I'd like to know what you think about how many people in my setting, Flat Black
would be likely to volunteer for the Imperial Service.
First, some background. 656 colonies were established on habitable planets and moons orbiting stars near Sol. The means of transport during primary colonisation was limited to the speed of light and was effectively one-way. Planets near Sol were settled first; a frontier of settlement propagated outwards at about 1/3 of lightspeed. Thus nearby systems such as Tau Ceti were settled long ago and received flows of immigrants over a long time, whereas colonies at the outer limit of settlement received only a fewer shiploads of pioneers before migration was halted by the destruction of Earth. Much more recently — over the last fifty years — another 340-odd planets have been settled by migrants from the older colonies. FTL travel was used, so these are much less isolated, but on the other hand they are still young and frontiersy: incompletely developed, not yet "full", and still offering pioneering opportunities to the young and rootless.
The colonies (primary and secondary) are insanely various. There are rich and poor worlds, advanced and backward, developing and retrogressing, free and authoritarian, terrifyingly violent and stultifying peaceful, religious and secular, chaotic and oppressive, etc. In centuries of isolation they developed incommensurable cultures. Nowadays travel between them is not indeed prohibitively expensive, at least for the people of rich colonies, but it is so slow that few people travel between star-systems. Few people are cosmopolitan, most worlds are very parochial, colonials on the whole are almost completely ignorant of other worlds and of interstellar affairs.
Interstellar affairs are mostly in the hands of an outfit called "The Empire", which draws its subsistence from a monopoly on FTL transport and the resulting monopoly on turning new worlds into real estate. The Empire is nominally subject to a representative (but not necessarily democratic) Imperial Senate, but its unexpected independence of tax revenue has made the Imperial executive more or less independent of the Senate except in the matter of new legislation. The Imperial executive is run by a council of trustees that is self-perpetuating by co-optation. For reasons that are too historical to go into the Imperial executive (including most especially the Council) is dominated by people who have been raised from birth to believe that mass deaths are the worst thing ever and that it is every decent person's duty to exert his or her utmost effort to prevent the ones that can be prevented.
The Imperial Service consists (mostly) of the following parts:
- The Eichberger Foundation, which manufactures FTL starships (and does a bunch of other space and orbital industry in systems where there isn't a colonial space industry to compete).
- Eichberger Spaceways, which operates interstellar passenger and cargo ships.
- Universal Imports, which engages in interstellar trade, competing with colonial outfits that despatch cargoes through Eichberger Spaceways
- The Imperial Navy, which patrols space, inspects colonies' space and orbital facilities, provides the colonies with space and orbital defences, and occasionally provides orbital fire support to colonial governments (or rebels, but very seldom both in the same war) and Imperial interventions and peacekeeping forces authorised by the Senate. The Navy used to suppress piracy and unlicensed FTL, conquer systems that refused to join the Empire etc., but that's almost entirely a thing of the past.
- Naval Intelligence, which monitors the advanced colonies for signs of R&D or manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.
- The Imperial Corps of Marines, a special-forces outfit.
- The Colonial Office, which runs aid programs for poor and troubled colonies. That includes a Public Health Service, a Public Education Service, an Agricultural Service, a Terraformation Advisory Service, an Economic Advisory Service, a Social Engineering Advisory Service, and a Diplomatic Service. The Colonial Office spends a flood of money trying to prevent and relieve epidemic and endemic disease, promote literacy and basic education, improve the production of food, fuel, materials, and pharmaceuticals, make worlds more habitable and prevent their becoming less habitable, relieve poverty, suppress murder and feuding, and promote the peaceful resolution of conflict.
- The Home Office, which provides orbital habitats for Imperial servants and their families to live in, infrastructure in Imperial extraterritorial enclaves, and public and government services in Imperial Direct Jurisdiction.
- The Imperial Office, which runs the whole thing, provides a secretariat to the Council, manages liaison between the Council and the Senate, and includes a Secret Service that won't say what it does.
- And the Independent Commission for Justice, which enforces Imperial Law (consisting of acts of the Senate) in Colonial jurisdiction, and is subject to special oversight by the colonies.
Most colonials have no clear idea what the Empire does. Such impressions as they have are largely produced by fictional representations in the drama and literature of their own, parochial cultures, by propaganda put about by colonial governments for their own purposes, by skimming the headlines of often ill-reported interstellar news, by outright conspiracy theories, and by confident but groundless supposition amounting sometimes to outright confabulation. There are often large protests against Imperial tyranny, despite the fact that the Empire exerts practically no jurisdiction on any inhabited world. These sometimes demand the end of taxation without representation, despite the fact that the Empire collects no taxes and does grant representation to the colonies. Most people in the setting could no more give an account of what the Empire does and how it is run than most people today could give an account of the governance of the United Nations and the operations of its organs such as UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, UNESCO etc. Most conclude from their own ignorance that the Empire must be shadowy, secretive, and nefarious.
On the other hand, working for the Empire is one of the few ways to escape from the planet of your birth, to travel, to visit strange worlds and meet strange new people.
Now. The total staff of the Imperial Service is about 36 million, of whom 450 thousand are Imperial Marines. The working life of an Imperial Servant is about ninety years, suggesting an annual intake of about 400,000 administrators, spacers, and assistance workers (without allowing for continual expansion). I estimate separately that the Corps of Marines requires 11,600 recruits to pass basic training each year (without allowing for continual expansion). The Empire is constrained to recruit no more than half its annual intake from among the children of Imperial servants raised in it own schools. So it needs to recruit about 205,800 colonials per year. My question is then "how selective are Imperial recruiting standards?". To answer it, I want a ballpark estimate of how many colonials might volunteer for Imperial Service.
There are 656 primary colonies with a total population of about 815 billion. There are 344 secondary colonies, up to fifty years old, with an average population of about half a billion. Life expectancies are rather long because of high-tech medicine and anti-agathic treatments. Suppose that about 1.25% of population reach adulthood per year. That's about 10 billion on quirky parochial old colonies and 2 billion on frontiersy new worlds. Given the circumstances and attitudes outlined, very roughly how many colonials might volunteer for Imperial Service at least once in their lives? As many as 1%? As few as only 0.01%?