The empire that keeps the trade routes open prospers. Those that lord over their own people falter.
Someone will get to the asteroids. Better a free people than the new economic core of empire, China, with its skyrocketting prosperity due to greater economic freedom than in the US.
We are seeing there's a hell of a lot more to freedom w.r.t. prosperity than just freedom of speech.
Some have a strange sense of propriety that all must kneel to get permission of the king before doing anything. That's not freedom...even in a democracy.