Creating a justice system for your world
So now that you have created your world, and filled it with various different societies, how are these societies run? Do they have a king who speaks for the gods? Are they ruled by the strongest warrior? Do they have a council? Is it a democracy? A republic? Theocracy? Oligarchy? Are the laws draconian or progressive? What are the societies motivation for punishment to offenders? These are a couple of things to consider and look at when creating a justice system for your world .
Where do the laws come from?
The first question that we need to answer, is where does the authority to establish laws come from? The most common historical answer to this question, was Divine Authority. This didn’t mean that God himself had given the laws, but rather that the leader was “appointed” by God and spoke directly for him and was infallible since he was the mouthpiece of God. A good example of this is the Pope, and the catholic church, or any number of medieval kingdoms.
The second answer to this question of the ultimate authority for laws, is natural law. This answer suggests that all men (or whatever species you are setting up a legal system for) have certain inalienable rights. These rights can either be granted by their God/creator, or they can be inherent to their very being with no need for a higher being to have granted them. In a society based upon this belief, the government is established to protect these basic rights, not to follow whatever the king or leader may say.
One of the first instances that I am aware of where the government acknowledged the natural law, was the Magna Carta, signed in 1215 by the king of England and his barons, acknowledging that the King was not above the law himself and had to answer to his subjects. The most well-known example though of a government being fully founded on the basis of Natural Law though didn’t come until 561 years later, with the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence.
The key distinction between these two answers is that in the first, divine authority, the leader answers only to their god and is infallible. In Natural Law, the leader is supposed to answer to the people that he is governing and is recognized as being fallible and prone to errors.
Might makes Right
A third, much less popular answer, but one that might be fitting for your world, is that authority comes from strength. In this case, whoever the strongest or fiercest warrior is, is the one in charge, until someone comes along and challenges him for the position of leader and defeats him. This could work in small tribes but would be much harder to make actually work in a larger nation, as the leader would be constantly being challenged, and the government would be changing hands on a regular basis, with no stability.
What type of government?
Alright, well now that you have established the source of authority for your government, it is time to decide what type of government it actually is that you have. There are any number of systems or combinations of systems that you can use, however there are seven basic categories that they can be classified in: Democracy, Dictatorship, Monarchy, Theocracy, Totalitarian, Republic and Anarchy.
The first of these, Democracy, is rule by the people. The citizens of the country all have an equal voice and participation in their governement. The downside to this government though is that it is also known as “Mob Rule,” since as soon as 51% of the people decide that something is in their best interest the other 49% have no way to counter them.
In a dictatorship, the ruler has taken control of the country on his own authority, usually by force, and dictates the laws of the land. Dictatorships will often maintain a semblance of democracy, by having elections where either they are the only candidate on the ballot, or by rigging the election to ensure that they remain in power.
In a monarchy, the king/queen/emperor has all of the power and will pass that power along to their children when they die or step down. Although both dictators and monarchs share some similarities, such as absolute power, the main distinction is how that power is assumed. Dictatorships are taken by force, whereas monarchies are inherited.
Theocracies are nations ruled by God, either directly or indirectly. In direct theocracies, God will speak directly to his people. An example of this is the nation of Israel in the book of Exodus, where God would lead them through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. An indirect theocracy by comparison, is one where God only speaks to a particular representative or group of representatives, I.e. priests, and tells them how to lead the nation.
Totalitarian governments are similar to either monarchies or dictatorships, in that they have absolute rule, but instead of a single person being in charge there is a single political party or group in charge. Examples of sub-types of totalitarian governments would include Socialism, communism, and oligarchies.
Republic governments are similar to democracies, in that every citizen gets a voice in their government, but instead of 51% of the population having absolute rule, they are restrained by the constitution of their country. Any changes to the existing constitution requires a much higher level of accord, often two thirds or even three fourths of the population rather than just fifty percent.
The last class of government, anarchy, is probably better classified as a lack of government. This is basically chaos, where there is no central authority, and everyone is allowed to do as they wish, or, at best, as their neighbors will permit them to do.
Well, it looks like once again this article turned out to be much more in depth than I had originally planned, so I will break it into two parts here and cover the rest of creating a justice system for your world in our next article.