Well, I think it's nutz.
Real life, nobody just up and demands
tribute, unless they've already
achieved a significant power imbalance in their own favor.
Indeed, I think it would make more sense for the Pirates to demand tribute. They start the game with about a gadzillion ships, and could easily wipe everybody off the map if they wanted to. Thankfully, they generally only send out a small fraction of their fleet to harass people.
It's like they don't even really care, they just want to harass people -- one time I saw that another player was on their Hit List. But they needed to phase jump through one of my systems to get there. I left them alone, they left me alone. Weird.
BTW, I saw one mission I liked, where I was supposed to shoot up one of the other player's ships. Well, that's more like it! I wanted to do that anyway! So how's come I didn't get any money for all that hard work I did? Or did I just not read it right?
But I can't complain. (I will anyway.) It pumps more adrenalin into the game, as apparently the designers have set it up such that there's no such thing as any half-hour going by without something
getting blown to smithereens!