technology improves.

500 years ago, global cultural pressure didn't really exist because you could hardly travel from one culture to another, much less spread mass media. Cultural unification was limited to a relatively local level. 50 years ago, radio, television, books, magazines, movies, etc, allows cultural pressure to push a lot harder and a lot farther. 20 years ago, the internet really expands on cultural pressure. Now imagine there's futuristic cheap transportation that can take you 2000 miles in a couple of hours (or instantly via teleportation). Or "hyperspace communication" that allows a totally latency-free internet regardless of distance.

As technology connects people, cultural unification becomes more probable. It's the same pressure that allows single countries to come together, only now it encompasses the entire species even more easily than it used to encompass, say, France.

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Unclear. Probably not. How about a global E.U.?

How do large nations form?

  • The large empires in the past were the result of conquests. Alexander the Great, the Romans, Genghis Khan: They all conquered and subjugated other peoples. This is one conceivable way to unite a planet under an autocratic rule. But only the Roman Empire existed close to its largest extent for more than a few decades. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Romans were good technicians and bureaucrats: Transport, communication and administration are core requirements for a sustained large-scale rule. A future civilization should have no trouble in that department. It probably helps if the new "administration" does a better job than the various old ones and living conditions are better.
  • Modern large nations that are or were not democracies, like the Soviet Union and China, are held together with varying amounts of force. If and when the center collapses, as it happened with the Soviet Union, the periphery strives for independence from the empire which they perceive as an oppressor.
  • The only large democracy, the USA, are an essentially voluntary union. Even though secession is not tolerated, as the Civil War shows, it probably would be difficult to prevent a determined state from seceding today. It is notable that the states forming the U.S. are fairly autonomous. A voluntary union has advantages concerning travel, trade, and defense. Americans like to emphasize that their union is based on a common ideal, perhaps an American "spirit" of freedom and opportunity for all.

Your best bet is a global autocratic government which simply conquered the other nations. It should not be too cruel and still grant local autonomy, much like the USSR, in order to survive long-term.

But what are the chances to have a global union of states under a central democratic government? A common ideal with which people can identify would help. A central government which is perceived as just, and living conditions that are better than with the previous nation states, would help as well. The constituting states will likely have a lot of autonomy in regulating their own affairs. Especially the requirement that people must perceive a benefit from a central government makes me skeptical. Even in moderately-sized nations, like Spain or Great Britain, there are substantial regional independence movements because people are unhappy with the central rule.

One path to a global democracy could be a previous global crisis which the old nation states were unable to handle. Perhaps the current trend of indifference or outright rejection of democracy would lead to the rise of local, cruel, incompetent autocrats. The effect would be unhappy societies held in check by secret police, trade barriers, local wars, poverty and famines. A prospering union of free states with free citizens could have an allure which is stronger than nationalist delusions.

Perhaps you are asking too much? An association of nations much like the European Union could avoid many of the perceived disadvantages while still providing many benefits like a common currency and no internal hostilities. Of course there is a spectrum of possibilities between the E.U of today and a more integrated union like the U.S.

If that is enough for your scenario, some point on this spectrum could be the most realistic scenario.

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Yes. Definitely.

And 500 years seems about right.

As time marches on, the planet will become more and more mono-cultural. We listen to music from anywhere, we see movies from anywhere and make friends online without knowing or caring where they are from.

People convert religions all the time, or abandon religion entirely.

Skin color and other visible origin markers will be spread out on the entire globe and every culture.

The idea that there is any fundamental difference between "us" and "them" gets harder and harder to justify.

Super powers come and go. At some point there will be only one, and it will conquer all the remaining non-super countries. This will probably not be a military campaign, but more like giving them offers they can't refuse. (You want to trade? Then join)

There will be resentment. There will be rebels. But most people will be content with their jobs, their families and their Internet. There will be no successful rebels.

This is one seemingly realistic future for Earth. But Earth is not everything.

Some rebels will flee rather than fight. They establish a colony somewhere remote. Then, as technology improves, the remote colony will get a working internet connection to Earth, and few generations later few people will remember what their ancestors were arguing about anyway.

Some people remember though, and they flee even further, establishing an even more remote colony. And so it goes.

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  • $\begingroup$ This requires easy communication around the world. Because the internet relies on high availability to energy, it is as fragile as our civilization is. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Nov 29, 2022 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidR Indeed. This is not the only possible future, far from it. But when OP talks about an alien civilization that is more advanced than ours, I doubt they are talking about an extinct civilization. $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2022 at 11:26
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Keep in mind that you don't need to write aliens as humans with tentacles. Aliens can have a psychology and sociology that is vastly different from humans. Which means that just because a certain political model wouldn't work for humans, does not mean that it would not work for aliens either.

So:

  1. Think about which traits of human psychology would be detrimental to a one-world government.
  2. Remove said traits from the alien psychology and replace them with traits which facilitate the sociological model you want them to have.
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