Assuming that one is looking for them, it is fairly easy to find internet arguments that stem from comparisons among and between science fiction universes, and a great many of these arguments center on comparing governments within those universes. Which government is more democratic: Star Wars' Galactic Republic or Star Trek's United Federation? Who is more repressive: Firefly's Alliance or Star Wars' Galactic Empire? How do the military assets of the Stargate universe stack up against those found in all of the other sci-fi universes? Indeed, given that nerd culture is now nearly synonymous with pop culture, these conversations seem to be quite common, particularly if one regularly eats lunch with the bloggers at The Quantitative Peace. However, while some political scientists and economists have tried to answer questions that have clearly spawned from science fiction, I am unaware of any that have attempted to apply some of the more commonly used quantitative measurements in political science to the governments seen in such universes. Therefore, this post represents a first attempt to apply quantititative measures from political science to the polities envisioned in some of the most beloved science fiction franchises, in an attempt to answer the question: Which sci-fi governments are the most democratic, and which are the most autocratic? In the paragraphs below, I take a close look at a few sci-fi governments and use a couple of the more popular measures of regime type to compare them.
While this is mostly an attempt to have some Friday fun with political science measurement, I do not think it is an entirely frivolous exercise. If our measurement schemes are valid, then they should apply quite nicely across regimes, even imagined ones. Furthermore, as someone who regularly teaches classes about quantitative research in political science, I think there may be instructional advantages to using fictional regimes to introduce students to the methodological challenges associated with developing valid quantitative measures of such things as human rights, regime type, military capabilities, etc. In fact, the use of fictional governments may allow the instructor to escape the various normative hang-ups and national attachments that can often impede undergraduates' willingness to pursue strict coding guidelines in quantitative data collection. Thus, to quote Paul Krugman (1978, 2), "while the subject of this [post] is silly," the content should make sense, and as such, the post should be viewed as a "serious analysis of a ridiculous subject."