The Anacreonians were landing their first spaceships tomorrow, but that was all right, too. In six months, they would be giving orders no longer.

In fact, as Hari Seldon had said, and as Salvor Hardin had guessed since the day that Anselm haut Rodric had first revealed to him Anacreon’s lack of nuclear power – the solution to this first crisis was obvious.

Obvious as all hell!

The first story in Foundation ends with an assertion that the solution is obvious. What is this obvious solution?

  • 3
    It is, clearly, not obvious to me. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 16:31
  • 2
    Keep reading; he re-caps in each subsequent story, as I recall. :)
    – K-H-W
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 16:34
  • Ergh. I read the trilogy a while back and found this particularly frustrating. It seemed like they got out from under the thumb of their barbarian overlords somehow -- possible by playing different groups against each other (?), but it's really not clear (to me) how or what happened. And the next story takes place 50 (100?) Years later. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 16:45

2 Answers 2


Well, it's explained in the later novels (characters basically do recaps on previous Seldon Crisis situations, as well as their solutions), so I don't want to spoil it too much for you. In each case, as per Seldon's design, the answer is almost inevitable.

I haven't read them in a few years, but as I recall, the first few crisis points:

(Headers to remind you without showing the spoiler, if that's enough -- don't want to ruin the fun, if you re-read :) )

Balance Of Power

Basically, they didn't try to fight them, but they made sure the enemies of the Anacreonians knew what was happening; their enemies couldn't risk one group having access to nuclear power, so a stalemate forced them all to leave the Foundation alone. I believe this is the 'obvious' one you reference.


Next they instituted a 'Religion' behind technology and used that to make fighting the foundation a 'Sin' with demonstrable results; the trained techs on other planets didn't really understand things, just know how to use them. The foundation retained the ability to put them under Interdict, at which point all of their foundation technology ceased working.


The third one was simple; dependence via commerce. The Religious angle had played itself mostly out, as worlds were aware of it. But Hober Mallow stuck to the idea of trade alone protecting them. They provided a product that couldn't be had anywhere else, was better than what was available elsewhere, and forced the enemies into dependence on their product. A little 'planned obsolescence' and they had enemies that couldn't afford to make war against the Foundation, as they needed Foundation supplied tools to do so with.

Oh, I should mention -- these are the external crisis points. There were internal ones, too, at each Seldon Crisis, but I don't think you were asking about them.

  • I will have to re-read, since the balance of power solution was not really obvious to me the last time I read. (Which means I'm going to have to get access to a copy of Foundation. <sigh>.) Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 14:49
  • 2
    Well, it's not so obvious to the reader... But it is meant to be / should be to characters -- the situation was engineered to PUT them in that position, all they had to do was look around and realize it.. That was kind of the point of a Seldon Crisis -- Historical Inevitability forced the situation and the solution.. or at least, that's Seldon's plan... But, from a literary point of view, if it were that obvious to the reader, he wouldn't have ended it that way. But Asimov did like to make readers try and figure things out some times... Heck, he wrote some mysteries, too.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 15:07
  • 1
    fwiw - the BBC Audio dramatization of the trilogy is quite good - better than Apple TV's version since it, you know, respects the source material - youtube.com/watch?v=e-U3RpohwT0&ab_channel=VintageRadio (also available on Spotify / Audible)
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 16:45

The answer, as is revealed in the next story ("Bridle and Saddle" aka "The Mayors") is "Balance of Power" - i.e. informing the other kingdoms that the Foundation is too powerful to allow one kingdom to control it. As Hardin says in "The Mayors"

"What I did, instead, was to visit the three other kingdoms, one by one; point out to each that to allow the secret of nuclear power to fall into the hands of Anacreon was the quickest way of cutting their own throats; and suggest gently that they do the obvious thing. That was all."

Note that Hardin expected the kings of the near-barbarous kingdoms to recognize the obvious, too.

So why was this obvious to Hardin, and to the Kings, but not to the Foundation leaders?

Seldon anticipated a generation of people like Hardin, who were not academics like the Encyclopedists, but rather are ordinary citizens. Among those citizens there will be politicians like Hardin for whom concepts like balance of power are far more obvious than they are to folks like Pirenne. Hardin says of the Foundation leaders:

"But, you see, they never had the capacity of understanding what was up. Their whole training has been authoritarian. They are sure that the Emperor, just because he is the Emperor, is all-powerful. And they are sure that the Board of Trustees, simply because it is the Board of Trustees acting in the name of the Emperor, cannot be in a position where it does not give the orders."

By saying that the solution is "obvious," but not spelling it out, Seldon is, in effect, giving power to the person to whom it is obvious - Hardin (or really, any person like Hardin, who has grown up on Terminus, but not of the Encyclopedia Foundation, and who thus understands power). Outside the books, Asimov left the solution unexplained because he wanted to write a sequel - but in-universe, it makes sense for Seldon not to spell it out.

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