World Building: Government

English: Heraldic crown of Russian Empire Pols...
 Heraldic crown of Russian Empire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      I assume you know the different types of government that have appeared thoughout history. You’ve probably even chosen one for several of your peoples. The decision seems easy on the surface but the effects of this choice are often overlooked. The life of someone living in a theocracy is vastly different from someone living in a communism. Although there are similarities, too.

       Government affects your cultures – and therefore your characters – in very fundamental ways. I’ve chosen five different dimensions that are frequently studied by political scientists. I hope outlining these dimensions will help you better understand the people who inhabit your world.

  • History: Know the history of the nation – how it became its own entity and how it ended up with its form of government. If it had to fight for independence, it is likely to be culturally similar to the country it fought and may still have bad relations with that power. Know what has happened since the nation formed. Common history is one thing that unites its citizens.

  • Sociology: This includes national holidays, the national flag/bird/plant/anthem. Any cultural wonders – paintings, buildings, natural features that are a part of national culture. What do they call themselves? How is the government structured and how does it intervene in public, private, and work life?

  • Economics: How are taxes set and collected? Is the system cash or barter? How tightly does the government regulate business and trade? What is the attitude torwards foreign money, business, and trade?

  • International: Foreign relations go beyond trade. Consider how welcoming the government is of outside influence. What is their style of negoatiation – the pen or the sword? Consider how influential the nation is, the areas of influence, and how it gained and maintains this power. How willing is it to go beyond its borders and how willing is it to let others inside its own?

  • Philosophy: This is an element of deep culture. The type of government will subtly but powerfully affect the attitudes and assumptions of its citizens. A government may promote xenophobia or a more welcoming outlook. It may promote the collective good over the good of the individual. Views of community, views of self, views of others. These are are elements of deep culture that may be subtly shaped by the type of government you choose.

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