Comments are a flurry of confusion over what I tried to make a very simple exercise, the question is rapidly gaining VTC.

My intent was to define the political and moral characteristics of my society, and ask help in fitting that description with a government structure.

A fly on the wall perspective is requested to help me see the apparent confusion.


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Tags are generally not the issue; Yes they help define your topic, but it's the question that tells you if it should be closed or not. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, I don't understand why you linked so many tags in the question's text. As far as I know, you're referring to the government in your world, not the questions which are linked to government in one way or another :). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry @Tortliena I don't understand your comment? Is there a policy against putting tags in questions? The goal was to just quickly let a reader know how the question fits into world building since it might not be obvious. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 17:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am on the chat, if you could please let me know your concerns. I was in a major edit when you closed. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ No, there's nothing against that. However, when you link to a tag, you refer to the tag and the questions with that tag, not the element itself. Telling your question is not about governance like other questions seems alright, but referring to post-ap-eucalyptus questions when you just tell it's a post-apocalyptic world with post-apocalyptic people is out of place; The link to the tag is... Weird here. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ I guess I don't know the rules on those usages. It made sense to me; put the definition of the topic in a link so people can't get the idea that the post was off-topic. Please chat? chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/60576922#60576922 $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 17:56
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You should consider that tags' main purpose is to give focus to answers. The problem with your question is not related to the incorrect use of tags. It is the question itself. It is not clear what exactly you want to ask and what are the exact conditions of your world. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 23:54

4 Answers 4

  1. The question uses unexplained terminology.

    For example: "empirical monarchy", "heterogeneous government", "separate factions". What is an empirical monarchy? Is it the opposite of a theoretical monarchy? In what way is the government "heterogeneous", and how is is different from a homogeneous government? What are "separate" factions and how are they different from ordinary factions, or, for that matter, from political parties?

  2. The question assumes that words are magical.

    For example, the question asks whether the form of government would include an "emperor", a "dictator" and a "senate". Well, it would include them if their consitution or custom would specify or expect roles named "emperor" and "dictator" for individual magistrates, and would use the word "senate" to refer to all or part of a deliberative or legislative assembly.

    The words themselves are not magical.

    • An emperor is whatever the constitution or the custom calls an emperor. Consider the form of government of the United States of America: absolutely nothing would change if the position called a "president" would be called an "emperor". There have been political structures with elected emperors, for example, the Holy Roman Empire; the HRE lasted for many many centuries, and its emperor had very much less power than the president of the U.S.A.

      If you want to call the head of state "emperor", call them emperor. There is no rule that you may not call them "emperor". It does not have any implication related to the form of government, or to how much or how little power the role actually has.

    • The word "dictator" is very ambiguous. In the Roman republic it referred to a perfectly legal position; there have been close to one hundred Roman dictators, usually appointed for a very specific purpose. Nowadays, the word "dictator" means an authoritarian head of government of a country which we do not like. (A Roman dictator was most usually not a head of government. A dictator was almost always appointed for a well-defined purpose, and he had no time to deal with actually governing the state. The only exceptions I know of are L. Cornelius Sulla Felix and C. Julius Caesar, the last two and the most out-of-the-ordinary dictators.)

    • A "senate" is usually, but not always, some sort of deliberative or legislative assembly. Some countries use this word to refer to the upper chamber of their bi-cameral parliaments (for example, the U.S.A. and France); other countries use the word to refer to their uni-cameral parliaments; the German city-states of Bremen and Hamburg use the word to refer to the executive branches of their governments.

      Your political organization will have a senate if there is a deliberative, judicial, legislative or executive body called a senate. Nothing more.

  3. The question makes rather peculiar and unexplained assumptions about the hypothetical society.

    Specifically, the question asks whether there would be a "parliment [sic] of Lords" and a "parliment [sic] of Commoners", making the peculiar and unexplained assumption that there are lords and commoners, and avoiding to tell the readers what is a lord and what is a commoner in that polity.

    (The British United Kingom used to have a bi-cameral parliament with a House of Commons and a House of Lords. Neither of them was a parliament, but only one of the chambers of a bi-cameral parliament. Nowadays, the U.K. still has a bi-cameral parliament, with one of the chambers being called the House of Lords; but the structure of that chamber has changed very much in the last decades, and only the name links it to its feudal predecessor.)

  4. Some of the hypothetical elements of the hypothetical society have very unclear meanings.

    For example, the question asks whether the hypothetical society would have "elected courts". What exactly is an elected court is presumably left as an exercise to filter out potential respondents with limited imaginations, because for my life I cannot fathom a meaning of this phrase. Does the question mean that the courtiers surrounding the emperor, or the king, or the president, etc. are elected magistrates? Or maybe there are periodical elections to decide where the court will reside for the next n years, sort of how the International Olympic Committee chooses the venue for the Olympic Games? Or what?

    The question states that "citizens have freedoms much like a modern first world nation". What exactly are those "freedoms"? Does the question mean rights, and the word freedoms is a typo? Since the citizens of Germany and those of the U.S.A. have very different rights, are we to assume that at least one of them is not a "first world nation"?

  5. The question makes sweeping declarations in total contradiction with all known history of mankind.

    For example, the question says that the "government has established social norms". Nope, there has never ever been a government who had it in its power to establish social norms. Legal rules, yes. Social norms, no.

Note 1. The question misuses the word "nation" to refer to a "state", "country" or "polity". But this is very common with Americans, and we are all sufficiently acculturated to understand what it is meant.

Note 2. I didn't vote either to close or to re-open the question.

  • $\begingroup$ We actually had an emperor for quite a while in the US. I think he did a very good job! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ If this were written after you resolved your tax calculation AlexP it would simply be a perfect answer to the question, and I shall copy and paste it in. My hopes are that you have a favorable answer to your objection. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ A bit on #2: Words are magical, in fact. A scientist may agree that whatever word you use, it makes no difference at all. OK, but let's now talk about authors and books. I might as well call my 10-legged red crustacean with large claws and tastes great with butter a "Dog." And you are right, it objectively doesn't matter. But writers pull pictures from a reader's head with words. Now what you ask me to do is, spend several pages explaining why my lobster has fur, wags its tail, and begs for bacon. I do not want to do this. Bad word choices will make people think you aren't good at writing. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet Bad word choices will make people think you aren't good at writing. Occasionally we've had users who felt that it was important to be good creative writers when posting a question. It's the worst possible choice. When asking for help, you need to be a good technical writer, not a good creative writer. In other words, we don't want you to spend pages elegantly explaining why your lobster has fur, wags its tail, and begs for bacon. We expect you to call it a dog. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 9, 2022 at 6:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JoinJBHonCodidact That comment was not directed at SE question writing, but at the world building component of story telling. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 9, 2022 at 15:01

Answer's context

I've had a lil' chat with Vogon Poet in the Factory Floor; I'll sum up my viewpoint here :

My initial understanding of the question (revision 9)

  • The question could be boiled down to : The survivors of the old world created a new government, which one is it?
  • The world is post-apocalyptic, so to my standards few people survived at first. It's important later on for my reasoning.
  • No real specific context was given to the people's history, relative to where they are on Earth. In other words, the cultures we have today have vanished.
  • However, we know that those people knew about the old world through some sort of historic documents, but only about 4 countries at specific times.

Why did I close as "being story-based"?

It was a tough one to choose. I first thought to close for lacking clarity and details. Indeed, we're basically lacking any context that is personal to the people that forms your government : The notion of equity, or heritage doesn't really tell what government it could reasonably be. On top of that, the question tends to get lost in defining what it is and what it isn't about. I can sort through this, but it's harder to track of.

So why did I choose to close as being story-based instead?

In a standard post-apocalyptic world, I consider there's few people left, and that the government choice is left to those few indivduals, so there's a lot of character choice "noise" in there. The children will most likely carry that choice and don't change it until much later. It's not enough alone, but it doesn't help, either.

But most importantly, since no context was given to the people themselves, at least none that can reduce the available choices of the government, it's up to them to choose. It's a bit like if you were given an empty page, you can do whatever you want with this. Some people will draw on it, some will write their grocery list, and so on. The same freedom happens to you and your people : With nothing before you can freely choose what you want!

It ended up in a 51 to 49 in favor of being story-based. A very close match, but it ended up with story-based because I found that, as it was currently written1, it's more about making choices as an author than being unable to clarify what it is about.

What revealed the discussion ?

First, it's not about 1 government, it's about 4 of them uniting into one, 4 countries with 4 different cultural origins instead of none. It's a very different situation from the initial question which implies there might be other major differences.

Then your trouble is a bit different from the question as stated; There is a worry that it'll feel "weird" (a recurring word), or put more contextually if pirates attack the country, calling the "President" would feel "weird". I believe this weirdness is more likely to come from how you write your story rather than the world, but with a second thought, it could be that what your government is is still too blurry in your mind so that any official title feels wrong.

In any case, if some of the discussion's content was written in your question, I would have certainly closed for lacking details instead.

What should be done to improve the question?

First and foremost, make 6 turns on yourself, sit on the sofa and have a drink to think throughly what you want to ask and what people needs to answer your question. Indeed, there is a clear difference between 4 countries uniting into one and one being made by a bunch of ragtag people, as much as there's a difference between asking for title names and title positions and hiearchy.

Then as Otkin joined in the discussion, I'd take her advice and choose a government you wish to test, and make us confront it with your characters' culture and society. It'll help you focus your mind (and the question), comfort in what will work and what won't, and it'll help in moving away the question from the final choice you'll have to make. questions are just that good when it's becoming difficult to ask.

Final note

You're putting toooo much value in tags. If you can find a tag that describes what you want to ask, indeed it is an hint you can ask this kind of question, but in the end it's mostly the question's content that is reviewed against what is considered acceptable and not acceptable. For instance, the tag tells that you can ask about weapons, but see, some questions which asks what ammunition is better can be considered as being off-topic, too!

1 : I emphasize this. If the question was reworded, it could fall into another category.

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    $\begingroup$ Otkin is she. :) $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 21:20

The tag is fine — the question is messy

I tried to read the background of the question multiple times, but there's a lot of it and it's a lot more distracting than you probably realize. E.G.:

But people in the government have some parts, and since I don't have a government I don't know what a non-prejudiced title they may have. Conversations needed details eventually.

Except that asking what a title would be is off-topic for this Stack. But you also try to explain what you're looking for (I think...):

If it just stopped there, I could just pick anything at all for a government. It would just be some insignificant world backdrop decision. It is all backdrop—until you say something contradictory.


A simple republic structure ignores the Chinese and the British heritage. An empirical monarchy with executive ministers ignores the heritage of constitutional Republics and monarchies. A sort of government stew seems to be needed, I'm trying to concoct it with the least amount of inadvertent cultural appropriation.


It's just deciding which of these officials could comprise a heterogeneous and respectful government designed by these diverse people?

At this point, I don't have the slightest idea what you're asking for...

In regard to this question, you spent so much time writing it that you forgot why you were writing it. The question is not specific, not clear, not well defined... it's a mess.

  • If you're asking what type of government would be the natural successor to those four governments, then I believe you have a valid question.

  • If you're asking what type of government would be the result of those four governments experiencing an apocalypse that left the lengthy conditions you listed, the question should be closed for needing more focus, not because there are too many questions, but because it's so broad and so vague that you violate a number of rules (answers all being equally valid, high concept question, story based, take your pick).

  • If you're asking how four (or more) individuals, one from each of those governments, could be brought together to form a new government, the question should be closed as too story-based.

  • If you're asking what individuals from those four governments could be brought together to form a new government, the question should be closed for needing details (exactly what individuals? What skills? What goal do you, the author, have for the result?)

  • If you're asking what titles any individuals in the new government may have, that's just plain off-topic.


Frankly, you need to create a single sentence that asks a specific question. You need to write that sentence before you write anything else in the post. Anything else you do include in the post needs to not interfere with anyone's understanding of that single sentence.

And Finally...

I strongly advise that you remember the following statement from the Help Center:

When asking questions keep in mind that the goal of the site is to help you build your world, not to tell your story.

It's easy to identify questions relating the the physical rules of a world as worldbuilding. It's much more difficult to say the same when asking questions about the development of cultures, philosophies, and governments. Whether or not such a question is easily identified as within the rules of the Stack often boils down to a single issue: are you asking a specific question, or not?

People who are trying to overcome, e.g., writer's block or who are simply exercising an idea almost never ask a specific question.

  • $\begingroup$ TY. I can see some confusion through the length (consequent to the "Be specific" quality of a good question), but I do not see any actual contradiction. To wit, your derivative "If you're asking what type of government ..." was refuted several times; e.g., "The formal name of the government is [not] important." Factually, none of these derivatives can be found anywhere in the question. In one sentence, the question is per the opening: "What characteristic titles could this society use to circumvent cultural appropriation of their heritage?" Four Heritage culture definitions become necessary. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 9, 2022 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ I love you like a brother, @VogonPoet, but you never see problems with your own questions. That question is a mess and your declaration that it's not doesn't help you make your case. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 4:48

I Don't Think So??

I skimmed your question, but found so many problems with the underlying foundations that I honestly think you should have used a "Reality Check" tag rather than anything else!

That said, and leaving apart the whole and completely unrealistic notion of a government setting out to establish a country's moral characteristics, it looks to me like your question is related to "government" and thus my answer is that you were in fact using the "Government" tag properly.

The pertinent reference to What Tags Are and How Do We Use Them.

A tag is a word or phrase that describes the topic of the question. Tags are a means of connecting experts with questions they will be able to answer by sorting questions into specific, well-defined categories.

Tags can also be used to help you identify questions that are interesting or relevant to you.

On Tags

Is there a policy against putting tags in questions?

Not really a policy per se, but SE does suggest that querents not put tags into question titles.

You should not force a tag into your title. Because the tags appear below the question and tags are indexed by search engines along with the content of your question, you can trust that other people will be able to find your question based on tags they follow or search for. Additionally, tags appear on the question page, so other people will take them into account when answering your question.

I don't see any reason why you can't put tags in the question body, but I don't see a strong reason to do so either. That's not really how actual tags work. If you're just making a list of key words so that people will find your question, a sort of private tagging system, I don't see any reason why you can't.

  • $\begingroup$ I am sorry you read it that way, it is not I wrote. Social norms come from a population. Governments set policies. You know this, but it is clear you assume that I don't. So, that seemed necessary. However, if the wording can be more clear, I can place the words in a different order. I think you are skipping some words. I think you only see: "Their government has ... eliminated ... oppression; no persons are ... oppressed..." and you missed the important qualifiers like "systemic" and "by design" and "established." I will blame my bad wording on that. It doesn't relate to the question however. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ So the question was supposed to say, "Survivors from four very different cultures formed one nation with shared political and moral values." The people (survivors) did the work of forming the social norms (not moral characteristics). I used really big letters hoping that would stick, but it didn't. The section on "social" AND "moral" philosophy? That talks about the society, not the government. Well, I obviously worded it wrong. Again. So, that would be the help I need; clarity. I don't really need any help in understanding how societies evolve. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 4:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet -- I mean, your query literally says Their government has established social norms... What you write at any one moment, in any one question, is the only thing I base my observations on. I don't know what you know or do not know, nor do I make assumptions about those things. As for your other comments, those are probably better left to a chat room or open a new Meta question that focuses on the Main query itself rather than the tags, which are my sole focus here! As for I don't really need any help in understanding how societies evolve -- I never said you did! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ Governments can not establish that women have voting rights? Then who do you believe would be doing this? It was my assumption that under the wrong government (for example a Mao regime), you won’t be able to choose your own language. Mao changed Chinese to simplified. You don’t understand these concepts? $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 12:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet -- They can (and have). Making a law regarding who can vote is not the same thing as establishing a social norm, which a matter of morality, ethics, worldview, understanding of the human person. COTUS didn't just wake up one day and collectively say "I know! What say we give women the right to vote!" Social norm changed first -- the idea that women were even intelligent and rational enough to understand the concept of voting -- had to change first. Who is doing this is a complex interplay of the human and the divine designed to nudge the former towards the latter (cont) $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ So per usual it comes to a difference of definitions. We are not saying different things, however. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) while the government itself simply makes the new norm a matter of law. In the US, women ALWAYS had the right to vote. It's one of those God given rights that were formally recognised as not being granted by government. It just took a century and a half for the lagging culture of America to catch up. Same goes for slavery. Same will go for abortion. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet -- I think we are saying different things. If COTUS decided to abneg the rights of black people to vote and SCOTUS upheld the law, this, like Mao's vision of China, would be morally abhorrent and socially repugnant. Black people would still have the same rights that everyone else has, except that those rights are not recognised in law. There is a canyon between what we're saying. Anyways, enough of this! I'm working on your Main query now! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ What I have said in large letters at the very top of the question, is what the OP is saying everywhere else: “ Survivors from four very different cultures formed one nation with shared political and moral values.” The idea that some government formed a society only arises from misinterpretation. I accept that that might be from my wording choice, but no sales pitch on inalienable rights is merited. The “canyons” exist only because we don’t accept each-other’s definitions, not because our opinions are in any way different $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet -- I think our difference of opinion is not founded in semantics but rather in perspective of reality. Obviously, I don't know what your worldview is, but simply taking the question "Governments can not establish that women have voting rights? Then who do you believe would be doing this?" speaks of a more materialist or humanist perspective, a more subjective worldview. E.g., that question wouldn't even occur to me, because, obviously, governments have no business whatsoever "establishing" anyone's rights. Government exists solely for the purpose of serving a moral (cont) $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) and just society. Government is informed as to its duties and its limitations; it is instructed to uphold liberties and rights, not to establish (or disestablish!) them. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 19:15

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