Many scifi stories feature a vast interstellar empire that spans more worlds and races than a single being could hope to visit in a lifetime. These empires, in many cases, are highly centralized and have an all-powerful emperor who delegates power to military leaders who deal with the civilian governments in the systems in their spheres of influence. Let us assume that humanity unites and the United Nations transforms into the first global democracy and we spreads through the stars and colonize millions of worlds, both uninhabitable and habitable.

These colonies band together into a loose confederation of planets and an official loose military and administrative alliance is established not unlike a scaled-up version of the American colonies after they broke away from England. This alliance is centered on Earth, the first city-world. An official Confederate Navy is established that is comprised of primarily planetary security forces and militia. Over time, humanity meets many less advanced races with what we would consider "modern" technology. Most of these races petition to be admitted entry into the confederation.

Now we have the type of confederation/republic depicted in many prominent scifi works. How can we take this fragile political entity and turn it into a galactic empire centered around a single all-powerful emperor?


There is FTL travel and communication.


Humanity has been spacefaring for about 300 years and started with the discovery of FTL in 2125 during a mass famine on Earth. FTL was relatively cheap, with transportation of a squad of 40 or 50 soldiers costing 150 million USD. With the advent of new technologies such as worm-hole drives that can be put on any ship, FTL has become insanely easy and cheap. If a ship does not have FTL capabilities it almost certainly was built by imbeciles.

When humanity met other races and those races asked for admittance into the Confederation, they were granted basic 22nd century FTL technology so that their leaders could attend senate meetings. The structure of the Confederate government is as follows;

Prime Minister

Head of State. Can be chosen from among any of the political leaders of the Confederate worlds if they have been members of the Confederacy for more than 50 years. The Prime Minister must also be an adult (this is relative to species) and a citizen born in the Confederacy. A member of any race in the Confederacy can become Prime Minister so long as they learn to use The Galactic Standard, an electronic device that allows instant translation from the host language to the written language of all other races present. The President can Veto the decisions made by the Senate.


An official legislative body that governs the Confederacy at large. The job of settling border disputes betweens members, ordering sanctions on defiant member worlds, and taxation as well as fall on this body. Helping members deal with natural disasters (like that rare asteroid that satellite defense systems miss and hits the planet) also falls within the jurisdiction of this branch. The Senate can propose laws as well a veto those proposed by the Prime Minister.

General Assembly

This is the most powerful branch of government, and it has final say in all things. It is comprised of the former human leaders of Earth, with one leader to represent the historic nations of the 20th Century before the Confederation was formed. While every one of these nation-states is de-jure independent in theory, they are in practice one state. They surrendered their sovereignty when the major nations of the Earth surrendered their entire militaries to the United Nations in the Treaty of Koningsburg in 2124.


The Confederation has no official judicial branch. Major disputes in law are settled by the General Assembly (which is all too often prejudiced against the non-human races). In almost all cases the law is settled by either independent system or sector governments (it varies widely as some systems have subjugated (to the meaningless protests of the Senate) entire sectors. Confederate law states that members may not wage war, but often rival governments will wage proxy wars and occasionally simply openly defy the Confederation.


Now, let's face it; if you have mass shipping, you will eventually have pirates. Human greed guarantees this, and most alien races have the exact same problem we do. Wherever there is money to be made, there is somebody willing to steal it and kill for it. If you don't want these marauders to make off with your gold, women and children, what do you do? You either shoot them, or make the gold, women, and children so dangerous and hard to get that they do not try. The local governments (often funded and urged by large corporations) each have their own professional army and fleet. These vary in size according to technological level and industrial capacity as well as population size, and with over a million local governments it is unrealistic to expect me to convey all the different organizational and technological differences in every army and fleet.

The Confederation has a small navy. The Confederate Navy (CN) is comprised of about 10,000 Beijing Class Cruisers that can carry about 10,000 soldiers and 1000 Troop Transports. Each cruiser also carries four full wings of fighters and is escorted by 6 Moscow Class Destroyers and a dozen frigates, which can serve a variety of tasks. A typical Confederate fleet will be comprised like this;

Confederate Fleet ->
    Capital Cruiser ->
        4 fighter wings ->
            16 fighter squads ->
                20 fighters
                10 bombers
        500 Landing Craft ->
            20 Marines
            20 Heavy Assault Androids
            20 Mobile nano-artillery pieces (i feel the need to say that these fire canisters full of nano bots that automatically eat enemy Androids. Cool!)
            50 Recon drones
    6 Destroyers ->
        2 advanced landing craft
            6 Marines
            10 Recon Drones
            10 Heavy Assault Androids
    20 Frigates ->
        500 - 1000 Confederate Militia Soldiers
        As much supplies as can be packed aboard the massive cargo holds.

Confederate naval ranking goes like this;

Grand Admiral ->
    Marine General ->
        Deployment Commander ->
            Battalion Commander->
                Group Commander ->
                    Team Leader ->
                        Lieutenant ->
                        Corporal ->
    High Admirals ->
        Admirals ->
            Rear Admiral ->
                Group Leader ->
                    Captain ->
                        Crew Commander ->
                            Petty Officer
                        Marine Group Commander ->
                            Team Leader ->
                                Lieutenant ->
                            Corporal ->

The official Confederate Army is nothing more than the Armies of Earth. Their structures vary as there has been no direct need as of yet to centralize the structure aside from a few relatively minor authority disputes and conflict resolution missions.


Most major religions have survived and spread to the stars. Hardcore fundamentalists are often prejudiced against all non-human lifeforms and the space equivalent of an outlawed KKK nick-named the "Enforcers of God" was formed by the Christian Fundamentalist world of New Constantinople VI B, a moon orbiting a gas giant in the habitable zone of the fictional star of Constantinople IV[1].

Other Political Entities

There are a number of systems not in the Confederation. The Confederation does not militarily expand and only gains ground by the petitions for admittance coming from rim worlds. Secession, however, is not legal. Once in the Confederation, you are in for the long-run.


The most powerful Confederate neighbor is also the most peaceful galactic participant, and remains neutral in most, if not all, conflicts. The concept of the "individual" does not exist for this species, known in Confederate space as the Krenn. Each Krenn world has a High Queen who lays eggs that hatch to produce Queens, which rule regions of their worlds and lay eggs that hatch to form workers, soldiers, engineers, and brains[2].

The Krenn bodily structure faintly resembles some long-extinct Earth colonial insects and their origin is unknown. They claim to be evolved from massive insects on their home-world, but Confederate scientists claim they were genetically engineered by a long-extinct race, possibly as weapons of mass destruction. Scientists support this evidence with that some of the oldest Krenn buildings and starships look like they were designed for someone with a more humanoid form[3]. The Krenn have colonized over a thousand systems.


The Alari are tough, humanoid, warlike race. They raid Confederate space from time to time, though they are only settled in a dozen systems. They have instigated three large-scale conflicts with the peaceful Krenn[4]. They are only a minor threat.


These are a humanoid race that are highly integrated with technology. They live in no specific system, drifting along in massive brain ships. It is unknown what happens in them, but it is well-known to never attack one; everyone who tries dies. They make no attempt to communicate with other races, believing themselves to be superior and god-like to the lowly lifeforms still controlled by biological limits.


There are numerous races bordering Confederate space. Some are peaceful and some are warlike. Some are humanoid, some are not. These are some others worth noting.


A race dominated by commerce. While not afraid to defend themselves and while not technologically inferior in any way, they prefer peaceful trading and see war as bad for buisness.


The Mil are renowned weapon builders and designers. All other races compete to gain a monopoly on Mil weapons. This has sparked several unsuccessful attempt to subjugate this race by its neighbors, including the fearsome Alari. These always end in the vaporization of the attacking race. The Confederation recently signed a military alliance treaty with the Mil. The Mil are centered in the Mil system, the only known system with four habitable worlds. All of these worlds are heavily populated.


The Grennolis is yet another highly militarized race. They are the only other race known to be able to interbreed with humans. Many animals on their homeworld Grennoli strongly resemble Earth creatures that lived in the 21st Century before the mass extinction Humans brought upon Terra. The Grennolis have settled small colonies and basis in nearly a hundred systems, but none of these aside from the homeworld are developed. They gained their FTL capabilities by attacking a joint Altoran/Mil trading convoy passing through their system. This has alienated both of these races. Recently the Grennolis have signed an offensive alliance pact woth the Alari, which has allowed both them and the Alari to subjugate their immediate weaker neighbors and to both build decent-sized empires.

Current Political Situation

The year is 2375 AD.

Despite the relative weakness of the Alari and Grennolis Alliance population-wise, the Alari fleet alone is double the size of the Confederate Navy. The Grennolis Army is equipped with stealth technology that would make any general envious. There has been a decent build-up along the border between the Alari and Mil which has lead to a desperate Mil petitioning the Confederation for full admittance. The petition has been tied up in the Senate and GA intrigues for over a year now. To make matters worse, the Confederation is in the middle having one of its bi-decal elections.

There is some talk in the senate of postponing the elections. A poweful faction in the Senate is trying to push through an Ultimatum-bill to the GA to be sent to the Alari basically demanding they remove their fleets from the border. The only reason this has not been passed is because about 30% of the Senate is against this, knowing it will likely force the Confederation into a bloody war which it might or might not win.

Anti-alien sentiments are running high in the GA as well as some factions in the senate, and any alliance or admittance terms will likely have to favor humanity.

The current President is highly popular and there is a very good chance he will be reelected for a fifth term. He believes in democratic ideals, however, and would never try to force the Confederation into an Empire.

Current Military Situation

The Grennolis and Alari have begun a massive build-up along the bordersystems and raiders and pirates using Alari ships have been frequenting shipping lanes near the borders. This has resulted in a massive Confederate build-up. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been drafted and local governments have been ordered to support Confederate forces. Over a hundred private military companies have been hired by both sides and five hundred new shipyards have been commissioned by the Confederate government.

Over a thousand wings of fighters have been commissioned and are in the process of being manufactured. The Confederate government has went quintillions of Galactic Confederate Credits into debt to pay for these armaments. Research in biological weapons has been secretly commissioned by the pro-human GA and test targets have been chosen. They are testing the new weapons on minor races that resemble the Alari physically the most. Worm-bombs, a relatively new weapon that opens a worm-hole that can destroy entire systems if placed near the star[5] are being mass-produced by the Confederate government.


The aliens humanity has encountered have an even wider variety of religious beliefs, ranging from machine worshipping to christian-like religions. A very large fraction of them have abandoned religion in favor of other ideals, seeing the existence of so many different species as proof against whatever they believed before.

1 I know; these people are insanely original. Interestingly enough, there is a nearby primarily Turkish (muslim fundamentalist) settled system whose capital planet is named New Istanbul IV, so the problem is not only restricted to the Greeks. There is also a rivalry between the two and there are often small-scale conflicts over minor border issues (under who's jurisdiction does that space station between the two systems fall to?).

2 These are the Krell equivalent of scientists. Brains act as a sort of super-computer for this race, allowing the Queens to process massive amounts of data as well as pumping out new weapons and architecture schematics for the engineers to use.

3 The evidence; devices meant to be operated by a being with six fingers; the Krenn have three or four fingers depending on their biological job.

4 Funny thing too; the Alari have lost every one of those wars.

5 Technically it was outlawed during the forty-fourth Convention of Earth after an alien terrorist nearly unleashed one on Terra.

Little note This is actually for a space strategy RTS I am working on for mobile. Don't have screenshots, but most of the logic is laid down and now I just have to find some art assets and work on my (not-so) intuitive user interface. The game is 2D. Combine Civilization 1 with Age of Empires and you have a general idea of what my game should feel like. I have a lot of small-scale projects I work on.

  • $\begingroup$ Does FTL travel/communication exist? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh Yes. Thought that might be implicit given the insanity it would take for someone to try and create an interstellar empire that spans millions of worlds without FTL capabilities. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ I like the question but it is lacking in constraints. Without knowing more about your universe/setting there are thousands of paths by which the empire could arise. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 18:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @James Give it a look over now. Enough information? Is more needed? $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 16:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Find a group of people unhappy with The Way Things Are, start a war with them that necessitates emergency powers for the PM to sidestep the bureaucracy of the Senate, assassinate the leaders on the other side of the fight (though you coerced them into fighting the Confederation in the first place), fabricate the betrayal of those who might depose you to gain public favour, kill them all, bish bash bosh welcome to the first Galactic Empire :))))) $\endgroup$
    – ktyldev
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 10:31

6 Answers 6


The 'easiest' would be an outside threat to the members of the confederation. Like the Borg or some other species bent on domination and conquest.

We would band together (hopefully) to help each other survive and push back this mutual threat. (Though sitting by the way side and hoping the threat passes you by will be a strategy some will take.)

The other would be some kind of dictator like Palpatine/Hitler, slowly, often by trickery (at the beginning), to get systems and groups to support him/her/it. After a while, when they have a significant following, they start pressuring more to 'join' and eventually the hold out will be conquered.

  • $\begingroup$ By "Palatine" do you mean "Palpatine" from Star Wars, or someone else? $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @DJMethaneMan yes, fingers betrayed me... $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ if interplanetary travel is easy just trade and travel disputes will help cement a central authority. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ "some other species Bent on domination" - Hey leave me out of this, lol $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 21:33

The Confederation develops strong AI, puts in on the internet, and elects it as president.

As the Confederation has come to understand all too well, human leaders suck. However, they've also discovered that advanced intelligences formed out of enormous networks of processors can govern quite effectively.

They first developed one of these a few generations back. It was the first Strong AI that humanity ever made, and consisted of a single supercomputing cluster that could operate roughly on the same level as a human brain. Moreover, it was programmed in such a way that it could talk to humans, understand, and empathize. Being a computer network, it could also easily communicate with and distribute tasks to other computer networks, effectively allowing it to solve problems incredibly efficiently by properly managing lots of computing networks. The scientists called it the Global Emergent Neuron Network, or GLENN.

GLENN rapidly transitioned from a simple experiment into a trusted adviser and political activist. He campaigned steadily for those platforms which he saw as most likely to benefit the Confederation, a goal which he was programmed for and which he wholeheartedly pursues. GLENN's business ventures also took off, and he funded the construction of additional computer cores in other cities and on other worlds, all connected through the Galactic Internet.

GLENN was soon recognized as the single most powerful entity in the Confederation, with a presence on nearly every world. However, he remained a force of good. His core edict of 'serve and strengthen the confederation, and improve the lives of its citizens' continued to drive him. He did not twist it, reinterpret it as 'death to humanity' or fall into any of the other standard AI tropes. He met with and discussed philosophy and government with the greatest philosophers and scholars in the galaxy. He made friends. And, after a long period of introspection and self-reflection as to how he could best serve humanity, he decided to run for Prime Minister of the Galaxy.

Of course, for a galaxy-spanning AI, term limits don't really make sense. GLENN did a great job in his first term, and the General Assembly almost unanimously decided to remove them. Elections still happen, of course, but there is little in the manner of serious opposition to GLENN's presidency. Flesh and blood organisms are simply too limited to do the job that GLENN can, and he has the resources to purchase a copy of any new AIs that are developed (of which there have been many) and incorporate their code into his.

Now, GLENN is loved, GLENN is worshiped in a pseudo-religious manner as a god who truly listens to what people are saying, every minute of every day, and reacts accordingly. GLENN operates on the will of the General Assembly to reward those who further the cause of the Confederation and, with brutal efficiency, command the armed forces to destroy those who threaten it.

While he would never claim such a title there are now many of the faithful who elevate him to a position above a mere Prime Minister: GLENN, Emperor of the Confederation.

  • $\begingroup$ TL;DR: If the people are honestly happy with the government, they'll happily grant it more power (or allow it to take more). This will continue until someone is unhappy. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 19:07

To take a nod at current events, start with a highly dispersed economy in a dispersed political system. The economy gets integrated by the collective effort of banks, megacorporations, etc. Then some very selfish actors start to exploit loopholes in the regulatory climate, or create them in the first place. The general population gets upset. What can they do?

  • Remove the freedom of business to shift fictional assets as they like.
  • Introduce galactic minimum standards for taxation, transparency, etc.

If they take the latter option, they're on the way to a galactic government.

  • $\begingroup$ By giving governments more jobs to do (e.g. health care) you are de facto increasing that government's power. By concentrating those functions in the Federal government, you are de facto centralizing that power. Other "selfish actors" are completely unnecessary & extraneous to this process. In fact, often people claiming to fight against the "selfish actors" are the ones both increasing governmental powers and centralizing them. $\endgroup$
    – Jim2B
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 22:31

There has to be a catastrophe or other threat. This creates a need for a stronger navy or central government. Once it begins to accumulate power it continues to do so.

The ideal vector would be civil war. Take a look at U.S. history as an example.


Have a group of old people with more money than morals, the concentration of capital soon turns into political power that is then used to create laws to benefit them at the cost of the rest of the population.

As the government cuts the access to basic needs in exchange to benefiting the rich you will have an increasing concentration of resources, unemployment, wage-slavery, rampant debt, health and infrastructure problems.

All that you need is a charismatic leader to put the blame on someone else and promise quick, easy solutions to the problems of the nation.

For a bonus, shift the economy towards the production of weapons and war material, so you then creates a need for an almost constant war to keep the industry profiting.


Since there are other independent realms bordering the confederation in the original question, the confederation might change into a more centralized system, possibly an empire, for reasons of better managing the economy and for being stronger in dealings with outside governments, just as the United States of American found the Articles of Confederation inadequate and so adopted the Constitution.


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