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I have been given an assignment in one of my Computer Science classes where I have to give a design for a game we're supposed to develop. Without getting into too much detail, the game is about people forming nations with their own sets of rules, and the game clearly has to be able to support various types of government, such as a democracy, communism, etc... I'd like to come up with a brief list of types of government without getting into the nitty-gritty of stuff like "constitutional monarchy" and "Family dictatorship" as seen on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Forms_of_government. This is supposed to be fairly basic, so I'd like to be able to cover all the bases with as few categories as possible..

So I have the following already, but I don't know if some of them are really distinct, or if they can be combined into one..

  1. Democratic
  2. Communist
  3. Monarchy
  4. Fascist
  5. Dictatorship

Are there any others I should consider?

  • I would advise you to study Civilization, which is a computer game using six or so different types of governments. – Tom Au Nov 17 '13 at 0:07
  • I think such a list is quite impractical. You can see the dimensions in BT's answer. For example, communist is considered to be democratic by its supporter and dictatorship by its detractors. So depending on how it is implemented, your points 2 to 5 could be essentially the same. See the difference between a modern constitutional monarchy and 17th Century's absolutism. – clem steredenn May 4 '16 at 5:54
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I'm surprised you didn't consider the types of government in the Civilization video game series. Here is the list for Civilization II (The most popular one, although my favourite was Civ 3):

  • Anarchy. While this existed as a specific transition between government types in the game, it is rooted in history. Both the Reign of Terror in the French revolution and the Somali stateless society between 1991 and 2006 qualify as Anarchy. As do some unimplemented political philosophies.
  • Despotism. A moral judgement on a common form of ancient government; but basically a government where a single entity rules with absolute power. It is an Autocracy if a single person/family rule or an Oligarchy if a group, tribe or faction does. Most dictatorships of the 20th century would qualify as Despotism if no laws governed their behaviour (no legislature or judiciary).
  • Monarchy. Hereditary rule on the basis of bloodline, although the bloodline could be "bootstrapped" by a moot of nobles if the last dynasty died out. Strictly speaking, monarchs as a ruling form of government instead a constitutional or cultural artefact is rare nowadays. The Saudi royal family would be an modern example, as would Al Khalifa royal family of Bahrain.
  • Communism. Basically a fusion of an oligarchy and command economy socialism. Cuba is a modern example and depending on your view of the Washington Consensus, China might also be one. The ideology is too complex for a simple summary.
  • Fundamentalism. a/k/a Theocracy. A government run on religious doctrine, typically by a priesthood. Modern examples would be Taliban Afghanistan and Iran. Perhaps North Korea if you consider Juche as a form of fundamentalism.
  • Republic. While most modern republics are also democracies, Montesquieu defined a republic as any government without a king. So any form government whose rulers and senior officials were selected on some meritorious basis as a privilege instead of a vested right could be considered a republic. The term was certainly an Age of Enlightenment reaction to absolute monarchs.
  • Democracy. Well you certainly know this one, even if no country has yet reached a pure form of it. Everyone in society can contribute to the consensus on the direction of their society and the various priorities and goals of that society.
  • Fascist. It likely wasn't included in Civ 2 due to a distaste of people playing as Nazis and the inability to sell the game in Germany. The usual flavour of fascism is authoritarian nationalism. It is unclear if fascism is a stable form of government without someone to fight ("The Other"); or whether it would collapse into classical Despotism or Fundamentalism in peacetime. They tend to burn themselves out in war or turn into the classical military despotism of a banana republic. The ideology is too complex for a simple summary.

In practice dividing how a society governs itself is intensely arbitrary. I suggest you just use a multi-axis political model in your game. This way you avoid the myriad of caveats and provisos that this answer, for example, will elicit. Two or three game sliders will suffice.

  • @Spookbuster A self-governing society still qualifies as a government by Oxford Dictionary definition. Revolutionary Socialism (e.g. Communism) where a militant minority forces a change in government tends to remain autocratic as no real input is desired from the populace (i.e. counter-revolutionary). In many regards, Democracy is most the unusual and special style of government to date - we simply don't realise this due to familiarity and the corrosion of its principles by various factors. – LateralFractal Feb 15 '17 at 7:08
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The classic "types" of government often talked about have huge areas of overlap and often superficial definitions (what's the difference between a theocracy and a plutocracy?).

I wrote an article on what I call the dimensions of government. The six dimensions are:

  • Number of leaders – Autocracy vs Direct Democracy
  • Amount of representation – Monarchy vs Republic
  • Separation of powers – Single Branch vs Multiple Branches
  • Limitation of powers – Totalitarian vs Libertarian
  • Level of agreement – Majority vs Unanimity
  • Coupling of sub-governments – Unitary vs Federal

In principle you could, for your game, combine each of these six dimensions into 720 distinct types of governments. And each of these are really a linear continuum, so if you could find a way to numerically quantify, for example, how representative a nation is, you could have a near-infinite continuum of governments for a game.

  • I had completely forgotten about this question, and it is now defunct, but I quite like this idea, and may use it in some future effort. – agent154 May 4 '16 at 11:44
  • @agent154 Glad you like it : ) You could add in sophistication to a game by relating the population's beliefs by the effects their government has had historically. For example, if one of the beliefs was that government should nationalize all industry, and then the results of that were disastrous, that could effect the beliefs of people in that country for decades or even centuries. – B T May 4 '16 at 20:26
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    The effective range of each slider is influenced by other slider values and preconceptions of a given society as to which slider values are "taboo" vs permissible realities. However a game unconstrained by simulating our preconceived power hierarchies and able to parse unusual combinations could allow for exploration of novel political states; some of which might conceivably be better than our existing society (as measured against a given dentological/consequentialist/aretaic/hedonic yardstick). – LateralFractal Aug 16 '17 at 3:25

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