This article was originally posted to Freelance Traveller’s website in 1998. It was lightly edited into the present form for the August 2013 issue.
The existing UWP code for government provides a very generalized overview of the structure of the government of a world, and shoehorns a government into one of a limited number of types. Unfortunately, there are limitations to this; often an actual government configuration can fit into more than one classification, and many classifications cover a wide variation in the actual structure of the government.
While the debate over the proper scope and function of a government will probably not end prior to the actual heat-death of the universe, it is generally agreed that there are three functional divisions to government - the Legislative function, or the making of law, the Executive function, or the keeping of law, and the Judicial function, or the interpretation of law. In addition, there is the “State” function, which, rather than being connected with law, is more focussed on ceremony and diplomacy. Each of these functions has its own characteristics, and the government overall has characteristics of its own. This article will develop a more detailed method of profiling a government.
It is proposed that the existing UWP Government code expresses the most notable feature of the government in question, and may not present a true picture of the government's functions. Thus, although the governmental systems of the United States and the United Kingdom of pre-starflight Terra are functionally very similar, the government codes would be different - the most notable aspect of the United States government is that frequent elections for virtually all positions, including legislative representatives, are held, making the government a Representative Democracy, while, in spite of the fact that the UK operates much the same way, the most notable feature is the existence of a hereditary head-of-state who theoretically can exercise power at whim, and enjoys the support of the people of the country, making the government a Charismatic dictatorship. A more accurate profile would reveal that both governments are in practice very similar.
It should be noted that this profile applies only to the highest levels of government - it is entirely possible that lower levels of government have subtly or radically different structure (for example, a functional autocracy at the top level may still permit local governments to make local decisions on a consensus or democratic basis).
An extended Government profile is a string with at least three and as many as six groups. The first two groups are fixed in format; the remainder can vary somewhat:
The groups represent, in the order given above,
- Overall Evaluation
- Limitation of Power
- Characteristics of Legislative Function
- Characteristics of Executive Function
- Characteristics of Judicial Function
- Characteristics of State Function
(NOTE: The L,E,J, and S substrings may appear in any order; the most visibly dominant functions appears first. Where Functions are combined in one office, the strings are combined, i.e. “LS0000” unites Legislative and State Functions.)
The Overall Evaluation portion of the extended code describes the basic characteristics of the government as determined by a routine survey with little depth. It consists of the standard UWP Government and Law codes, representing the apparent structure and intrusiveness of the government, respectively.
To this, it adds a third digit, representing the level of popular support that this government enjoys. This is defined as the portion of the governed population that would prefer the present governmental structure (as denoted by the UWP government code) over any other governmental structure. This support level is rounded to the nearest ten percent, and the tens digit used as the indicator in the Extended Government Profile. Thus, if 68% of the people wished to keep the current government structure, in preference to any other structure, the Popular Support digit would be ‘7’. In the event that support is unanimous within rounding error, the code used is ‘A’; ‘0’ indicates no support whatsoever within rounding error. It should be emphasized that this is about support for the structure of the government, not for the current individuals actually exercising the functions thereof.
Limitation of Power
"Limitation of Power" is a single digit, and indicates how the theoretical limits of governmental power are established. The valid codes are:
- 0 - No explicit limits to government power. Leaders may be limited by personal ethics alone.
- 1 - Powers limited only by unwritten custom and oral tradition.
- 2 - Powers limited only by unwritten custom, oral tradition, and some written statute law.
- 3 - Statutory Constitution and Stare Decisis; powers generally limited by statute law and precedent, sometimes by oral tradition.
- 4 - Statutory Constitution and Stare Decisis; powers limited only by statute law and precedent.
- 5 - Enabling Constitution; specifies powers, allows any power not explicitly prohibited.
- 6 - Enabling Constitution; specifies powers, allows most powers not explicitly prohibited.
- 7 - Impeding Consitution; specifies powers, prohibits most powers beyond those limits.
- 8 - Impeding Consitution; specifies powers, prohibits any power beyond those limits.
- 9 - Restrictive Constitution; specifies powers and prohibitions; specifies process for deciding legality of some unspecified powers.
- A - Restrictive Constitution; specifies powers and prohibitions; specifies complicated process for deciding legality of most unspecified powers.
- B - Highly Restrictive Constitution; specifies exact powers and prohibitions; specifies complicated, time-consuming process for deciding legality of unspecified powers.
- C - Extremely Restrictive Constitution; specifies limited powers and prohibitions; specifies complicated, time-consuming process for deciding legality of unspecified powers.
The State, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Functions
The remaining groups in the Extended Government Profile describe the functional divisions of the government. Each functional division profile starts with a letter (indicating the specific division), and is followed by a structure code, a selection method code, and two optional restriction codes. The restriction codes answer the questions “How do I decide who may be chosen?” and “How do I decide who may choose?”
The digits of the functional division profiles represent the following:
- The structure of the division:
- 0 - Direct participation by the populace at large.
- 1 - Multiple demotic councils (selected from the populace at large).
- 2 - Single demotic council (selected from the populace at large).
- 3 - Multiple demotic and elite councils, with advice/consent of populace at large.
- 4 - Multiple elite and demotic councils (selected from a restricted population) with advice/consent of populace at large.
- 5 - Multiple elite councils (selected from a restricted population).
- 6 - Single elite council (selected from a restricted population).
- 7 - Single individual exercising power within strictures imposed by other branches or populace at large.
- 8 - Single individual exercising power with advice/consent of a formal demotic council (selected from the populace at large).
- 9 - Single individual exercising power with advice/consent of a formal elite council (selected from a restricted population).
- A - Single individual exercising power at discretion.
- The method of selection of the division
- 0 - Not Applicable (or Direct participation of general populace).
- 1 - By hereditary succession, including appointment by predecessor.
- 2 - Appointed by the Executive division.
- 3 - Appointed by the Legislative division.
- 4 - Appointed by the Judiciary division.
- 5 - Appointed by the State division.
- 6 - Elected by highly restricted franchise.
- 7 - Elected by restricted franchise.
- 8 - Elected by the populace at large, with some restrictions.
- 9 - Elected by the populace at large.
- A - Selected by random or arbitrary process.
In the case of multiple councils selected by different methods, the method for selection of the largest council (most members) should be used, and there should be associated notes explaining in more detail.
In cases of elective selection with restricted franchise, or of selection from a restricted population, a third (and possibly fourth) digit should be included, to indicate the nature of the constraints on eligibility. It may be assumed that election by “populace at large” is in fact restricted to citizens at or above the age of majority; “restricted franchise“ indicates the imposition of additional restrictions. If two restriction digits are needed, the first is for the restricted group from which the membership is selected; the second for the restricted group that does the selecting.
Restriction codes are:
- 0 - No restriction. Use this code as the third digit only, if the franchise is limited (fourth digit), but eligibility to hold office is not.
- 1 - Political. Franchise/Eligibility is limited to recognized members of a certain political party, faction, or ideological movement.
- 2 - Hereditary. Franchise/Eligibility is limited to those who can prove descent along specified lines from a certain individual.
- 3 - Ethnicity. Franchise/Eligibility is limited to a certain race, species, linguistic group, or ethnic identity (inherited and involuntary); may involve genetic testing.
- 4 - Religion/Culture. Franchise/Eligibility is limited to members of a certain religion or cultural identity (sometimes inherited and involuntary, often voluntary).
- 5 - Gender. In polysexual (2 or more sexes) species, franchise/eligibility is limited to specific sexes, and denied to the rest. This should be interpreted to refer to restrictions based solely on biological/genetic sex only; if the restriction is based, in whole or in part, on “social gender” (e.g., how the person acts or self-presents), record the restriction using code ‘4’.
- 6 - Financial. Franchise/Eligibility is restricted to those who can demonstrate a certain level of wealth and/or property ownership.
- 7 - Age. Franchise/Eligibility is delayed until after majority, revoked after a specified age, or both.
- 8 - Occupation. Franchise/Eligibility is limited to members of approved trades, professions, or occupations.
- 9 - Intelligence/Education. Franchise/Eligibility is limited to those who can demonstrate a specified level of intellectual competence.
- A - Merit/Competition. Franchise/Eligibility is limited to those who have demonstrated a certain level of competence or achievement in a certain field, bested other candidates in a competition (such as debates, sport, or combat), or passed a test of skill.
(1) The United States of America has a moderately intrusive government (moderate law level) whose most notable characteristic is an elective legislature (Representative Democracy). There is a written Constitution that both prohibits and allows governmental powers, and leaves the decision in areas not explicitly mentioned or unclear areas to a decision by other methods. In general, focus on the government for the purposes of news reportage is on the head of government, who is the head of the executive branch, and elected by the populace at large, theoretically from the populace at large. The head of government is also head of state, and there is little differentiation between the functions. When the Executive is not the focus of government-focused news, the Legislature generally is. The legislature is several councils, theoretically selected from the populace at large by the populace at large (although certain individuals, such as convicted felons, are denied franchise). The Judicial branch is a single elite council (selected from scholars of law), appointed by the Executive (though with approval from the legislature). When surveyed, less than 10% of the population would propose a structure that would not be classified as a representative democracy, meaning that the current form of government has a 90% support level.
The government profile for the United States of America would be
(2) The fictitious Caliphate of Arrak has a highly intrusive government (high law level) whose most notable characteristic is a hereditary monarch as head of state (Charismatic Dictatorship). There is no Constitution; the monarch has theoretically absolute power. The legislative parliament is a single council that selects the head of government, and is elected by and from the male citizens only. The head of government is limited in his ability to exercise power by the advice of the parliament. The judiciary is composed of members of the priesthood appointed to the supreme judicial council by the monarch. When surveyed, somewhat over half (58%) of the people expressed a desire for a more representative and responsive government, giving a support level of only 42%.
The government profile for the Caliphate of Arrak would be