“Few products escape the CHOAM touch … Logs, donkeys, horses, cows, lumber, dung, sharks, whale fur — the most prosaic and the most exotic … even our poor pundi rice from Caladan. Anything the Guild will transport, the art forms of Ecaz, the machines of Richese and Ix. But all fades before melange. A handful of spice will buy a home on Tupile. It cannot be manufactured, it must be mined on Arrakis. It is unique and it has true geriatric properties … But the important thing is to consider all the Houses that depend on CHOAM profits. And think of the enormous proportion of those profits dependent upon a single product — the spice. Imagine what would happen if something should reduce spice production.” Duke Leto Atreides
In Dune, the Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles (CHOAM) comapny is the economic glue the Imperium. While the Spacing Guild are the carriers from point A to point B, it is CHOAM that, for lack of a better word, serves as the face of the Guild to the ordinary citizen. CHOAM manages the purchase, transportation and sale of all goods that travels outside of a planetary system. Everything from the Spice down to slaves and livestock.
A lot is hinted about CHOAM in Dune, but little and less is actually said. It’s heavily implied that ever House worth a damn vies to dip their fingers into the CHOAM coffer, and explicitly stated that CHOAM directorship is one of the avenues to controlling the Spice trade, and indirectly, the Universe.
I want to draw out further implications here: Every House has a product to export. Every House also wants to spend their coin on luxuries and necessities for their planetary population. If you can’t spend your money, then your money becomes worthless. I see CHOAM as managing this. The company cuts across linguistic and cultural barriers to find markets for your goods. CHOAM handles this for you, for – of course – a reasonable fee. CHOAM will even manage trade between two bitterly opposed Houses: A typical Harkonnen peon subsisting on pundi rice won’t care too much about its origin so long as it feeds his family.
In short, CHOAM will open doors to trade whether or not you want those doors opened. Probably the worst thing any CHOAM agent can hear is “No thank you, we’re self-sufficient.”
I also see CHOAM as being important in tying the Imperium together. If you live in the middle of Buttfuck, America, or anywhere else for that matter, it is easy to forget that you are part of a greater planet. Now imagine that on a planetary scale! CHOAM has a role in reminding planetary population that they are part of a greater Imperium in ways that don’t involve hard-eyed Sardaukar dropping down out of the sky to burn your village and rape your wife.
CHOAM are responsible for this campaign of travel posters.
At the time of the Bulerian Jihad, ten thousand years before Dune, there were over eleven thousand member planets in the Landsraad. Easily as many different languages and cultures flourish on them. Galach is the language of trade and of the nobility. Not every person, or even many people, would speak it, and translating a “Travel by Heighliner!” campaign into that many languages would be a logistical nightmare.
And a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
These posters were shotgunned to every world which had a class with enough disposable income to afford interplanetary travel.