That night, as the Heart of Gold was busy putting a few light years between itself and the Horsehead Nebula, Zaphod lounged under the small palm tree on the bridge trying to bang his brain into shape with massive Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters; Ford and Trillian sat in a corner discussing life and matters arising from it; and Arthur took to his bed to flip through Ford's copy of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Since he was going to live in the place, he reasoned, he'd better start finding out something about it. + He came across this entry.
It said: 'The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.
"For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?"
He got no further before the ship's intercom buzzed into life.
"Hey Earthman? You hungry kid?" said Zaphod's voice.
"Er, well yes, a little peckish I suppose," said Arthur.
"OK baby, hold tight," said Zaphod. "We'll take in a quick bite at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe."
The term Imperial is kept though it is now an anachronism. The hereditary Emperor is nearly dead and has been so for many centuries. In the last moments of his dying coma he was locked in a statis field which keeps him in a state of perpetual unchangingness. All his heirs are now long dead, and this means that without any drastic political upheaval, power has simply and effectively moved a rung or two down the ladder, and is now seen to be vested in a body which used to act simply as advisers to the Emperor - an elected Governmental assembly headed by a President elected by that assembly. In fact it vests in no such place.
The President in particular is very much a figurehead - he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. On those criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the Galaxy has ever had - he has already spent two of his ten Presidential years in prison for fraud. Very very few people realize that the President and the Government have virtually no power at all, and of these very few people only six know whence ultimate political power is wielded. Most of the others secretly believe that the ultimate decision-making process is handled by a computer. They couldn't be more wrong.
Because Ford never learned to say his original name, his father eventually died of shame, which is still a terminal disease in some parts of the Galaxy. The other kids at school nicknamed him Ix, which in the language of Betelgeuse Five translates as "boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven".