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Digitalfreak™

Is the Federation a bully?

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I saw this post on a Reddit, and thought it was a pretty interesting read. It does make some good points on all the good intentions the Federation has, it can, in a lot of ways, unintentionally come across as a bully or even oppressive, depending on one's point of view. 
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The Federation is the largest single union of planets in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, and it is for this reason that it must force new members in by making them comply with Federation standards.
In the episode First Contact (TNG 4x15) Captain Picard meets with Durken, leader of the Malcorians, and discusses the Federation's goals and intentions in regards to the Malcorian species. Durken asks Picard what will happen if his people choose not to join the Federation, to which Picard replies that they will leave.
However, Picard's mere presence is not only a violation of the Prime Directive, but his statement they will simply leave is an implication of what will happen. The Malcorians are the first species we've seen where the Federation is meeting with them for the first time, and while we want to believe Picard is perfectly happy letting them go about their merry way, the realities of the Federation prevent this for numerous reasons.
1. The Federation is growing too fast. The Federation has 150 member worlds within its borders, spread across 8,000 light years. That many worlds are all going to want and need to expand beyond their initial home worlds due to this simple logical fact: No species wants to be wiped out because of an accident on one world. Even NASA and prominent scientists want to get Humans settled on other worlds permanently to prevent a disaster from befalling Earth and wiping out all human life. Even if every member only had an additional planet to colonize beyond their home system, that's still 300 worlds that need colonizing, not counting the numerous colonies the Enterprise has encountered over the years.
2. The Federation will envelope non-members. Suppose you're on a planet that is working on warp flight. You finally achieve the dream and then get visited by the Federation, and your people decide for whatever reason they do not want to associate with the Federation. They leave, and you begin to explore the stars... only to find that every nearby star is inhabited already because you're deep inside Federation territory. You are now trapped inside a bubble where no matter where you go, you're surrounded by faster ships colonizing worlds faster than you can, and you have only the limited resources of a single planet. This leads to...
3. The Federation can outproduce non-members. The heart of every successful economy is the ability to trade with neighbors and benefit from selling your surplus in exchange for what your neighbor has in surplus instead. The problem is that any planet that isn't part of the Federation isn't going to gain access to any of the technology that benefits the other Federation members, including such things as industrial replicators. Those replicators can take raw materials and produce anything a person wants for minimal effort. Any world just discovering warp travel is unlikely to discover replicators first, meaning their items must be produced using traditional fabrication methods. Everything they produce is thus inherently more expensive due to time and labor, even if made by machines. If they arrived at any Federation post to trade, almost all of their goods would be found cheaper and easier simply because of the replicator. The planet's only option would be to strip mine their resources to provide raw materials and hope someone else isn't doing so already.
4. The Federation can shut down trade. The only economic out for a system trapped in the situation above would be to try and ally with a foreign power interested in securing a position within Federation space, such as the Cardassians. This is all well and good except that Federation border controls could easily stop any small vessel with minimal warp drive from crossing the border. Even if the small ship gets clearance, it can't come back with a Cardassian freighter loaded with weapons, nor can they stuff their own hold with weapons since this isn't technically a violation of the Prime Directive. So any vessel attempting to do so would find themselves detained by Federation security and maybe let off, minus the weapons of course.
5. Federation security can easily park one ship to stop any oppressive society that emerges. Think back to the Phoenix piloted by Zephram Cochran and how fragile the thing was. Early space flight is a dangerous affair, and even a warp capable ship early in a star nation's life is going to be limited in terms of capacity. With over two centuries of advancement, a small sensor beacon could easily detect any flights and alert a nearby Starfleet vessel if the ship contained items that were illegal in Federation space, such as slaves and dangerous drugs. By cutting off all trade beyond their borders, the oppressive empire can remain isolated and cut off from outside contact. When a revolution occurs (and they will occur from time to time), the Federation can easily wait for a more democratic system to emerge, leading to a new first contact scenario where the leaders are offered such things as expert negotiators to help quell unrest, new technologies, the works so long as they continue to remain a polite and decent society, since things like slavery are illegal in the Federation. Given these new governments are going to be very opposed to the previous rulers, they'll jump at the opportunity to join.
In conclusion, the size and weight of the United Federation of Planets is enough to force new members into the fold just by existing. All the Federation needs to do is wait them out before even the most stubborn star nation concedes that remaining in economic isolation is undesirable.

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That's a long read... I'll have to come back to it, but my first instinct is "no." Members of the Federation know what they're signing up for, and I don't think the Federation forces their ideals on other people so much as sticks up for allowing people to choose which ideals to follow. Again, I didn't have time to read the whole thing, so I may have to change my reply later.

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From what I gathered, I think it means the Federation doesn't intend to be a bully, but it has the capabilities to do so if they wanted to.  Also, think back to Eddington's speech to Sisko when Eddington's Maquis involvement was discovered.  He said "In a lot of ways, you're worse than the Borg... at least they tell you their intentions.."
 

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