The Federacy was an interstellar political entity composed of several thousand planets settled by Earth humans.
The Federacy was a parliamentary democracy, with delegates being regularly elected from all member planets to the Assembly, the majority then electing the Prime Minister and approving the annual government budgets. In practice, powerful bureaucrats of such governmental agencies as the Survey Service tended to become entrenched in power and only imperfectly controlled by the elected officials - and sometimes grossly abused their power, as in the notorious case of Paulina Koch.
Federacy business was conducted in the language known as "Basic", largely identical with the English Language still used in daily life in some parts of Earth such as Australia and on planets settled from them. The Federacy maintained its own calendar, the Federacy Standard Year, derived from the Earth calendar (each year divided into 365 days, numbered consecutively without months). It was used for common Federacy business such as elections. Member planets, however, used their own calendars and time units based on their own periods of rotation, and most people did not know the date under the Federacy calendar without specially looking it up.
Federacy member planets had wide autonomy in running their own affairs. Most planets had been settled from one or two countries on Earth, and tended to keep many cultural elements of the original mother country even after thousands of years - for example, the very distinctive Greek culture of New Thessaly.
Aside from the Federacy member planets, there were numerous low-technology planets which had not achieved space flight. The Federacy's Survey Service was charged with studying these planets, bound by the strict rule of "Non-Interference" which bound its members to be observers only and not interfere in any way in the planet's development - even when such interference might seem beneficial to the observers. Each such planet was visited once every 1500 years, unless special circumstances required more frequent visits.
The Purists, having an organised faction in the Federacy Assembly and maintaining such groups as the powerful "watch-dog" Non-Interference Foundation, constantly accused the Survey Service of violating this rule. Their ultimate aim was to have the Survey Service scrapped altogether. As an intermediate step, they sought to have its budget drastically cut, in which they sought to establish parliamentary alliances with other factions having their own reasons to get budget cuts. The struggle between Purists on the one hand and advocates of Federacy involvement with low-tech planets on the other was a regular issue of controversy in Federacy politics.
The Federacy - established at the culmination of the great outward wave of settlement from Earth - was a highly stable political and social milieu, only slowly changing. Accounts from the Federacy Standard Year 1186 and from the Standard Year 2686 indicate little change occurring in the intervening 1500 years, either in political and social institutions or in the technology used (e.g. types of spaceships and of computer systems).