The kinds of governments you can have in your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, Editor-in-Chief Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Big Brother, Uncle Sam, Fascist Pigs. We’ve all heard of some way our governments around the world are described but have you thought about how the government in your world is going to run?
I know, I know; government, what a bore! But knowing what kind of government rules in your world informs the decisions that your characters will make. I’ll apologize in advance, dear reader, this is going to be another long post.
In this section, I want to briefly talk about the seven types of government—there are plenty more specific government types, but for the sake of brevity, I’m going to limit it to the seven traditionally taught in school. I know, I know; you learned this in history class. We all need a refresher on what exactly these governments are and do in order to make informed decisions about the government in the worlds that we’re creating. And I promise not to let my background of wanting to be a history teacher get away from me. For each definition that you’ll see for the kinds of government, they will be coming from Merriam-Webster. Keep in mind that there are plenty of countries that can be variants of multiple kinds of governments, so just a single kind might not work for the kind of story you want to tell.
A democracy is a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.
What does this mean for your world? It means that your country can hold free elections without the influence of a dictator in order to win each election held. These aren’t often seen in fantasy or SciFi novels, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t work. If you want to look at this kind of government, you can look at the United States (sort of), New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, etc.
A republic is a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.
A republic is similar to a democracy, but rather than a single elected official ruling it’s a group of elected officials ruling the people. If you want to look at a combination of both a republic and a democracy, the United States is a democratic republic. If you want to look at just a republic then you can look at countries of Venezuela, Germany, Bosnia, Somalia, and more.
An Autocracy is a government in which one person possesses unlimited power.
An autocracy is going to include monarchies and dictatorships. These both lend themselves well to fantasy, dystopian, and SciFi novels. With your monarchies, you can have an absolute monarchy that is often easier to write, an elective monarchy, or a constitutional monarchy. Dictatorships also have multiple types. You can have a sole dictator, an authoritarian oligarchy (or collective dictatorship), and an absolute democracy. If you want to look at autocracies, take a look at the UAE, Cuba, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and more.
An oligarchy is a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.
This one is a combination of an autocracy and a democracy. These governments are often ruled by the wealthy, nobility, corporate, religious, political, or military control. As with autocracies, oligarchies lend themselves well to fantasy, dystopian, and SciFi novels. If you want to look closer at oligarchies, Russia, China, and Iran are well-known examples.
A theocracy is a government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided.
When I first started researching for this post I thought there was no way I was going to be including a theocracy because who puts that in books? Turns out, a lot of people in very successful novels. If you want an example in books how a theocracy works, check out the Dune Series by Frank Herbert where he employs a feudal theocracy, or in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. If you want an example in world governments Yemen, Vatican City, and Afghanistan are ones to look at.
Communism is a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production.
Communism is both a type of government and a social ideology. This is a government where goods are owned by everyone and available to all when needed. This is often confused with socialism, which is the same in certain areas but different in others. If you want examples of communist states China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam are examples of communist states.
Fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
A fascist government is a one-party dictatorship that is severely against democracy. This type of government puts the nation above the individual, and are historically militaristic. Take Germany or Italy during WWII—those were both fascist states. After WWII, however, there are very few surviving fascist governments. This type of government is perfect for a viva la revolución dystopian, fantasy, or SciFi novel.
I lied. I’m going to include one more that could be very effective in a fantasy, dystopian, or SciFi novel. A plutocracy is a government by the wealthy.
If you want an example of a plutocracy in fiction, look at the dystopian The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins. Panem is ruled by the rich while the districts are left in squalor and forced to fight against each other regularly. Unfortunately (for our writing purposes), there are very few modern examples of a true plutocracy. You could argue that Russia is a plutocracy, but they also have elections.
No matter what government system you choose, make sure it fits the world you’re creating and the story you want to tell. Other things you’ll want to think about after setting up this government is what kind of social hierarchy you’ll have within it, and what services are offered by said government.
Hallelujah! We’re finished with the kinds of government, and a huge congratulations to you if you made it through that. Now, on to services. These are going to depend on what government you choose, what time period you choose, and how many taxes will be collected in your world.
In this section, I want to list a couple of services offered by local, state, and federal governments you may or may not have thought of:
- Social services
- Roads and transport
- Waste disposal
- Economic development
- Countywide planning and the environment
- Police and fire protection
- Trash collection
- Environmental health
- Leisure and amenities
- Planning permission
- Parks and recreation
Your legal system will all depend on the kind of government that you choose for your world. Meaning, is it going to be a corrupt legal system that serves the state, or are your citizens going to have certain rights given to them by a constitution and can’t unlawfully be detained?
It’s the Po-Po!
Well...it might not actually be the Po-Po. What you’ll want to think about while building your legals system and government is, who is actually going to be the one enforcing the law? Is it going to be state militias that the governing lords of the land put together for their purposes? Is it going to be an actual dedicated police force that is paid to enforce the law of the land without bias—or perhaps with bias? Or, will there be a state military that enforces the laws from above without questions or morals?
I’d like to call my lawyer
Lastly, I’d like to talk about who really upholds the law. This is also going to depend on what type of government you choose for your world because, like the above list, there are a lot of options that you could have. Will there be judges and court systems in your world? Will punishment for a crime be imprisonment without any recourse simply because you committed a crime, and you’re let out when you’re let out? Will trials be held by the lord of the land, such as a clan chieftain, and what he says goes?
No matter what kind of government, police force, and judge you choose, make sure that it fits within the world that you’re creating and makes sense within the story you’re trying to tell.
Join me next week when I talk about politics.
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