Governing Your World
By Jim Francis
Copyright © 2008 by Jim Francis, All Rights Reserved
When you build a world, no matter how
small, at some point you'll need to decide who is in charge and how
society in your world is to be organized so that it will, hopefully, run
smoothly when you want it to.
Society is where people live their
lives. People are social beings who live in social groups because they
need the support of others. Countries, states, counties, plus cities and
towns are social groups. Social groups can include the band, tribe, or
family (possibly jointly ruled by parents or grandparents). It can also
mean communities such as people living condominiums where there are
regulations so that living there is comfortable, or social clubs and,
perhaps even gangs. In many cities the homeless form themselves into
social communities just because, like all other people, they need to
belong. In societies, patterns emerge with written or unwritten rules of
conduct. Often conduct is predictable and gives a basis for a framework
Problems arise because individuals have
wills; therefore common rules of conduct are needed. Government protects
society by creating these rules (laws) of conduct to keep society from
disintegrating and to protect it from outside attack. Conflict arises
when the rules are not followed, when individuals are moved by self
interest rather than the interest of the group.
For this reason government's main
purpose is to maintain peace within the group. The prime motivation
for this is survival. An early example of protecting survival was to
prevent outside groups from invading tribal hunting grounds. In the
Northwest area of North America the indigenous peoples protected large
areas where every few years they harvested roots for food. Trouble arose
when the Europeans arrived and saw these areas as unused and potential
ranch and farm land.
Another example, perhaps, is at FM
Writers where rules have been made to avoid conflict. Members get along
when they follow the rules. At FM, the penalty for not following the
rules is exile.
However, people usually learn to obey
the rules and get along.
To get people to obey the rules three
methods are used; influence, coercion and authority. Sometimes
these methods are combined.
To convince people of the desirability
of the action you take is to influence them. It might be that they can
be persuaded by self-interest; their need and desire for security.
Perhaps an emotional appeal is made such as love of country or area of
birth. Bribes can be used to influence. "If you allow me to govern I'll
see to it that you get a better hospital in your area, or the bridge you
want that will make your life easier." Influence is also used to try to
get people to change their behavior; to exercise more, drink less, eat
healthy and conserve energy. A marriage partner might use gifts to show
love and influence the other partner to return that love.
To use some sort of force to get the
rules obeyed is coercion. This can be by harm or the fear of harm such
as beating, torture, murder. It can be by imprisonment or the threat of
this, or by fines and perhaps the seizure of property. The threat of job
loss is economic coercion. The parent who disciplines a child is using
coercion to make the child obey.
Bordering on coercion could be
misinformation through propaganda, whereby people are persuaded
(influenced) to approve something but would not have done so if given
Constraint, however, when one wishes
for something but is denied because of the lack education or skill etc.
This denial is not coercion.
Violence can be used to coerce and
Governments possess a near monopoly on legal violence and, while some
seem to enjoy using it, the better ones choose not to. The larger the
society, the more difficult it is to manipulate by coercion. At some
point coercion needs cooperation by a majority who adhere to the same
belief as those in charge.
Mao Zedong claimed that Power came from
the barrel of a gun, convinced his followers of this and so maintained
power. Since ancient times, Chinese governments have relied on
neighbors to inform on each other. During the Cultural Revolution,
citizens informed on one another. (Would you turn your friendly neighbor
in if you knew he was cheating on his taxes?)
But the despot who oversteps power and
does not have the support of enough followers soon finds himself or
herself dead or in exile.
People will respect authority if they
respect the source. (It is interesting to note that lack of obedience to
authority probably comes when the power holder abuses, or is thought to
abuse that power.) Respect for authority cannot be forced; the power
holder must earn that respect in some way or the other. (The word
respect has a flexible meaning. Here I use it as meaning well regarded.
Coercion is when the power of a gun to hurt is respected.) The power
holder, usually, must be seen to have earned the right to that power and
respect in some way for authority to be obeyed.
Governments want as much authority as
possible because it makes the job of governing easier. Authority through
influence is often shaky because the influenced can be persuaded to
change their minds. Coercion, as suggested above, is only possible when
a large proportion of the population willingly accepts authority.
Respect is what a good government seeks and if an authority loses
respect it often leads to the need for a rise in coercion.
For some, escape from authority is seen
as freedom, but it is not possible to renounce authority and remain a
member of a specific society. Even in the underworld (criminal groups)
there are leaders who get respect and who therefore wield authority.
Submission to a respected authority
allows people the freedom to plan their own lives. A certain amount of
authority can be delegated to others such as the police and the courts.
As can be seen from the above, some
crossover can exist in methods of governing, and there are no absolute
ways of governing. It might also be of interest to note that most humans
and some animals have predilection towards hierarchy, somebody to take
charge. Even anarchists, it is said, when they group together, elect a
committee to take charge.
In medieval times society was divided
into those who prayed, those who fought, and those who worked.
Those Who Pray
At the top was the first Estate. The
clergy. Those who pray. They led medieval society. The village priest
oversaw the spiritual life of the serfs on the medieval manor. He
regularly administered the necessary sacraments. He also absolved men
and women of their sins after the act of confession. He made the secular
and ecclesiastical pronouncements. Although not all village priests were
totally dedicated to the holiness of those within their fold, it was the
village priest with whom medieval men and women identified the Church,
its teachings and authority. Monasteries tried to supply evil Europe
with the ideal of a Christian civilization.
The nobles were the aristocracy, a
powerful and privileged class holding hereditary titles. A noble was
free in person and possessions and had the one obligation and that was
to fight for his Lord. When there was no war tournaments were organized
as training exercises. Nobles could levy direct and indirect taxes on
their estates. The nobility molded all facets of medieval life; the
politics, the economies, the religion, and the culture.
Those who work
Few records of serfs exist, because,
unfortunately, in medieval times peasants were not thought worthy of
mention. In 8th century Europe vassals were protected by lords whom they
were required to serve in war. Most serfs never traveled beyond the
estate of their lord and most believed in God. Religion permeated their
lives. The church was a place where necessary religious and political
messages were conveyed to the population by priests. Paintings, stained
glass windows, and statues depicted the biblical stories. The devil was
everywhere tempting people into sin and evil deeds. Life had singularity
of purpose. God's punishment for sin was disease, plague, poor harvest,
By the twelfth century, however, a
moneyed economy was emerging which allowed serfs gain their freedom.
They then had to rent the land they worked; moreover they also had to
pay taxes to the Lord of the manor.
The people were also ruled by
superstition and demons were thought to assist those who were evil.
Religious relics held great power. Bishop Gregory of Tours, for
instance, possessed a locket with grave dust (dust collected from the
top of a grave) and the sacred ashes of some unnamed saint. In at least
one instance, the revelation of the mere possession of this was enough
to rout a group of bandits bent on robbery.
Ideologies such as conservatism,
liberalism, socialism and communism are organized systems of active
political belief accepted by a large number of people in the state or
country. Often they are a mixture of factual and moral beliefs.
In its pure form liberalism believes in
personal freedom, limited government, equality of right, and consent
of the governed.
Classical liberals see personal freedom
as an absence of coercion. Reform liberals add to this by saying that
freedom from coercion means little unless the means of obtaining it are
available. They say poor are not free and are as much prisoners as
people in jail, and often those in jail eat better. They ask, if a good
education is beyond a person's means, then is that person free?
To classical liberals limited
government is the government's role to see to it that people do not harm
one another through force or fraud. Reform liberals agree, but want to
promote freedom by adding capacity. They want the state to ensure
Equality of Right
Classical liberals see this as meaning
that all must abide by the laws of the land. Reform liberals feel that
economic and social differences must be reduced if citizens are to have
equality of right and opportunity.
Consent of the
Broadly this means that government
should be held accountable in some way.
Conservatives prefer the familiar to
the unknown and shy away from the untried. They tend to dislike mystery
preferring the known to the possible. They fear losing what they have
and seek to keep the status quo.
Socialists believe in a planned economy
that will give all equal opportunity and thereby spread the wealth of
society. This, they believe will eliminate all ills. It seems to appeal
more to the young. Socialists dislike the private ownership of land,
stores and transportation, arguing that these supply necessary things to
people and should therefore be controlled by the people. They seem to
believe that, in time, selfishness can be controlled or perhaps
Communists have been called
'socialists in a hurry'.
Nationalism sometimes transcends other
ideologies. Reduced to its bare bones, nationalism is pride in ones own
nation. It is the belief in, "My nation; right or wrong."
The nation state tries to insulate
itself from threatening external influences.
There are many forms of government: Republics, monarchies, democracies,
dictatorships. Any of these can be combined in one way or another, or
morph into another form. Hitler, a dictator in a republic, for instance,
led a democratically elected one and his government did nothing
internationally illegal until he and his government conspired to wage
war. Canada is a democratic, constitutional monarchy, ruled by a
parliament and consists of a federation of states.
The United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights is available on line. A read through might
help when setting up your governments.
So there it is, an outline of most of
the governmental forms used by people. Now all you have to do is make up
the laws and rules your government wants your people to live by.
Sources consulted: An Introduction
to Government and Politics. Mark O. Dickerson and Thomas Flanagan,
ISBN 0- 17-603485 -4 Nelson Canada
History of the Franks.
Gregory, Bishop of tours. Selections
translated by Ernest Brehaut. (Old book. No ISBN) Norton & Co Inc.
Various websites on Medieval Political