Empty Horizons

by Goldenwing

Supplement: Twilight's Notes on Post-Alicorn Equestria

Research Notes, Entry Twenty-Three
25th of May, 673 Anno Caeli, 11:16 PM

I have finally managed to finish my copy of A Comprehensive History of the Empty Thrones, a text which I believe was commissioned by a merchant lord for use in the classes of his fleets, and I think I’m starting to get a picture of just how Equestria has continued functioning in the absence of the ruling Alicorn Princesses.

As an aside, I do find it interesting that the merchant lords tend to educate foals born on their ships privately, a standard which has led to fleet-born foals being, on average, far better educated than those born in baronlands or cities. Is it perhaps due to the extra demand for educated labor during extended airship travel? Maybe some way of influencing crew away from the decision of leaving the fleet? I’ll look into it more later.

Primary source interviews with the crew of the Argo has revealed that the Equestrian populace at large views the Princesses as something akin to true goddesses. Many of them believe that they are still being watched and protected by their spirits, as clearly evidenced by the church congregations I’ve seen in every settlement I’ve visited. Most of the remainder see the Princesses as tragic historical figures, to be respected and honored but not worshipped.

There is also a small minority—whom I have not had the opportunity to speak to as of yet—who believes that the Princesses never existed at all. Dusty Tome tells me he has even met ponies before who told him that all of Old Equestria was just a myth propagated by the Equestrian elite. He shared my amazement that such ponies could hold firm on their conspiracies in the face of so much evidence.

The religious majority are split into a shocking variety of denominations, which oddly seem to favor worshipping only one of the sisters at the expense of the other. This is perhaps due to a long series of religious conflicts during the early reconstruction period.

It is a common belief in particular religious sects that their favored Princess was a martyr who died defending them, and it’s unfortunate that many of them also believe the other Princess to be the cause of the apocalypse.

On the bright side, the redevelopment of Equestrian civilization has helped to suppress religious conflict in modern times, as ponies have ceased identifying themselves primarily by their religion. The common ponies are more united now than they have been in hundreds of years of written history. Which is to say, they are not very united at all.

The problem is most obvious at the higher levels of Equestrian society. Although every island is nominally part of the same Equestrian Diarchy, their political unity appears to be little more than lip service.

Petty Print’s Papers on the Pony Political Paradigm is an unusual gem on the subject. Although it seems that explicitly pointing out these flaws is frowned upon in Equestrian society, Print has put together a stellar collection of primary sources, stitched together with his own thrilling commentary.

I found the following passage starting at paragraph 70 to be a particularly astute summation of the subject:

At a glance, it’s a simple, practical method of government. Each island sends its representative to Parliament, each representative gets a vote, and a simple majority passes a bill.

But the ugliness of the system comes out in the details. The labyrinthine flaws of the Diarchy’s constitution are covered in depth in other sections, so I shall focus on the greatest issues.

At its core, the very concept of the elected representative is largely ignored by most of Equestria. The concept of any form of democracy coming out of a baronland is laughable. Any noble that can assert his dominance over a land openly appoints a loyal representative. If a clear winner does not exist, then no representative could ever hope to leave the island alive.

The politickers of the cities still hold elections, it is true. It is quite telling, however, that Heighton has not had an incumbent mayor lose an election in the last twenty years. The other cities are not notably better.

At first it might appear odd that the merchant lords are those who most hold true to the spirit of democracy. Indeed, many of them seem to take great satisfaction from holding and winning fair elections. The issue is that they all believe democracy is about voting with one’s bits, as opposed to one’s person.

But the issues compound. Parliament convenes for two months every year, and Equestria is lucky if they can decide where to hold the next assembly within the first five weeks. This is often the most productive part of the legislative year, as the representatives trade favors and political currency during the process.

With their initial bickering and posturing finished, those looking to enact a nationwide change must gather support from a twentieth of the assembly to change a petition into a submission. A simple majority passes the bill, but gaining this majority is perhaps the most difficult task a pony could ever set themselves to.

This is because the original writers of the constitution saw fit to reserve two seats for the lost Princesses. Each of the Vacant Thrones accounts for a tenth of the assembly’s voting power, meaning that a full fifth of Parliament has abstained on every vote in modern history. This means that a “simple majority” is practically over six tenths of the assembly. There are ponies who have attempted to remove the Vacant Thrones, but none have succeeded. The islands enjoy their independence, and the Thrones are a key part of it.

If some Equestrian hero does accomplish the task of passing a bill, they must then contend with the lack of enforcement. Parliament is technically in control of a militia to be used for defense of Equestria and domestic enforcement, but this militia is built entirely from donations. A perceptive reader might correctly imagine that there are no donations.

The end result is so near to anarchy that it may as well be. Bills cannot be passed and laws cannot be enforced. At times, I wonder if the invasion of some foreign power is the only thing that could ever reforge Equestria into a united polity.

Every source I check is largely in agreement: Equestria as a nation no longer exists in anything more than name.

Copying this passage again does make me wonder, however. Have any resources been devoted to exploring the world for survivors outside of Equestria? I have read accounts of interactions with gryphons, thestrals, and even a couple dragons throughout modern history. I have also personally encountered a living gryphon, though she was in no state to be interviewed.

And yet the censuses I have reviewed would imply that these species do not have the population to sustain themselves. There are logically two possibilities. Either the census-takers are flawed, or there is some land beyond the Equestrian known world where these demographical anomalies hail from.

I suppose it is also a technical possibility that my math is simply incorrect, but I have already checked it five times. See Addendum C for reference.

It has been too long since I’ve had access to a library. I will have to investigate the matter further once I find one.