In the period immediately following the independence of the Belt, practically all the major habitats were owned by the corporations of the Ceres Combine. Despite its vigorous expression of its new political and economic freedoms, the nascent Belt remained culturally an extension of Earth's metanational order. Inexorably, however, this situation began to change.
The dominant trend in the social history of the Belt was towards ever greater cultural fragmentation. Even measured by the speed of fusion-drive ships, the Belt is vast. The habitats, separated from each other by such great distances, were forced to be self-contained worlds. Each small, relatively isolated population began to develop its own unique customs and attitudes. The society and culture of each habitat began to diverge from the others.
In the face of this cultural drift, the Ceres Combine fought a losing battle to preserve a strong Belt-wide polity. That it was impractical for a single organization to control dozens of habitats scattered across so many light-minutes of space became increasingly apparent. In any case, as Earth began to accept the independence of the asteroid habitats, and found that it could still do business with them, a centralised government became unnecessary as well as unworkable.
By 2215, Ceres only loosely controlled the other habitats. At least in name it was still the seat of government of the whole main Belt region. The Combine regulated trade between habitats and basic human rights, and took care of defence and foreign affairs. Later even these powers slipped away, as the Belt became a confederation of city-states and townships, and then a collection of dozens of rival factions.
Despite the waning power of the Ceres Combine, the economy of the Belt continued to grow at a startling rate. The mineral wealth of the asteroids was almost incalculable, and, as in Earth-orbital space, there were no concerns about environmental damage to prevent its exploitation. The use of self-replicating factories and mining systems allowed the extraction and processing of ores on a huge scale. The population of the Belt remained small, reaching 4 million by 2230, but its inhabitants became the richest, most powerful people in human history.
In September 2233, the Lunaya Pravda Macroeconomic Supplement, an annual survey of the Solar economy, showed that the Gross Development Index of the Belt exceeded that of Terra. Within fifteen years it had equaled that of Cis-Luna, and the GDI of Ceres alone was fast approaching that of Mars; the other factions were not far behind.
Belt: 1 | 2 | 3 | Now
The future of Ad Astra