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"What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals!"
— Shakespear, Hamlet
The Empire, while younger than the Federation, is the easily the equal of its historic rival in terms of scale and resources. The key social distinction between the two powers is that slavery in the Empire is legal - a fact that has remained a source of controversy since its inception, both within the Empire and without. Some observers have pointed out, however, that conditions for those at the lowest levels of Federal society are worse than those experienced by Imperial slaves.
"When our ancestors departed Earth, they asked themselves: which of our achievements represents the best of humanity, that we may bring it with us to illumine the darkness? The Federation, embroiled in a world of contracts and petty bickering, chose their Constitution. They placed their trust not in man himself, but the imperfect work of man."
"But my ancestor - your first Emperor - was wiser. He knew that the best achievement of humanity was humanity itself. There was more wisdom in a single nucleotide of his noble DNA than in all the Federation's written texts."
"That same wisdom still guides us now. We need no dusty documents to assert our right! We are human, born to rule... and the universe awaits the firm hand of our governance."
— Emperor Trasken Duval II, undelivered draft speech written immediately before his sudden and unexplained death
The popular image of the Empire is one of opulence, but while pomp and pageantry may be the norm in the core Imperial systems, elsewhere in Imperial space one can find myriad examples of deprivations and squalor. Indeed, the Empire encompasses many striking contrasts: sophisticated technology exists alongside and ancient Roman system of government, and the affluence of the core worlds depends on often unregulated slave labour in the wretched outer colonies.
Ruthless industrial efficiency and low taxation has made the Empire rich and mighty. The hierarchy of Imperial society is rigid, but a Citizen can always rise through the ranks if he or she becomes wealthy enough and makes the right connections. Even a slave could, in theory, become a Senator.