The Iridium Corporation
The Iridium Corporation is the apex business organization of a society dedicated to the principles of the free market. Not greedy, materialistic, or cruel, the people of Iridia simply believe that free and open access to markets lead to the perfect society.
Although nominally a private enterprise, the Iridium Corporation so thoroughly dominates the Iridium market that it's indistinguishable from a government body to many outside observers. Because it gained this position over centuries of open business activities, few Iridiums see an issue with it – their definition of a free market includes no prohibitions against monopolistic power. Some voices occasionally advocate for reform and restrictions on the Iridium Corporation's powers, but as these almost always originate from the Iridium Corporation's competitors, and reek of market interference, they rarely find purchase within the rest of Iridium culture. An apex corporation also allows the Iridium people to seamlessly do business with alien races, the single entity able to use its weight to negotiate more favorable treaties and alliances that can benefit the entire Iridium market.
Iridium people are generally happy with their lot in life, their culture having long valued the role of the worker. More cynical observers might say that any Iridiums unhappy with their life simply aren't heard from, coming from the un- and underemployed classes routinely ignored by the Iridium media.
Another quirk of Iridium culture is their curiously low birthrate. As the costs involved in raising a child are borne solely by its parents, and culture dictates that all children are discharged without debts to their parents upon reaching the age of majority, there are few market benefits to having a child. Even support during the parents' non-working retirement years is limited to token gifts – anything more would be taboo in Iridium culture.
The Iridium Corporation is currently led by High Arbiter Harondin Gaul. Gaul is somewhat unusual amongst Iridiums in that he has a well-developed sense of generosity. Although all Iridiums perceive the value of gifts and favors as a business mechanism, Gaul has elevated this practice to new heights, often doing favors for others who can provide him no perceivable benefit. Gaul remains unwilling to explain this anomalous behavior, though his recent election victory for an unprecedented third 33-year term perhaps provides a hint as to his motivations.
The discovery of hyperdrive (via a sublight trader that made contact with a Terran drone vessel) has sparked an upheaval in the Iridium marketplace, as the economy retools itself to begin exploiting the limitless expanse of the stars. This calls to mind earlier eras when business-states used wooden ships to exploit the resources of Iridia. Although great fortunes were made, this was also a time of much misery and suffering amongst the Iridium people, and some internal observers worry that the new rush to the stars will cause the same internal stress and tension.
Perhaps more concerning is the external threats facing the Iridium Corporation. Iridia has largely had a peaceful history, its people having long disdained the destructive potential of war. This tendency may leave them blind to the intentions of their galactic neighbors, who may not view their interactions through the same lens of peaceful cooperation.
A newcomer to the galactic stage, the Iridium Corporation has made no friends or enemies yet. Desiring only wealth and prosperity, its success or failure will depend largely on how well it adapts to the unpredictable and often hostile neighborhood it now finds itself in.