Worldbuilding: Government Types

While I’m a sucker for the classic fantasy monarchy, there are actually multiple types of government to utilize for worldbuilding. Government itself may be one of the largest components of building a country. Not only do you need to know what it does, but it helps to know what type of government rules.

Starting with the classic and slightly trope-y version, there is of course the monarchyA single ruler who inherits the title, usually king or queen. This can also include emperors. If you’re not sure if you have an emperor or a king remember that you can actually have both. Emperors often rule over multiple kingdoms, allowing kings to handle a single kingdom within the bounds of their empire.

Don’t confuse a monarchy with a dictatorship. Although both are ruled by a single person, dictators rise to power by means of overthrowing or suppressing the original government. This means any type of government can be destroyed by a dictator, as long as the original system is suppressed to allow a single person to rule.

If you’d like to move away from a single-person ruler, there are several options. with oligarchies you have a rule by an elite group. The determination of what makes that ‘elite’ group are up to you. This is usually a small group.

An important note: although oligarchs often end up being wealthy, this is not a requirement to form an oligarchy. A subset of the oligarchy, the plutocracy does mean rule by the wealthy. Plutocracies are always oligarchies, however an oligarchy itself can be determined by things such as military power, aristocracy and even theocracy.

Theocracy comes in two forms. The oligarchy discussed above, in which the elite group are those with the most religious power and influence, and in ‘chosen’ rulers such as the Pharaohs. This means rule by religion occurs as both a group rule and a single ruler. In this case, religion is the defining factor between who can and cannot rule.

The final type of government I’d like to cover here is the democracy. In democratic governments, the will of the people being ruled is the highest power. Although this means that rulers and laws are voted on, it means that the majority opinion is the one acted upon.

Regardless of the kind of government you have, there’s always a concern of how to limit the ruling power. When a government does not recognize the limits on its power, you have totalitarianism. For monarchs and dictators, this leads directly to tyrants. For oligarchies of all forms, you end up with elitism. As the government seizes more power and control, the people it’s supposed to be ruling become unhappy and eventually the general populace may either try to leave, or may incite revolution and war.

One final thing to consider when dealing with government is to consider how control is spread out and managed. With tribalism power and control rests in small, local authorities. With tribalism there is no central power to keep the small groups in check. Each one works with or against its neighbors as it pleases.

When there is a central power to keep the local powers in check, you have federalism. Federalism divides the power of the government between each level. Although this prevents any one authority from taking over the rule of another area, it can also create confusion when regions have conflicting policies.

Government is a complex thing. Each type has a dozen nuances, benefits, considerations and disadvantages to consider. Research will be necessary.


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