Friday, February 15, 2008


Once in a while, I'll remember this thing exists (usually by Kriss) and take five minutes to plunge my great nation further into depravity and lawlessness. NationStates is an online "nation simulation" game based on author Max Barry's novel Jennifer Government which is evidently a dystopian view of a government with too little power. I haven't read it, don't have any real inclination to read it and was surprised to learn what the novel itself is about, considering that I have been trying to see what happens if I ramp up civil liberties while having basically no economic restrictions in my little nation of Murphspot.

The gameplay is simple. You register a nation and its performance and well-being are determined by the government's (your) action on issues that are automatically generated. The solution to these issues is usually to pick one of a few very extreme positions, which makes the decision sometimes difficult, but it is good to see that both positives and negatives are acknowledged for every choice you make. To take an example from an issue I had recently:

Recent studies showing that the sources of Murphspot's most common street crimes (vandalism, muggings, joyriding, and witchcraft) are children under the age of criminal responsibility has prompted a national outcry for government action.

My options were to treat juveniles as adults and sentence them to long prison sentences (an option which did not define any age limits) which would stop a lot of the crime but would lead to a rise in taxes and could affect those who are caught up in petty crime and would not be likely to become dangerous if not incarcerated with violent criminals, to write it off as "childish mischief" which might be accurate and avoids a tax increase, but does nothing to solve the problem and to prosecute the parents of the offending children, which addresses the problem in an indirect way and might be unlikely to yield results.

As a result of trying to see what happens if I go with full on civil and economic libertarianism (a philosophy which, as the novel critiques a situation where the government is powerless), my nation is officially listed as an "Anarchy" with a street crime problem, but "superb" civil rights, a "strong" economy and "superb" political freedoms and is led by a "large, liberal, pro-business government" and peopled by citizens who pay a flat 16% income tax rate.

It's an interesting distraction. There's also a lot of activity on the associated forums and a very strong RPG aspect to participation, but I tend to stay away from that (partly because I'm not really all that good at role-playing) and stick with seeing how allowing me to pick a Supreme Court Justice would lead to the downfall of society.

If you'd like to see exactly how that's leading to the breakdown of everything, go to there and do a search for "Murphspot" and enjoy the ocelots, biker gangs and large private sector.

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