The Starways Congress has always seemed a bit weak to me- there is no way to enforce their policies without taking decades, as demonstrated in Speaker for the Dead. It was formed sometime after colonization began, so presumably between Ender in Exile and Speaker for the Dead.

What was the thought process behind it? If all of these thousands of colonies are different cultures and nations of people essentially not capable of making war with each other, what is the point of having a governing body? Instant communication is possible through the ansible, but that can only be used to threaten and not physically solve problems. If two planets were to declare war on eachother thirty years away from the governing body, what could the Starways Congress do to stop it? What gives them the right and power to rule?

Since all planets must be self-sustaining, they're likely very autonomous. The only functional part of the Starways Congress should be something like the interstate commerce clause of the US constitution. However, it seems like it's got much more power than that.

Presumably, most planets get a representative in Congress. Why would they meet in person if it could take decades to reach the "capital"? Why wouldn't they just transmit via ansible?

  • Since the colonies are capable of instantaneous communication, it would be relatively easy to enforce your will, just with sizeable delays in actual meting out punishments. Note that the Congress has the capacity to field an army larger than that of any of the colonies and has the exclusive control of the ansible network, making any attempt to wage war almost impossible.
    – Valorum
    Sep 30, 2018 at 16:00
  • Well, they thought that they had exclusive control of the ansible network (Jane controlled it). I agree with your point, however, even if Congress were to summon the army, it could take decades to reach those colonies and reprimand them (as demonstrated in Speaker for the Dead). Sep 30, 2018 at 16:07
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    Sure, but you'd rely on your own self-interest. If you're going to be arrested and sentenced to what is basically a death-sentence (transportation for trial) you'd have a huge incentive to follow the law even if the judge's gavel take a few decades to land on you. And for minor offenders, the colony's own leaders would punish you.
    – Valorum
    Sep 30, 2018 at 16:28
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    There’s a lot of Ender canon I’ve not read up on, but in the real world, nations (at least the US) place military bases and assets around the world to be able to respond very quickly. If we take the US navy for example, there is probably some vessel with firepower within hours of any land mass in the world, and a carrier group within a day or two. They don’t sit idle at Newport News or Alameda waiting for something to happen. Similarly in the Enderverse, forces could be forward deployed on standby/patrol and sent into action by ansible. Sep 30, 2018 at 19:27

1 Answer 1


Starways Congress had control over the ansibles.

The far-flung colonized worlds were self sufficient, but the human need to belong to a greater community and receive the scientific and cultural advances of that community was dependent on the ansible. Rogue colonies like Milagre were kept in check by the looming threat of being cut off.

For any other case, local rebellions and aggressive regimes would be eliminated from within over the generation or two that it would take for representatives to travel to said rogue colony. Millions of people living in resentment that they can't contact friends, family and colleages (or entertainment) from the other colonies would make any would-be warlord from acting out enough to risk Congress severing their ansibles. The only reason the Doctor Device was even considered again was the threat of the Pequininos spreading a virus that intelligently overcame all attempts to neutralize it and actively spread to all living species.

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