From a post to ALT.BOOKS.DAVID-WEBER dated October 9, 1998:

How is the Solarian League organized?

    In basic terms, the Solarian League can be thought of as a cross between the League of Nations and the pre-Constitution United Stated of America (i.e., the US under the Articles of Confederation). The executive branch is very weak, the devolution of powers to the members of the federation is extreme by present-day standards, and there is a pronounced tendency to debate things to death rather than acting. (This is the primary reason the Eridani Edict was enshrined as an actual constitutional provision; to avoid the endless debates which would have made it a pointless, paper tiger of a sanction.) The League can actually be thought of as a sort of vast association of smaller political units. Many of those smaller units are multi-system in nature: three or four or a dozen systems united by common astrography, political concerns, economic ties, etc. Others--like Old Earth herself, Beowulf, and many of the other oldest "core worlds" lying within a couple of hundred light-years of Sol--are single-system political entities whose individual power make them forces to be reckoned with. The frontiers of the League tend to be somewhat amorphous, and the planets/systems in those regions are much more in the nature of dependencies/protectorates than actual "members" of the League. As a general rule, the League is not truly expansionist, but there are always forces and individuals within the League (and especially within its huge bureaucracy) with views of their own. For the UK citizens in our audience, think in terms of Mr. Rhodes and Africa. Thus many of the smaller/weaker/poorer systems on the borders of League space tend to find themselves being "assisted" into "accepting" League protection whether they want it or not, and very few people on the core worlds even realize it's happening.