The Galactic Republic may have been democratic in principle but it was structurally oligarchic, thoroughly.
Ironically, the Empire, for all of its destructiveness, encourages a more organic interplay of violence between rebel fighters and graduates of the imperial war college. Weapons seem very available in the films where the Empire is dominant, while they are only seen in the hands of selective members of the oligarchy and their armed guards, and of course, the Jedi, which is why it is so easy for Chancellor Palpatine to orchestrate the violence on both sides of the conflict as an able puppet-master.
As an example of this we see former Senator (and former paramour of Princess Amidala) turned Separatist Rush Clovis on the planet Scipio ask Padme: "How did you get a blaster into the neutral zone?" From this statement it is clear that the banking clan, who controlled the finances of both the republic and separatist alliance, in addition to being perceived as a neutral appearing entity, viewed that neutrality was inseparable from unilateral disarmament. Again, Clovis, Padme, the Jedi, bodyguards, bounty hunters, the Republic military and Scipian troops attached to government officials are clearly presented as "exceptions" to this uniform disarmament.
For thousands of planets to hand over the control of their economies to external organizations for the betterment of the collective good and the "galactic" economy, smacks overtly of an anti-sovereignty sentiment that displays a remarkable similarity to a much more familiar form of social and economic conformity, that of Globalist Socialism.
As per the normative class and race appeasement of anti-sovereignty movements, we see the representation and rights of non-humans as presented as equal to humans. This is seen in the diversity of the membership of the Jedi Order, as well as with the Naboo forging an alliance with the Gungans, though they apparently never bothered to so earlier though they apparently have shared their planet 50-50 for many millennia.
EPISODE IV: THE TAXATION OF THE SITH
I think that it is highly likely that the Republic bought its fuel through the Trade Federation via Republic member planets at a high tariff and highly taxed rate, leading to a greatly inflated cost and the further debasement of Republic currency. Conversely, I assume that once under the control of the Empire, the state quickly "nationalized" many of the largest producers of fuel, militarily, and brought down the cost dramatically, allowing trade, movement, and coincidentally smuggling, to progress unencumbered and at far less cost.
Aside from tax evasion, smuggling (also tax evasion), and rebellion, which, hey, would also interfere with tax collection, the Empire is a much more a "live and let live" institution than the Republic. People go about their way with rare imperial interaction, unless they overtly break a law, such as being a member of the Rebel Alliance or committing murder. Example: In the cantina scene of the very first film, after Ben Kenobi light sabers a ruffian or two, and Han (he shot first) Solo kills Greedo, we only hear Han mutter that "someone is starting to take interest in your handiwork", and the situation is cured by a quick exit and a coin tossed.