originally published January 3, 2013
Congratulations! You just discovered a brand new island, enslaved its native peoples, and now you’re set to start your very own country! The first thing you need to do is pick out a system of government that will maximize your new nation’s wealth, support its security, and best serve its people, or at the very least, those people who are in charge.
You could opt for a democracy, a constitutional monarchy, or a totalitarian regime, but those are so 20th century. As we discussed not long ago, technocracy is an option, but do you really want the mad scientists calling the shots? No, you’re going to want to dazzle the rest of the U.N. when you stroll into the General Assembly to take your new shiny seat, wearing your new sequin-lined bowler hat (a national tradition you just coined) and flowing squirrel-skin cape. You want to be an exception that gets an asterisked footnote in future poli-sci textbooks, because that footnote is your foot in the door to the eventual fame and international acclaim that no doubt await you. Pick something with a little WOW-factor.
If you’ve got a solid group of buds with you who happen to share the same beliefs on good times, good beers, and import tariff regulations, you may want to try out an ochlocracy, or government by mob rule. You guys can throw your weight around, make those locals think twice about questioning who’s in charge – it’s all good. This is how Rome went from a top-notch pasta joint into a friggin’ empire.
An angry mob often begets an angry mob response though, so you’d best have a good stash of weapons in your proverbial back pocket. On the plus side, if you tick off the populace, this could really be a boom for your local pitchfork and torch industries.
Maybe you really want to be in charge, but you don’t want to be a dick about it. You could look into a dictablanda, which is a Spanish portmanteau of ‘dicta’ (dictatorship) and ‘blanda’ (soft). So you’re still in charge, but you’re looking out for the good of the people. In theory, anyway.
Alright, this term probably won’t win you any friends at the U.N. Brazil recently went through a controversy when its biggest newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, called their own government a dictablanda, which was seen by the Brazilian people (especially on the left) as equivalent to calling Genghis Khan a ‘Grumpy Gus’.
If this system seems just a little off from what you want, why not try a Ditka-Blanda system? It’s almost the same thing, except your leaders would be former Chicago Bears players Mike Ditka and George Blanda. George isn’t around anymore, but you can probably snag one of his kids if the price is right.
This one will get the masses murmuring in the General Assembly, at least those masses who are sitting next to people who happen to speak the same language. Why not hook yourself up with a cyberocracy? No, this isn’t where the computers are in control; we all know the robot uprising will only serve to enslave humanity, even the savvy humans who conquer island nations in the 21st century. A cyberocracy is all about gathering as much information on your people as possible, then using that data to run the country.
Nobody has tried this one yet, though the Stasi in East Germany, who had a file running on 6 million East Germans (about a third of the population), is a good prototype. But they didn’t have computers like we do. Imagine if a disgruntled homeowner came to complain about his property taxes, and your staff could quickly look up his browser history and see that he’s way into clown-porn. I don’t know how that would affect the guy’s complaint, but wouldn’t it be awesome?
This is another one that has been done, but if you’re feeling pretty solid about not incurring an uprising, why not start up a kleptocracy? No one has ever boldly announced they were a kleptocracy, they just kind of did it on the sly. This is a system in which policy ensures more wealth and power for the ruling elite through excessive embezzlement. Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines was a pro at this, raking in somewhere between $5 and $10 billion during his tenure. Again, you’re going to want to be pretty damn sure how armed your citizens are before you try this one out.
A similar term is ‘narcokleptocracy’, which is a government that makes its cash off the sale of illegal drugs, as well as siphoning what they can from the people. Manuel Noriega pulled this one off. But don’t confuse this with ‘narcoleptocracy’, which is ruling by falling asleep often.
If you start out with an andocracy, no one at the U.N is going to be impressed. This literally means the rulers of the government are always male, which was almost every world government up until the recent past. You don’t want to start out in the dark ages. Instead, you could try out a gynocracy, or a matriarchy. Let the women run the show!
Women have held power – even supreme power in some cases, but our world has never seen a nation which insists upon female leadership, unless we travel back to the queen-priestesses of Minoan Crete during the Bronze Age. Think of the adulation you’ll receive around the world! Sure, this might be just as sexist as only allowing men to rule, but who cares? There are no Men’s Rights organizations who are vocal enough to put up a stink. Not only will you be making an audacious statement of outright feminism, but if you’re a guy and you set up your nation like this, you are gonna get so laid…
This option is so perfect it would probably never work. A noocracy is what Plato had in mind for the world once democracy lost its sparkle and glow. This is all about an aristocracy of the wise, where the greatest minds are put in power and commissioned to rule. The tricky part here would be figuring out just who has the best mind for the job. You just conquered this island, so you’re going to be biased in thinking that you are the most wise. You and the other candidates can take IQ tests, but there’s really nothing as a Wisdom Quotient.
Pythagoras aimed to build a ‘city of the wise’ in Italy with his followers, but it never happened. Not sure why, but I suspect the hypotenuse intervened. Russian geologist Vladimir Vernadsky brought the concept up in modern history, but it has never really been given the keys for a test drive. This could be how your nation gets itself on the map. Okay, I suppose that any decent map should probably have you on there anyway. This might have been a poor choice of metaphor.
Whichever way you go, I have no doubt that your new nation will prosper and thrive, so long as the locals remain just un-pissed-off enough with you to let you continue your benevolent reign. Good luck!