The Seed of Government - Part 2
by Crissy Moss
See L. Sprague de Camps 'Goblin Tower' or 'Clocks of Iraz' for a wild patchwork of governments.
In the first installment I discussed how governments can effect your story, and how your story can effect your governments as well as some of the other things that might effect it.
In this section I will be showing you different forms of government, and tell you a little about them. Keep in mind that this is actually a short list, as there are many types of government I probably didn't find and there are many more that are strictly in the science fiction and fantasy books that I did not even scratch the surface of.
Also, it is perfectly acceptable for you to throw away all the definitions, and rules out there and create your own government. In fact I encourage it. Uniqueness and creativity in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing is always encouraged.
Also, I have added a bit about government sizes and stability to help in using these definitions.
Sizes of a Government
Governments must first be broken down into area. Where will the government be effective? Among which people? What are the boarders? Does it go beyond the boarders? Are there smaller governments within a larger system, such as clans being held within the boarders of a democratic nation?
City: It is confined to one city, and the government will often depend on the size of the city, and whether or not the city is part of a larger nation as a whole.
Colony: (See Colony under government types.)
County: Counties usually encompass some area within a state and will preside over several towns. The county is usually responsible only for those issues that are county wide such as transportation, rural water, and other items.
Country: Country government will lead the rest of the nations leanings. A democratic country can not have socialistic cities within it (At least not for long). They set the flavor for the way things will run, setting up standards for the entire country as a whole, or for specific areas (such as environmental considerations for different areas of the country, or such as some countries who would tax sperate areas for separate things.)
Empire: Empires span over nations, encompassing not only states and counties, but whole countries within their boarders assimilating all of it to their own prepossess.
National: Any law or standard kept for an entire country. National law can be anything and everything as long as it is nation wide. National law usually sees all people, places, and subjects as equal and under the same law, weather tyrannical or benevolent.
Polity Rule by the people. Every law and decision are put to a vote. This is the truest form of democracy, but only works in a limited fashion over small populations. This is a size of government (a city-state), not a form of government. Polities have been democracies, republics, monarchies, principalities, dual monarchies, plutocracies, and tyrannies
Planet: A planet wide government has been the focus of many stories, mostly to the detriment, sometimes for positive reasons. It seems almost impossible, at least on earth. Any planet wide government would almost have to be split into sections and representatives of some type placed over each section. However, being that planetary government has never been witnessed you could take this beyond simple understanding and create your own rules for it.
Planetary system: For Science Fiction writers governments may extend over whole systems, or galaxies. In such a case it may be wise to define what one groups rules are on inviting, or taking over another group, such as the Star Trek Federation inviting other civilizations to join their Federation of Planets. It may be wise to define the status of those who join, terms and regulations, restrictions and expectations in as much as it effects the story.
Provincial Rule by the provinces (or other territorial breakdown). A provincial government is one in which each village or other unit of area rules itself and there is no central government.
Regional: Region may include any number of considerations, from the region between two mountain ranges that might include several counties and cities, to the whole of a continent, planet, or system. Regional laws and regulations would preside over that specific region, even if that region bisects another county or system.
State: A state is a collection of cities, and areas which is subject to the rule of a bigger entity. A state can be one large city (city state) or it can be an entire planet, depending on the structure. More often it is the label for one part of a country, such as the states in Mexico, or the USA.
Another option is to have a government be designated by species, race, religion or creed. For example, all people of specific religions are bound by certain guidelines or books. Christians have the bible, Islam's the Koran, and others have their own laws and bylines that govern them no matter where they are in the world, or even the universe (beliefs don't stop when you're an astronaut.)
Perhaps elves in your world are governed by some sort of law that goes beyond simple democracy, and something within their blood forces them to return to the origin of their species where they discuss and evaluate their laws together. Such a government would go beyond any boundary or place. It would be embedded in there very physiology.
Or you could have some sort of communication that allowed a people to make their laws, and keep them, via some other vehicle then physical presence. Suppose your race is telepathic, or lives much of it's life locked in dreams. Rules could be made by consensus of morality, and enforced by the banishment from the telepathic bond, or isolation within the communal dream.
Above all be creative, incorporate your own ideas of what your race can and should be. Stretch boundaries and use this list more for filling in then for concrete items.
Types of Governments
This is a list of many government types, with descriptions of what they are, along with a few examples of how they can be used for good or ill. This list is by no means complete, especially considering we are dealing with fantasy and science fiction, however there is a great deal to start with here, and I encourage you to come up with your own.
This list is to be used in conjuncture with Seeds of Government Part I. I believe you will find this more helpful after reading the first article as it will help you to place and decide on certain factors in your society.
Do remember these are just examples of real or imagined government types, and you are by no means limited to these. Make up your own, give it a name, and make its own rules. Why not Ailurocracy, rule by cats, or Alienopany, rule by aliens. Your names need not even make sense because chances are you won't even have to use it within the context of your story, so be imaginative.
Anarchy: This is simply the lack of government, or the upheaval of it. Everyone has their own agenda, there is no central government, no police, no military. Theoretically it is possible to have such a state and have it peaceful, but in practice it is impossible. Everyone has their own idea of what should happen when and where, and no one can agree on anything, therefore chaos is usually the outcome of such a system.
Aristocracy: Rule by a small group (such as a high council).
Archonships: Ruled by Archons. All I could find about Archonship was that it was used back in ancient Greece.
Autocracy: Rule by a single individual who wields unlimited power. An emperor may rise to power due to hereditary lines, but is referred to as an autocrat rather than a monarch because his power overshadows his bloodline.
Banana Republic: A puppet state that is set up by a corporation to use cheap labor and export cheap goods to another country.
Bureaucracy: Bureaucracies are convoluted government structures filled with many shifts in hierarchy, long lines of red tape, and many organizations within the organizations. Much of the USA government structure is filled with bureaucratic nonsense, but it could be MUCH worse. In some countries there have been groups to regulate things, and groups to regulate those groups, and then groups to regulate those groups until there were so many layers of bureaucracy that no one knew heads or tales of anything. Dictionary.com's definition is perhaps the best: An administrative system in which the need or inclination to follow rigid or complex procedures impedes effective action
Capitalist: In a capitalistic society money flows freely. Free trade is encouraged, and people are allowed to buy and sell as they please, within reason usually. Monopolies can occur in this situation, as can hoarding (as DeBears does with diamonds) and shuffling of resources. In such a society there are usually three classes, the rich, the poor and the middle class. Gulfs between such classes can be small are large depending on how things are regulated if they are regulated at all. Some people are completely against capitalism, others are only against the extreme forms of it.
Caste: Castes have been in use in India and other countries for many generations. It is the separation of social class by distinctions of hereditary rank, profession, or wealth, from those in royalty down to those in the untouchable category. Caste not only defines their government, but their entire life for in some caste societies no one of a different caste can marry someone of a lower caste, and some can not even touch members of other castes.
Clan: Clans are family oriented. It could be a tribe, or other group that is split into specific clans, each with their own head of household who is usually the eldest male who is capable of leading the family, passed on along the generations. Others can be brought in by marriage or adoption, but usually the full blood members are slightly higher in the hierarchy then the others.
Colonialism: Colonies are subject to another lands rules, such as the American colonies were subject to Great Britain before the Revolution, and have as much independence as they are granted. Some of their own governors, their own city councils, and make their own laws and regulations. Almost all have been subject to some sort of taxation that supported the mother land in one form or another, either with goods, gold or money, and sometimes in slaves. Usually colonies are separated from their mother land by oceans, but it is possible for that separation to be because of other countries, deserts or the vast ocean of space. It's even possible that a sea based life form be separated by land.
Colonial Corporation: A colony to the corrupt megacorporations common to cyberpunk
Communist: A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people. This is the theory, that everyone would share everything, but as yet no one has been able to achieve this goal. Communism is opposed to capitalism in every way, in theory. (See socialism)
Computocracy: Rule by computers or A.I.s, as in Issac Asimov's machines, or the Matrix. Computers could be benevolent or tyrannical as any other species, mostly depending on their programming, or flaws in their programming.
Commonwealth: (see republic)
Confederacy: The persons, bodies, states, or nations united by a league; a confederation. The most well known was the Confederate States of America. This is also defined as a group of people who have unified for unlawful practices, such as a mob family, or in the case of the Confederated States of America who simply wanted to secede from the USA, and thus were breaking the law.
Conformity (J.K Chalker - Well World series)
Congress: Not so much a government as a way of implementing many forms of government, or even just conferences (Congress of Vienna to settle the remains of Napoleonic France). There are democratic congresses and communist congresses, and so on.
Cooperate Rule: Final authority belongs to a company, either covertly or out right. (Example: Piper's benign)
Democracy: Rule by representatives elected by the population. An abstract form of polity.
Representative Democracy: In electoral systems, such as in the United States, the people elect representatives who they think align with their own beliefs and these men and women are the ones who cast the votes for us. All laws and regulations are made by these few instead of the mass as a whole.
Direct Democracy: This is almost impossible in anything very large, however it may be possible in a completely wired generation where everyone could make their votes via computer, and the computers could tally up every vote. Basically, in a direct democracy every vote counts.
Limited Party Democracy: Here in the USA anyone can run for office if they fulfill certain requirements, but only certain people will have the backing of their particular party. They run for primaries, and those who win are backed by the party to run for president. Many consider the USA limited in party representation because Democrats and Republicans have basically run the show, however there are other parties, they are just very underrepresented. In your own society you could use this as a structure for your government. If it is limited to, say, free and slave, or citizen and non citizen, and the sides were or were not equally represented then that could be considered limited democracy. You could also limit it to certain groups within a country. It can be limited to certain areas within a country. It can be limited to certain sexes, races, ages, or religions within a country.
Despotism: This is another form of Tyranny.
Enlightened Despotism: Basically, when a despot who is in control of an area is enlightened. The monarchs ruled with the purpose of helping and growing their subjects instead of themselves. It is not so much a inference in government system, as it is a difference in purposes and desires of the person governing. see here for more info
Dictatorship: One person ruling the entire country without consideration of anyone else's laws or commands from previous reigns unless he so desired to do so.
Benevolent Dictator: This is the theoretical perfect form of government, where one all-knowing and all-caring individual would rule the country… THE WORLD!
Empire: In the Roman empire the Caesar ruled over lesser territories who in tern were ruled over by those called kings and queens. Those kings and/or queens were put in place by the emperor, not the people, and only via the family line when the emperor thought it was expedient (as in the case of Herod who had authority over Israel during the time of Jesus birth.)
Fascism: An absolute despotism, in which the ruler has absolute authority. Mussolini was often called a fascist. It is also centered around national or racial superiority. The fascist leader often uses terror and censorship to control his subjects, and enforce his racial views.
Federal: The grouping or union of several states which have a basic over structure, while still keeping some autonomy from the main country. The USA is a perfect example of this, for while the main government has control over certain aspects of the government the lower states are able and often do disagree and even go against the main system at the cost of certain benefits that the main government gives them like tax breaks and money for certain things. Also called a Federation. This could easily apply to a group of planets or colonies as well.
Feudalism: In a feudalistic society the king gives lands to his officials, who redistribute it to lower ranking officials, who finally distribute it to serfs who use the land to produce crops and other wares. The serfs work the land, and pay for the use of the land with the goods and gold they have earned. The king is not so much ruling the subjects as he is ruling the lords, and those who live within his own area, and the lords then rule their areas. Most fantasy stories take place in such a rule, with kings, lords and peasants without really going into great detail of the society. more on feudalism.
Gerontocracy: In many societies it has been costume that a council of elders ruled. Many fiction settings carry this over, especially in elvin societies.
Gynocracy: Another system where women rule.
Hierocracy: Hierocracy is a government either legitimized by the church, such as a king being blessed by the church and only then being recognized as the true ruler, or a high priest who is also king.
Hive Mind: The most noted instance of this is in Star Trek with the Borg. Each drones thoughts are added to the sum of the whole, and the will of the collective is used. This form of mentality has been used with the Borg, and with other life forms such as amebic type creatures and insect colonies. In each there has been one individual who lead the rest as a queen bee leads her colony. Drones had little thought or ambition other then to serve the queen. Even the borg, an absolute collective, had one entity who lead the rest, though this entity was able to shift between bodies when another was destroyed for she truly was 'the borg' in every instance. Depending on the disposition of such a creature, or the lack of any emotion at all, this could be an extraordinary creature to use if done right.
Isolationists: Isolationism is not so much a government as it is a way of running some governments. Democracies and socialist nations have been known to be isolationists. It is when a country or society holds themselves away from world events, either by force or pacifism, and do not wish to get involved. The USA was this way during the beginning of both WWI and WWII, only getting involved when they were directly attacked or their people were attacked. Some countries have a standing order of neutrality because of this, hoping that it will keep them away from the majority of the fighting as Switzerland and others do. Military forces in such countries are some times smaller, or non existent. Sometimes boarders are closed, or one way. Other times they are completely open to all trade and tourism but the country will have nothing to do with wars or police situations beyond their boarders. Some countries have used Isolationism to confine and control their own people, and thus keep all power over them.
Magocracy: Rule by the mages. Those capable of wielding magic form an elite group or upper class and control the government. This could be an individual or a council, either the strongest or an elected person. Basically, magocracy could over lap almost any other government with the only requirement being the people in charge wield (or at the very least control) magic, however strong that magic is. Xanth is a very good example of this.
Matriarchy: (rule by mothers, though this is more precisely a cultural system rather than political)
Meritocracy: A system in which a persons advancement depends completely on their achievement. Military is the closest analogy I can come to, in which a person is raised through the ranks because of past successes, or education. Of course, in every society there has been those who sneak through with bribes or shear luck.
Military Junta: In some countries there are big possibilities of military coop's, and when this happens it becomes a Military Junta, in which the military is in charge of the state. These governments are usually very volatile, transitory, and subject to be overthrown by other forces. Some few countries have been in the state of Military Junta for a very long time, passing between one group to the next, or ruled by one group while the other is constantly trying to take over. In any case this type of government can give you a huge area for story telling. Rebels, peasants, or anyone under the boot of the military can be trying to get out from under it, or the military can be trying to push down farther. On the other hand the military could just have over thrown an evil tyrant, and now be trying to keep him down.
Monarchy: Rule by a king or queen.
Absolute Monarchy: Also called 'Absolutism' the monarchy has supreme and absolute authority to do what it wishes. Rule by one individual who attains position because of hereditary lines. The monarchy could also be given along other lines, such as adopted children, or a lottery done by the people every so often.
Constitutional Monarchy: In this form of monarchy, the monarch has powers granted to him/her by the country's constitution. An example of this form of monarchy is in Sweden. Here, the monarch can only use powers granted in the country's constitution
Dual Monarchy: two kings at once, also called Sparta.
Elected Monarchies: In this situation the queen or king is elected by the people, and given the abilities that the king or queen would have with consideration of which form of monarchy they have. The elected king could simply preside over the military, or over a parliament type situation. Merovingian monarchy and the Anglo-Saxon are examples.
Limited Monarchy: is one in which the royalty have only ceremonial powers
Ochlocracy: Rule by organized crime. Usually several factions or cartels rise to power and balance each other through conflict and cooperation. This could be out in the open, or it could be underground such as it was in the USA during prohibition. Even the leading government can get involved in the underground, dealing with them in different ways, using them for information, or simply in a war against them.
Oligarchy: Rule by a small group wielding virtually unlimited power for evil or selfish goals. Oligarchy and plutocracy often overlap. This could include such things as a small group of elves ruling over all other races (such as in 'Elvenbane'), or one class of people ruling over all others.
Parliamentarians: Much like a congress. They are a group of people who make the laws of the nation. England is the most famous.
Patriarchy: This is more precisely a society structure then it is a government. It has been practiced in most societies ever since the dawn of time. It means that men are in charge, and usually women are denied any rights in government. In the past women have been denied the ability to vote or run for offices, and still are in some areas. The men lead the wars, and provide the governments. This can be because the men feel women are to be respected and kept safe for their ability to create children, it could be because they feel women are beneath them and unworthy of this position, or somewhere in between. Many men over time have gotten the idea that women were incapable of leadership, or did not desire it. It has also happened that some men who did not want leadership were forced into it when a perfectly willing woman was there simply because of the idea that it was the mans business. (see also Phallocracy or Androcracy)
Plutocracy: Rule by the wealthy. The upper classes completely control all laws and government positions. In such a society it is more likely that the gap between the wealthy and poor be very wide, and there be no middle class at all.
Phallocracy or Androcracy: rule by men, see Patriarchy
Puppet State: This could happen in any form of government for many reasons. A puppet state occurs when someone is put in charge and then someone else runs the country from behind the scenes. Monarchies have been used for this most often in literature, but there has been at least one case that could be termed a 'puppet state' in the USA, and that is when one president fell ill and was unable to perform his duties and his wife did them instead, while giving him all the credit. Puppet states are not always ill willed, it can be from necessity. Other times it is because one person wants control and can't get it any other way. A puppet state could also happen when one country rules another by controlling the figure head they have put in place, or subverted. Conspiracy theorists assume that officials are elected to positions and then a secret sect, or government agency pushes that official in the way they want them to go, and assassinate them when they don't do as they are told. I even remember one instance where the person wanted a puppet state so that they could get all the benefits of being king, without all the problems. Puppet states are very common in fiction, so I'd advice finding some unique way of using it if you plan on doing so.
Republic: Republics are about equality and freedom. In a republic a citizen is able to vote for representatives who then lead the government. Republics can then be lead by several methods, including councils, presidencies, or other governments. It is also called a commonwealth.
Socialism: 'Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy', or so dictionary.com says. Socialist states try to make everyone equal by force, and have ended up, in some cases, having a nation of scared poor people. Progress is limited and ambition has little gain.
For more information you might want to look up Leninism, Marxism, National Socialism, Stalinism, and Trotskyism which are various forms and extremes of Socialism.
Syndicracy: rule by syndics or syndication's. That is, it is a government ruled merchants as in the Hanseatic League. These merchants can be simply interested in free trade, or they could be interested in monopolizing trade or become gangster like in purpose.
Totalitarian: A totalitarian government seizes all control over every aspect of life within the boarders of the country. You are told what you can and can not do, where you can go, what job you can have, where you can live, and even maybe what you can wear. 'A totalitarian regime crushes all autonomous institutions in its drive to seize the human soul' (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.).
Theocracy: Dictionary.com describes this as a 'Government of a state by the immediate direction or administration of God; hence, the exercise of political authority by priests as representing the Deity.' While a Hierocracy is ruled by the church sometimes behind the scenes, in a Theocracy the priests are truly in charge.
Tribal: A tribe is often a gathering of a people who live travel together, like those who were gathered around their herds in the Middle East, or in Native American cultures, traveling where ever they could find food and shelter for their herds and families. While clans are designated by family, tribes are a bit looser and defined more by culture, as the Native American tribes were split between different areas, ways of life, and how they passed their ways onto the next generation. Often tribes live in tents or other easily moved or constructed homes such as huts. Some follow the migration of animals, as some Native Americans followed the buffalo. Others migrated because of weather conditions, having summer and winter camps. Tribes often have one chief passed down through a blood line, and sometimes a council of elders who advice the chief. Some have warlord type systems. (see warlordship)
Tyranny: The absolute power of one person over all. This is usually used to describe a cruel dictator, someone who uses and abuses his authority for his own gain. Torture and military might were not uncommon in tyrannical governments.
Warlordships: A country, or civilization ruled by a war lord. Basically it is a general who rules over a people, weather with an iron fist or with a delicate hand. Either way, he is in complete control of the army, and uses it.
Lastly, the stability of the nation should be considered. The government hinges on a few things, like the mentality of the people, the strength of their numbers, their fear or happiness, the ideals of the nation, and even the natural desires for life and liberty.
Stability will effect your plot more then any other thing about government. Decide how stable each government is, and why they are or are not stable, and add this to your notes on each country. This will help you in creating conflict for your characters.
Very Unstable: Small shifts in power are frequent (such as assassinations, coops, mergers, bankruptcy, and devolving of different areas) and the likelihood of the government collapsing or being overthrown is high. Such a government may have tenuous hold on the military or may be using it to strike fear into the people to keep them in line, however the hatred of the people could be such that no military could stop it eventually. The population is usually kept in line with threats and martial law. It is most likely that the military and officials are corrupt and keeping things in order depends on keeping them in line as well.
Unstable: An unstable government usually involves conflict between internal groups, or sub groups and may involve a population that dislikes the ruling class, or specific factions within the city and government and/or a military which occasionally resists government authority. It could also be caused by severe economic troubles and a government who has overspent it's limits. Such a government faces hard times ahead and there is a good chance that there will be changes in the politics of the nation some time in the next 10 years, either by force, uprising, or some peaceful measure.
Stable: This is the "average" among the nations. A stable government is one which has firm handle on the military and grudging respect from the people, even if they do bemoan their taxes or some laws. It is likely that this government will stand unless something occurs to upset the balance, either from outside or within the civilization.
Very Stable: The government is rock solid and is built upon traditions and rituals that have last for many generations. It is highly unlikely that such a government will undergo any significant change as long as things are upheld. Such governments are usually strong and have full support of the military and the people.
Remember that economies can also effect stability. A starving nation will not support a good king anymore then a healthy nation will support a corrupt official. It is actually more likely that a starving nation will allow a tyrannical leader to stay out of fear.