For the backstory of my WIP a Dieselunk-ish science-fantasy, I am building a Empire that possessed a caste system of sorts. Though the Empire is many centuries removed from the modern day of my setting, its legacy lives on in the cultural heritage those descendant from it.
The castes are closer to a mixture of fraternities/sororities and guilds than real world caste systems. People in this empire were at the age of majority inducted into the caste of their choosing assuming that they met the entry criteria.
At the end of their "tour of duty" a citizen could continue chose to serve another tour, (abeyance)they would still be a part of their caste but would not be required to work, they could also transmigrate to another caste most did not. The Empire held a place of high honor for those who served it in multiple capacities.
The castes are as follows;and are subject to revision.
Priests: Are outside the caste system.
Magic-Users: Are adjuncts, they use their abilities to aid the other castes.
Outcaste: committers of some great transgression yet not executed, they are legal none persons.
The Empire is ruled by a council composed of the Regional-Governors with a First-Councilor who is elected from the ranks of the Regional-Governors, servers as a tie barker in the invent of a deadlock and possesses veto power. Regional-Governors are the highest ranking members of the Administrator-Leader caste and are advised by a council consisting of the ranking members of every other caste in their region. This advisory council can with three fourths majority over turn decisions made by their Regional-Governor,they can even call for their removal.
The Empire possess legal person-hood and all things with in its domain are subjects of The Empire, even the Leader-administrator caste. The Leader-administrators job is to see that land and resources are adequately used. Once the "needs" are met the rest is leased to the highest bidder for private use. Most people live in public housing. The creation of currency and credit belong solely in the hands of the Empire.
Citizens operate on a pay grade, they are paid based upon caste, caste rank, and experience with bounces or penalties meted out by performance.
With all the set up out of the way I now ask my question just how does the merchant caste fit into the system? Because I am without a crystal clear image of their function in the Empire. The one thing that I'm certain about is that the merchant caste are the ones that interact most with the outside world through their trading with foreign powers.
Real World Sources of Inspiration