After western Europe's dubious flirtation with representative governments came to an end around 410 AD, things got back to normal. "Government", as such, returned to the state of affairs that had existed prior to the coming of the Roman Empire, to wit: the biggest, strongest guy owned it all. For the next 1400 years or so, a series of kings, religious leaders, and potentates controlled the destinies of larger and smaller areas of land from the coasts of Ireland and Portugal to Constantinople and up the Ural mountains.
Nowhere and nowhen was this dictated more firmly than it was by William I of England around 1085. After completing the conquest of most of England in 1066, William made it very clear that as far as he was concerned, he owned the entire country and everything and everyone in it. Everyone else, from noble to commoner to slave, was reduced to a renter at best (or as it was later put somewhat more charitably, a "tenant", from the Latin word for "to hold") to property at worst. He gave large parcels of the country to his best fighters to hold for him, and directed them to further subdivide those holdings into smaller plots of land that each of their best knights would hold. From these holdings, the various tenants would pay William (rather exorbitant) taxes, as well as tributes of food and other supplies. They would also contribute both knights and common soldiers to William's army should he call for them.
Yes, I know this sounds familiar. We'll get to how it applies to EVE in a minute.
Anyway, during the Christmas 1085 holiday, William decided that he felt like people were maybe holding back a chicken here and a sack of wool there and he let everyone know that he'd be sending auditors out among the country to count and tax everything he owned. The results of this massive audit were put into two great books that today are known as the Domesday Book. Kings and governments since have heard of William's innovation, thought it was a fine idea, and governments of all types have been emulating it to greater or lesser degrees ever since.
At the time, though, even William's own people didn't care for the idea, so you can imagine what the conquered people of England thought of it. The resulting taxes were systematic and heavy. The Domesday Book itself notes that by the time it was finished, only 12% of England's population were free-holders, and almost 75% were serfs or slaves. The rest were theoretically the nobility, but they were tenants the same as everyone else.
As I said: William owned it all, made it clear to everyone that he owned it all, and parceled out the pieces of it that he felt like it to those that were of service to him. If you weren't of service, you were kicked off the land and someone was brought in to replace you. Say that happened to someone, and you were the beneficiary. You're Baron B. Baron A has managed to do something stupid to piss off William, and is losing his tenancy. It's been given to you, and it's better than the one you have now. What do you do? Why, you pack up everything in your castle and you move to your new one. Your old castle will likewise be given to someone being promoted. No need to bring any more food than what you and your court will need for the trip. Once you arrive at your new digs, you'll be receiving the taxes and tribute from the knight-tenants in the new Baronetcy... minus what goes to the King, of course.
I swear I am not making this stuff up.
OK, now we can talk about EVE Online.
But honestly, do we really have to?
I'm sure all of this sounds extremely familiar to those in sov space these days. Serfdom ended on planet Earth 400 years or so ago in most places. But it's alive and well and thriving in New Eden. The Mittani wrote a piece on Ten Ton Hammer two years back called "Twilight of the Great Powers". It was written as the Dominion expansion was ramping up. Reading today, the piece comes off as simultaneously naive and prophetic:
For many of the Great War vets, the prospect of playing Slumlord Online is positively nauseating. When managing tenants was a means to the end of more conquest, having renters was fine - many alliances pre-Dominion used renters as an income method, and it funded their wars quite effectively. Yet now we seem to be consigned to be the galactic landlords of little fiefdoms, unable to expand...Except they found a way to expand, and it's called "economies of scale."
Read this next bit carefully, because I'm about to explain why "sovereignty by occupation" will never, ever come to New Eden.
The same piece lights the path ahead without realizing it:
The logical outgrowth of these design decisions is to stop conceptualizing alliances as conquest-focused war machines and instead think of them as a business.And that's exactly what has happened. "Wars are primarily driven by rage and hatred", we're led to believe, when that is demonstrably BS. If that's the case, why is RaidenDOT still holding sov in more than 100 systems when at least two "great powers" have every reason to despise them? Why was Merciless pushed out of sov space when they had no significant enemies? No, alliances in New Eden are a serfdom-driven business. Alliance warfare in New Eden is likewise a business driven by control of resources, control of territory, and control of players. "Those who try to play at the old Great Power game will find themselves desperately trying to stay afloat or bankrupt", Mittens said in February 2010. Nope. "Those who remain in conquerable space but give up conquest as a raison d'etre will find themselves stagnating as they wallow in their space-slums." Aheh. Nope.
Now introduce sovereignty by occupation into this climate. In every part of space except the northwest, the number of space-holding alliances is dropping rapidly. Meanwhile, the size of space-holding alliances is growing at an enormous rate. Players are moving either themselves or their corps en masse from small alliances to big ones. Wildly Inappropriate is a great example: they went from being a space-holding alliance to a corp inside Goonswarm.
There is absolutely no way these massive alliances can make the space they hold productive on these scales. However, they're having no trouble holding this space because once you're working on the scale of alliances of thousands of taxed alliance members and rent-paying tenants, the charges associated with holding sovereignty become a minor nit on the balance sheets. Far from being "bankrupt", the great powers are rolling in wealth.
This makes the massive super-cap fleets we're seeing not only possible but absolutely inevitable. There are alliances out there that literally have more super-caps than they can field. They keep the spares on hot stand-by hoping for and trying to recruit players who can actually fly the damn things. That makes the idea of a small sov-holding alliance a laughable one. Small alliances have no way of dealing with a small number of super-caps, much less a large number of them. Exit Merciless.
Sovereignty by occupation, introduced into this climate, would be pointless. These very same null-sec alliances moved to take over the CSM when they thought their jump-bridges were at stake. You think they'd sit still at an attempt to shake down their entire power structure, taxation model, and income sources? Hee! No. At best, because there is no limit on the number of corps that can join an alliance, they'd simply find ways to fold their pets into the alliance structure. Shadow of xXDEATHXx is at 200 corps and rising at two or three corps a week.
This, by the way, is why I've gone from being a fan of treaties to something approaching its worst enemy. I hope that this idea never makes it into EVE. I can understand now why work on it was probably stopped after Seleene left CCP. It has far more disadvantages now than advantages, and I think someone in CCP realized that. I wonder who it was?
So yeah, despite the fact that it makes total sense, I don't think we're ever going to see sovereignty by occupation in EVE Online. It's already too late for this kind of solution to do much good. Serfdom has taken hold in New Eden and until the serfs themselves decide otherwise, that's how things are going to stay.