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    Default Building a plutocracy?

    One of the city-states in my campaign is a wretched hive of scum and villainy plutocracy, and an unsavory one at that. The lore goes that during the initial settlement of the island-continent, merchants struck it rich by lumbering the nearby jungle's plentiful supply of darkwood trees (the wood equivalent of mithril). The wealthy merchants would then retire to less monster-infested locales, where they established bloodsports and created a demand for exotic extravagances.

    But the question I had was...
    How does an actual plutocracy work? (what are the titles and honorifics and so on of people who hold their position due to wealth, and not some royal lineage? Are there any true historical examples or are all of them only de-facto plutocracies with other forms of nominal, heavily corrupt governance?)

    EDIT: Additionally, I would appreciate any advice on convincingly portraying an organized crime syndicate in a fantasy world. This is 5th edition, so there's a bit less concern about magic immediately allowing anyone to determine on a whim whether or not a given individual is a ne'er-do-well.
    Last edited by Anachronity; 2019-08-15 at 10:25 AM.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    There are a number of ways you could pull this off.

    A ruling council...where the right to sit can be bought and sold.

    Donations to "official" civic charities leads to a status that is a perquisite for high office

    theocratic influence that sees wealth as a sign of divine favor...giving the rich a right to rule

    have no civic means civic rule enforcement ...and thus no army/guard etc...so private armies are the order of the day...and thus if you want a say in how the rules are made you need a private army to help enforce those rules...armies basically agree to enforce each others rules in theory..when the sponsors of the armies meet to confirm/work out how to do this they ARE running the city.

    have ruling council seats be based on the highest taxpayers...(as an example way to generate this idea: if at some point in the past a king agreed to an advisory council of merchants and said those merchants who pay the most taxes are most effected by his edicts and would thus get seats, Over time the council out-maneuvers/out-lasts other political power centres and eventually took over entirely)

    otherwise it is basically the same as any other form of oligarchy
    Last edited by sktarq; 2019-08-15 at 10:46 AM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    The closest to a functioning plutocracy you might find would be the merchant republics of medieval Italy. There, various families found massive success via trade networks that led to outside of Europe. This led to generational wealth that was used to buy influence in local politics. Before long, these powerful families were directly running the government and using the government to further their own wealth. Some common traits of these republics would be:
    • Three levels of politics: politics within the family, politics within the city-state, and politics/diplomacy with outside powers. Political rivals could arise from any of these areas.
    • Political assassinations, especially by poisoning
    • Public works to build the prestige and influence of families as well as to get citizens on their side
    • Humiliating rivals publicly, especially at festivals, parties, and other large gatherings
    • Rarely, open violence in the streets between factions
    • More rarely, alignment of rich families with outside powers to attack the city by force


    You can view the Capulets and Montagues from Romeo and Juliet as being such families. Also, take influence from the Godfather movies or other pop culture about the mafia. You might also get inspiration from Westerns where there is a wealthy land-owner or powerful gang that comes into conflict with another one (like Tombstone).

    Such games are well-suited to intrigue and deception.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    The Mod Ogre: Please be careful about politics in this thread.
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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anachronity View Post
    One of the city-states in my campaign is a wretched hive of scum and villainy plutocracy, and an unsavory one at that....

    How does an actual plutocracy work? (what are the titles and honorifics and so on of people who hold their position due to wealth, and not some royal lineage? Are there any true historical examples or are all of them only de-facto plutocracies with other forms of nominal, heavily corrupt governance?)
    So every Feudal Government is actually a plutocracy.

    A plutocracy is "rule by the wealthy". All wealth is is having more resources than other people and in every feudal system the landlord (nobility) have the wealth and the commonfolk (serfs) do not.

    European feudal system started as a pure plutocracy.

    I consider this parcel of land to be mine
    I develop the resources to fight off anybody else who denies that
    I work and develop the resources of that land
    I start making others do that work for me
    I pass it on to my children and to their children
    Continue until someone else takes it from my children's children.

    In your fantasy world you are stating that a class of people who were NOT hereditary wealthy grew in wealth by establishing, dominating, controlling and exploiting a new resource. So now they are the new nobles.

    As for what titles to use? Normally, in real life, when a merchant-class rose in power to the level of the hereditary nobility that already existed the craved the titles of that existing nobility as a status symbol. So they found ways to buy the titles of duke and earl and prince and so on. So the easiest solution would be to just use existing titles.

    That's not really fun though, so if I was you i'd have them make up their own titles.

    CEO
    CIO
    CSO
    Manager
    Superintendant
    Supervisor

    I would use corporate titles as a starting point
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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    There are a number of ways you could pull this off.

    A ruling council...where the right to sit can be bought and sold.
    I've always liked this system for storytelling purposes. I had politicians raising money by representing constituents who contributed money used to pay the entrance fee. The fee had to be paid on a yearly basis. This was both their electoral and taxation systems.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anachronity View Post
    But the question I had was...
    How does an actual plutocracy work? (what are the titles and honorifics and so on of people who hold their position due to wealth, and not some royal lineage? Are there any true historical examples or are all of them only de-facto plutocracies with other forms of nominal, heavily corrupt governance?)
    Plutocracies tend to cloak themselves in the clothing of other political systems rather than being out in the open. Checking Wikipedia will give you some excellent examples of historical plutocracies and the ways they worked. In general they are composed of powerful economic interests in the form of guilds/corporations that exert economic control over large portions of the economy and this gives them the power and wealth to substantially influence politics and social dynamics.
    Quote Originally Posted by Anachronity View Post
    EDIT: Additionally, I would appreciate any advice on convincingly portraying an organized crime syndicate in a fantasy world. This is 5th edition, so there's a bit less concern about magic immediately allowing anyone to determine on a whim whether or not a given individual is a ne'er-do-well.
    Again, Wikipedia is your friend here. But a good way to think of organized crime syndicates is as a shadow feudal system. The guys at the bottom are granted territories and they pay tribute to the people above them who have larger territories and so on. They recruit people to work for them who fall into the broad categories of peasants (people who are largely unable to avoid working them), soldiers (the people who solidly work for them but aren't 'family'), and 'family' (the people who are the most privileged members of the group).
    Last edited by jjordan; 2019-08-15 at 02:20 PM.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Golarion (i.e. Pathfinder) has a couple of plutocracies you could check out for inspiration:

    Katapesh - The Bazaar of the Bizarre, Katapesh has one rule above all others: "Do as you will, but do not interfere with trade." You can buy anything there - from weapons and mercenaries, to rare items and components, to drugs and slaves, and the ruling council doesn't care as long as the dough keeps rolling in.

    Druma - The Merchant's Paradise, this one has stronger religious overtones to it. The chief religion/philosophy there is a set of teachings called the Prophecies of Kalistrade - in a nutshell, they believe that if you follow their teachings and devote yourself to business dealings (rejecting most deities in the process), you'll amass vast wealth, and flaunting that wealth will cause you to become even more favored, thus gaining more wealth. It's a bit of a blend of meritocracy and plutocracy, since clearly anyone who has succeeded deserves to be wealthy and therefore deserves to be in charge of those who haven't, and anyone who can outwit a higher-ranked follower in a business dealing has the potential to surpass them. Followers of the PoK amass wealth but have more restrictions, such as foregoing more hedonistic pleasures, even refusing to touch anyone who doesn't also follow the Prophecies.

    Some common themes between these two that you can leverage:

    - Amassing wealth is the highest form of virtue, so long as you do so in a way that doesn't inhibit trade.
    - Morality is either barely a concern or not a concern at all to what is considered legal, hence all the slaves and drugs.
    - The letter of the law trumps its spirit - loopholes are both a common and expected part of business dealings.
    - Crime that violates the letter is not tolerated; if you're going to steal from someone, you have to find a way to do it legally.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    the republic of venice was a plutocracy, with corruption being istitutionalized. the aristocracy (made of merchant families) would vote to elect the ruler of the city, and corruption was not only normal, but also legal and expected. basically, the place would go to the family who could afford to spend the most, while the lower nobility basically sold their vote to the highest bidder.

    do notice that there is some meritocracy in that system: only the richest families could afford to buy the position, and that required they be actually good at trading.
    a plutocracy can easily be rich and prosperous while its average citizen is not.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gallowglass View Post
    So every Feudal Government is actually a plutocracy.

    A plutocracy is "rule by the wealthy". All wealth is is having more resources than other people and in every feudal system the landlord (nobility) have the wealth and the commonfolk (serfs) do not.

    European feudal system started as a pure plutocracy.
    Feudalism is about a pyramid of personal bonds and obligations and about promises of protection and force. It is a very different kind of thing.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anachronity View Post
    But the question I had was...
    How does an actual plutocracy work? (what are the titles and honorifics and so on of people who hold their position due to wealth, and not some royal lineage? Are there any true historical examples or are all of them only de-facto plutocracies with other forms of nominal, heavily corrupt governance?)
    Plutocracy is usually a stage towards oligarchy. Plutocrats inevitably design systems to benefit themselves, and this can be in the form of hereditary titles, theocracy, magocracy, psionocracy, technocray, or straight out aristocracy. These will then usually move from class based oligarchies to person based oligarchies, and then to individuals with the ability (though perhaps not the inclination) to wield despotic power.

    The Roman Republic is a good example.
    Rule went from rich landowners -> who became the hereditary Patrician class -> the most influential of whom became the Senatorial class -> the most powerful of whom eventually became various constellations of Duum- and Triumvirates -> the winner of whom became Emperor.


    Your setting sounds like it is in the process of moving from a Pecuniary to a Class based system.
    All you really have to consider is what system you want your merchants to have decided best aids them in holding onto power. This may be as simple as issuing letters of marque, or it may involve complex systems of checks and balances, and propping up subordinate classes for legitimacy.
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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Plutocracies are definitely not Meritocracies: if power depends on wealth, then keeping wealth in your (families) hands and out of someone else's in just good politics.

    Plutocracy could be a late stage of a degenerate civilization that started out as a "anyone who works hard can make good" type Meritocracy but has devolved from that to entrenching power and wealth in the hands of those who are lucky enough to have been born in the right family.

    Numerous historical examples and at least two modern day ones exist.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    One way to run a plutocracy that was openly so would be with a ruling council that has trappings of a republic, but wherein you literally just buy your seats. There are some number of seats. Pick any number that seems useful to you, or is a cool "significant" number (7, 13, 108). More seats means a larger overt aristocracy; fewer means definite rulers rather than a ruling class.

    Terms on the seats last for some number of years. At least 1, probably no more than 10. Maybe they're even staggared.

    When a seat comes up for re-election, it's not really an election: it's a bid. Everyone who wants the seat bids money, and whoever bids the most wins the seat. The money goes into the national coffers. The council or senate or whatever it's called then gets to be the body that proposes and passes legislation. Maybe there's a prime minister who is whoever paid the most for his seat.

    There could even be multiple levels. A lower council with more seats, and an upper council with fewer, and wherein laws must pass both to go anywhere. So the lower council seats tend to be cheaper, just because there are more of them and thus there aren't as many bidding on them.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    One way to run a plutocracy that was openly so would be with a ruling council that has trappings of a republic, but wherein you literally just buy your seats. There are some number of seats. Pick any number that seems useful to you, or is a cool "significant" number (7, 13, 108). More seats means a larger overt aristocracy; fewer means definite rulers rather than a ruling class.
    A proper plutocracy has to have another means of operating though. It has to have the trappings of something else, since a plutocracy describes how a government is selected rather by the means by which it operates. A plutocratic republic is describes the selection of a government and how it nominally is supposed to function.

    If its just straight up wealth buys power then that's anarcho-capitalism. Anything else is at least a plutocratic something. You could have a plutocratic absolute monarchy where the man with the most money is king. I think the best model though is the one you propose, a plutocratic republic. For real fun only citizen can buy a seat, and it costs lots and lots of money to be a citizen. Even if those born in the city to a citizen have to have their citizenship paid for. This means only the truest and most insanely wealth can pass anything of real value to their children.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    A proper plutocracy has to have another means of operating though. It has to have the trappings of something else, since a plutocracy describes how a government is selected rather by the means by which it operates.
    Plutocrat is basically a political prestige class that lets you substitute gold pieces for a system's usual governing stat. For example, feudalism is based on Strength and Charisma, but a Plutocrat can just buy a bunch of mercenaries to fight for him without having to earn their loyalty. To make a de facto plutocracy, just start with any other system and then let people cheat by throwing money at it. To make a de jure plutocracy, just make wealth the basis of the system such as a democracy where you get one vote for each gold piece you contribute to the state treasury.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Most plutocracy's probably claim to be something else, e.g. a democracy or a republic.

    As I see it, plutocracies fall into two sorts - open plutocracies and hidden plutocracies.

    An open plutocracy could be a city state that claims to be a democracy, but applies a high wealth/property check on who gets the vote.
    Result - only the rich can vote but it is open about this state of affairs.

    A hidden plutocracy could be the same city state, but instead of limiting the vote, candidates need to spend huge sums of money ensuring that people vote for them.
    Result - only the rich can stand for election, but the state claims it is open to all.

    Oddly the Star Empire (Kingdom) of Manticore in the Honor Harrington books by David Weber is an example of the first! Although it claims to be a functioning democracy (with a monarch who is more than just consitutional) there's a one-liner about anyone who pays more in tax than they receive in government aid is entitled to vote. This actually forms a wealth check on voters (we know that taxes were low, but we don't know how much state subsidies there are) - I don't think David intended this to be the result, but it is what he has wriiten.
    Given a source of weath (the manticore wormhole junction transit fees) that requires minimal expenditure from the state this actually allows the government to jack up subsidies to people and hold down taxes to the point where they can deprive most people of the vote...
    Since it is not obvious that there is a wealth check this one is a bit of a hybrid.

    I can think of one fictional example that I believe is a straight plutocracy (i.e. not one pretending to be some other form of goverment).
    In the Freehold novels by Michael Z Williamson, Freehold is a completely capitalist planet where the ruling minority have to buy their vote (which is very very expensive) - once they buy their seat they lose access to all of their own funds and are given a modest income to live on. Iirc they get their own funds back when they retire - subject to them being index linked to the economy while sequestered.

    So, most plutocracies will claim to be some form of vote-based system (they work better than other governmental forms for this) but with an open or hidden mechanism for ensuring that control remains in the hands of the wealthy.
    But you can invent yor own system which is a direct plutocracy, e.g.everything goes to a "public" vote, but each vote costs the voter so most people cannot afford to vote on most issues.

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    The thing is very few government system start off as plutocracy in our world...so they don't really have specific NAMES for roles in a plutocracy.

    I mean if we take the above examples and replace "aristocratic councils" or "seats in a body of a republic" with "seat on the corporate board" it would make basically no difference. So just assume the running of civic institutions (defense, law, infrastructure, etc) is a business. Possibly a loss leader if you want to say that its purpose is to support the profitable businesses in town but also quite possibly a business that runs a tidy profit via taxes, tithes, fines, bribes, etc (I means isn't this how rulers normally afford all that bling?). So just treat it as a business...(with board room drama, takeover attempts, buyouts, etc)

    But a company town-the owners control the money making apparatus and may even control the money itself (if they pay in chits)

    Now there isn't much of change to say the company town's business is food production and you have bonded labor contracts and suddenly you are halfway to feudalism. Investor owned may be more council of boyars/republic of venice but a family owned business would be pretty classic medieval stereotypes.

    Then again who can afford to pay the most people with pointy sticks rules is also kinda plutocracy. If society rates there to be no social stigma in working for whoever pays you rather than some social/identity bond. Bunch of merc's to enforce your will makes your word law...until the mercs end up taking over your business and we a halfway back to feudal Europe again.

    But a ruling town council? if the seats are for sale that's a plutocracy...and a oligarchy...scale it up the Holy Roman Empire analogue...just with the electors being officially open to bribes....and when the Medici's basically bought themselves the papacy or cardinal positions that could be argued that is a plutocracy as much as theocracy...and in the Church of Waukeen could well be held up as a virtue.

    then pretty much any oligarchy also "looks like something else" a lot of the time. The boundaries between most "government forms" is very blurry and subject to interpretation and propaganda

    Another classic form, a "populist" twist the vote for sale model....landowners. Now often landowners of a favored (often "home") region may be the only ones who qualify. A member to be of the Roman Senate needed a certain amount of land in Suburbia (basically the Italian peninsula) at one point in time. US history? had to be a landowner to vote originally. Just make that land highly limited and its value will soon rise to the point only the rich can afford the franchise and you have a plutocracy....for even more fun have such people carry the title of "elector" just to mess with your players idea of democracy...but at that point the rulers are just the hired hand of the rich or the person most popular to the rich and everyone knows it...it isn't trying to present as anything else. Its just us 21st century moderns that try to describe in other terms first and foremost.

    then again if you have a ruling power (say a "king", "head of church", "chairman of the board") who can just flat out sell other titles of power...you also have a ripe open plutocracy. Various historical empires sold the right to raise taxes in given areas, but would also just sell titles. These title holders would then be backed with the power of law...usually by the military force the ruling power could support selling those titles (but skimming off enough to be the richest person themselves)...This works especially well if when the holder of the supreme ruler title dies the highest office holders can bid to become the supreme ruler (plenty of real world inspiration here but dangerously close to politics and religion) by paying off the army or other potential bidders. Again we just associate most of the titles that we would use as connected with other forms of government and so would be labeled as "hidden" or "masked" plutocracies...but that is pretty much our language bias showing.

    EDIT: and funny thing about money...basically the idea of currency to store value so it can be converted into other things later....its ability to convert into other stuff is a huge part of its point...so basically no matter what you base "power" off of money could in theory be converted into that thing unless something stands in its way....
    bloodline? marry in for large dowry
    military power? mercs
    church or military status? buy position, raise your own army (seriously rich Roman families did this), sponsor new monestary/whatever with your heir/puppet in charge.
    land? buy it or swap for it
    ships for the defense of the island kingdom? build you own shipyard if you have to.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2019-08-17 at 03:56 PM.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    As a thought what if we had a plutocracy based on land ownership.

    Here's my though: voting is tied to fixed land areas, maybe fixed concession in a county, or a county as a whole, larger or small whatever. One fixed land area gets one vote. Anybody can buy the rights to that land at any time by paying whatever the rate might be. That could be a single person, a business, the local peasants who live on the land, or the orc tribe that just moved in. Basically the body that controls the voting doesn't care as long as you have the coin to buy the vote. Most voting rights are pretty much fixed, the local rich guy has all the money and thus the vote for the area, but nothing stops somebody else from coming in and buying up the voting rights

    Collected money is used by the collecting body to police the city/county with a standing army.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    As a thought what if we had a plutocracy based on land ownership....
    Collected money is used by the collecting body to police the city/county with a standing army.
    Only problem is the last part....it assumes ownership reverts to the state again...otherwise the buyer is paying the previous owner and the state doesn't get paid. while this may be adjusted by stamp taxes or sales tax, the state couldn't rely on it for long term steady income. it could be more equivalent of a sale of stock. But would need land to do so on unlike stock being created out of legalese air...and has similar diluting effects on the power of all other current vote holders.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Only problem is the last part....it assumes ownership reverts to the state again...otherwise the buyer is paying the previous owner and the state doesn't get paid. while this may be adjusted by stamp taxes or sales tax, the state couldn't rely on it for long term steady income. it could be more equivalent of a sale of stock. But would need land to do so on unlike stock being created out of legalese air...and has similar diluting effects on the power of all other current vote holders.
    Could the state charge a transfer of deed processing fee on each sale or inheritance of land?

    Some interesting stories there when surprise, recently deceased parent was broke and didn't leave anything to cover the fee.
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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    One example that's already established in fiction is the Ferengi Alliance in Star Trek. Maybe not completely what you had in mind, but it can serve as a start or inspiration.
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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by farothel View Post
    One example that's already established in fiction is the Ferengi Alliance in Star Trek. Maybe not completely what you had in mind, but it can serve as a start or inspiration.
    It's not a bad example in that it at least is one we all can look at in common, but unfortunately its actual implementation is...unclear. I like to chuckle at it as an interesting view of what a socialist THINKS capitalism looks like, but joking aside, there's an enormously intrusive government and you bribe and pay for every right, privilege, and position. In a lot of ways, it's a plutocracy-in-name-only, because people GET wealthy by being influential government types. They bribe their way into positions which get bribed and which give permissions to engage in certain kinds of business or accept certain kinds of bribes, and then they use their increased bribery-based income to buy increased positions.

    The Grand Nagus is practically an autocrat, and his selection process is never fully defined. It's possible it's just a position you sell to your heir, or bequeath to him, making it essentially a monarchy.

    In practice, it's a facist tyranny with monarchal trappings that cloaks everything in "business."

    I think, in terms of aesthetics of a fictional government, what would most separate a plutocracy from any other kind of government is how much of the wealth of those who buy their way into power comes from ostensibly the private sector, vs. from being bribed, paid for, or given cushy deals in return for consideration in their positions in government. The more they ostensibly are businessmen who happen to be buying their seats of governmental power, the more of a "look" of a plutocracy it will have. The more obviously they're getting rich BECAUSE they're in power, and get it from being in the government, the more like other kinds of government it will overtly look.

    This won't prevent the reality from being a corrupt mess, nor will it guarantee it, but it will control what it looks like on the surface. (In reality, any time a government has too much power, people will get rich by being in government. Money is, at that point, just another form of political capital.)

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Could the state charge a transfer of deed processing fee on each sale or inheritance of land?

    Some interesting stories there when surprise, recently deceased parent was broke and didn't leave anything to cover the fee.
    Yup that would be a stamp tax. The ruling group that uses legal force (via military, police, courts etc) to back documents (like deeds and contracts) in many cases will only back recognized documents -which are noted by stamps or seals.

    But land, especially land that is held for value other than the money that can be directly extracted from its use by people with outside wealth, would have a rather low transfer velocity and thus not produce much in revenue. And finally since the holders of these franchise land plots are the source of laws in this scenario - why wouldn't they just scrap that law and thus hold on their own personal power easier?
    Last edited by sktarq; 2019-08-18 at 02:55 PM.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Yup that would be a stamp tax. The ruling group that uses legal force (via military, police, courts etc) to back documents (like deeds and contracts) in many cases will only back recognized documents -which are noted by stamps or seals.

    But land, especially land that is held for value other than the money that can be directly extracted from its use by people with outside wealth, would have a rather low transfer velocity and thus not produce much in revenue. And finally since the holders of these franchise land plots are the source of laws in this scenario - why wouldn't they just scrap that law and thus hold on their own personal power easier?
    If there's enough of a wealth disparity, the tax might be significant to most landholders, but not significant to those who've already climbed to the top.

    It serves as a way of pulling up the ladder behind them and keeping everyone else from getting into the upper tier.
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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    A somewhat similar example might be the Pueblo Corporate Council from Shadowrun.

    The PCC is both a government and a for-profit corporation. There are two kinds of stock... preferred, which lets you live in the nation (and reap a dividend if the government makes a profit), and residential (which carries voting rights). 1 share is 1 vote, but getting additional votes requires logarithmically more shares. I can't find the numbers (the NAN books don't seem to be handy), but it meant you had to spend a ton of money to get additional votes.
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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    It serves as a way of pulling up the ladder behind them and keeping everyone else from getting into the upper tier.
    I was generally figuring the cost of the land would do that already. Because you get issues with dealing non-stamped land holders. Yeoman and the like. And how you don't break their economic systems...
    i generally figured "special" land and enough of it that is acts a limiting resource-the price then skyrockets...

    And if you have to pay when you transfer to your heirs that just seems a new way to fall down the power ladder. And why would those with power give themselves that? Because also the stamp fee or taxes would be $$ not going to the seller if they did have to sell. Thus lowering the value of their assets to the holder without a bonus to the buyers.

    Though in theory having a stamped deed vs that not technically being needed by normal people could act in a similar way to having limited land (where you had to have a villa in Rome, the princes quarter of Beijing, or near Versailles. But at that point is just a fee to enter power system.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2019-08-18 at 07:10 PM.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    I'm surprised nobody has brought up the influence of divine or infernal powers here. If the patron deity of the city is a/the god of trade, accruing wealth could be seen as proof of faithfulness and/or favor. A well-ordered economy with the powerful holding sway as would be seen as obedience to his/her dictates. I think any god that favored these traits would tend towards the lawful end of the spectrum, but I could see arguments for other alignments as well.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    This is an interesting read.

    For D&D-type games, I'm surprised that "Meddling Adventurers" hasn't been mentioned.

    Sure, in the beginning, the PCs are "working" for someone in Power (Rich/Noble, Guild/Political, Religious, etc)

    But, as they gain in personal power (class), they also can become more Famous and influential in their community (assuming they aren't Globetrotters 🤣).

    To me, in a World where Adventuring is common, it doesn't make sense for those in Power to not have Class Levels as well as political positions (perhaps those NPCs without Classes are further up the ladder because they focused on gaining their position, instead of galavanting around the World). I won't list all the possible Class/position possibilities.

    But, I think it can be funny where the PCs find out about the "Government" in much the same way they did about the BBEG's minion organization.

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    Also, I like to think that valuable items/materials (mostly gold coins, etc) that are "found" in a Dungeon don't magically appear; they came from somewhere, and most likely from someone. Shinagines when these people show up demanding all (or at least most) of that treasure!
    (Tolkien did a version of this with The Lonely Mountain: sure the treasure "belonged" to the Dwarves, but everyone that "helped" them expected/demanded a piece of it. And the "Allied Forces" only really worked together when two large forces of obvious enemies showed up. Without that event? I'm sure that they wouldn't stand around "debating" very long.)

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    In a wealth-controlled nation, those in politics would make sure that these "Adventurers" either bought into their system, or arranged lots of "taxes" and "fees": as well as encouraging them to spend loads of money for Magic Items (and Crafters would most likely be members of a Guild, and part of the political system) to keep the PC's personal wealth to a minimum.

    Doing these things could also keep Peasant Rebels from causing too much trouble (being at least as expensive as mercenaries to maintain, plus loyalty issues) and mostly being considered a type of Bandit. (mostly propaganda by those in power) Which can slow recruitment.

    I have a few more ideas, but not sure how relevant to the subject they are.

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    Default Re: Building a plutocracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by oudeis View Post
    I'm surprised nobody has brought up the influence of divine or infernal powers here. If the patron deity of the city is a/the god of trade, accruing wealth could be seen as proof of faithfulness and/or favor. A well-ordered economy with the powerful holding sway as would be seen as obedience to his/her dictates. I think any god that favored these traits would tend towards the lawful end of the spectrum, but I could see arguments for other alignments as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    theocratic influence that sees wealth as a sign of divine favor...giving the rich a right to rule
    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    Golarion (i.e. Pathfinder) has a couple of plutocracies you could check out for inspiration:

    Katapesh - The Bazaar of the Bizarre, Katapesh has one rule above all others: "Do as you will, but do not interfere with trade." You can buy anything there - from weapons and mercenaries, to rare items and components, to drugs and slaves, and the ruling council doesn't care as long as the dough keeps rolling in.

    Druma - The Merchant's Paradise, this one has stronger religious overtones to it. The chief religion/philosophy there is a set of teachings called the Prophecies of Kalistrade - in a nutshell, they believe that if you follow their teachings and devote yourself to business dealings (rejecting most deities in the process), you'll amass vast wealth, and flaunting that wealth will cause you to become even more favored, thus gaining more wealth. It's a bit of a blend of meritocracy and plutocracy, since clearly anyone who has succeeded deserves to be wealthy and therefore deserves to be in charge of those who haven't, and anyone who can outwit a higher-ranked follower in a business dealing has the potential to surpass them. Followers of the PoK amass wealth but have more restrictions, such as foregoing more hedonistic pleasures, even refusing to touch anyone who doesn't also follow the Prophecies.

    Some common themes between these two that you can leverage:

    - Amassing wealth is the highest form of virtue, so long as you do so in a way that doesn't inhibit trade.
    - Morality is either barely a concern or not a concern at all to what is considered legal, hence all the slaves and drugs.
    - The letter of the law trumps its spirit - loopholes are both a common and expected part of business dealings.
    - Crime that violates the letter is not tolerated; if you're going to steal from someone, you have to find a way to do it legally.
    Now the Druma has religious overtones to it...
    and Katapesh if you read its splatbook has rather strong outsiders of unknown origin/desires with very strong "not good" airs attached for infernal-like influences.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    then again if you have a ruling power (say a "king", "head of church", "chairman of the board") who can just flat out sell other titles of power...you also have a ripe open plutocracy. Various historical empires sold the right to raise taxes in given areas, but would also just sell titles. These title holders would then be backed with the power of law...usually by the military force the ruling power could support selling those titles (but skimming off enough to be the richest person themselves)...This works especially well if when the holder of the supreme ruler title dies the highest office holders can bid to become the supreme ruler (plenty of real world inspiration here but dangerously close to politics and religion) by paying off the army or other potential bidders.
    .

    As for alignment...I wouldn't lean Lawful...everything from personal ability to write contracts, to if wealth is really what matters being able to cheat the system would have to qualify no?

    Also I don't know why I didn't think of it before.....poke around EVE online if you dare for ideas...and what can go wrong.

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