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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,

(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.)

Overall Evaluation

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:

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:

- The method of selection of the division

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:


(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