by Max Barry

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A comprehensive study of the modern Anemonian political state [ESSAY]

Challenging Assertions: A comprehensive study of the modern Anemonian political state

The single, near-unchallenged assertion in the modern study of Anemonian socio-politics is that which places the decline and fall of the First Empire and its colonial, absolute monarchist system of not only governance but dominance with the moderated monarchic and part-democratic tendencies of the succeeding Second Empire in 1951 as the single most important political event of the past century and that which defined the development of the Anemonian state in the direction which it was to take over the following half-century and beyond. During the course of this study, I aim to challenge this fundamental assertion with the suggestion that, in fact, the most significant renegotiation of power occurred between the 1960s and 70s during the early reign of Ilfir Erenthi III, and that the establishment of the oligarchic state administrative apparatus under his rule was a far more significant and deciding event than the fall of the First Empire when viewed in both a wider global and narrower political context.

It is perhaps the simplicity of placing the fall of the First Empire at the centre of a modern interpretation of Anemonian politics that has endeared it for so long to the contemporary political scientist. Certainly, in terms of nominal change, the replacement of the absolute monarchy and court-based system of imperial rule with a democratic system of everyday governance superseded by the authority of the monarch is without doubt the most clearly visible and structurally significant change to befall the Anemonian state over the past century, in that it overtly rewrote the nation’s pattern of governance in a highly comprehensive fashion. In theory, these changes were to reduce the nation’s reliance upon the leadership of the monarch by introducing a mostly elected legislature (the Three Houses of State) that required the reorganisation of virtually every state apparatus to reflect this change to the governance of the nation; the 247 separate offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for example, were all individually removed, relabelled and replaced during the 1951 reforms and refounding of state. These changes were not merely restricted to political institutions; at a local level, the hereditary administration of the Baronies was replaced by increased local level participation in administrative politics, perhaps best manifested in the elected federal governments that largely took over formal administrative duties in these areas. These local level administrative changes naturally led to the establishment of local political apparatuses, encouraged local level political participation, and led to what is widely known as the ‘empowerment’ of citizens and the growth of individual initiative.

Furthermore, from a global point of view, the removal of the national focus placed upon the colonies and the adoption of an isolationist stance in accordance with the internal reform objectives of the following twenty or so years in place of the radical expansionist imperialism of the preceding First Empire created an instantly recognisable power vacuum in place of the imperialist hegemony once exerted upon the global stage by the colonial power than Anemos had once been. As such, it is clearly observable that the 1951 reforms, as far as the scale of their immediately observable effect is concerned, were significantly more far reaching, globally and domestically, than the political reforms of the 1960s and 70, which largely consisted of the illegalisation of formal political parties, a renewed participation in foreign affairs and little else at an overt level.

However, the significant and unjustifiable unchallenged flaw with the interpretation of contemporary Anemonian political development presented above is its reliance upon the overt and clearly observable effects of the political changes experienced during the two periods to lend it credence; to depart from strict theory from a moment, the inability to comprehend the highly nuanced and covert nature of Anemonian political conduct, together with the reality of the relative rigidity of the social mindset and structure, make this long-held interpretation of contemporary Anemonian politics untenable. Firstly, it is vital to understand that the changes that were brought about in theory by the 1951 reforms were neither as sweeping nor as effective as overtly suggested. It is easy to understand that much of the 1951 reorganisation was nearly entirely nominal; with over 95% of the Imperial Bureaucracy remaining intact, albeit under different names (referring to pre and post reform employment records, with margins of error included to reflect lost records) following the reforms, their effects on the single most influential branch of the pre-reform government short of the Crown itself were minimal, something that would go on to amplify the effects of the 1960s-70s reforms. As far the dismantlement of the Empire and the introduction of democratic accountability to the Anemonian monarchical system of governance are concerned, the effects of these reforms at the time are virtually undebatable; the Empire was indeed dismantled, greatly decreasing the Second Empire’s global presence and influence in comparison to its preceding power, and the power of the democratic apparatus was reflected in its ability to restrict the Crown’s attempts to involve itself in foreign affairs for a full fifteen years until the shifts of the 1960s and 70s began to occur under the newly acceded Ilfir Erenthi III.

But to what extent can these changes truly be viewed as unique? The concept of the democratically accountable government and the end of imperialism were both globally sweeping during this particular era, and their effects were by no means restricted to the Anemonian state. The suggestion that they were unique in any way could only be done with a flawed and incomplete understanding of contemporary geopolitics and global political development; the similar ideas affecting national governance during this period require the political scientist to understand that the Anemonian political reforms of the 1950s were not ‘significant’ in a wider, global context, whereas the covert effect exerted by the later reforms on the democratisation of the Anemonian state and its adoption of isolationist tendencies in the 1950s lead us to the conclusion that, in fact, these later reforms made on the back of globally orthodox changes to the Anemonian political establishment were primarily responsible for its highly unique development as a nation, particularly in terms of the creation of a political establishment that can be seen to have reversed the trend towards democracy and introduced a unique system of semi-monarchical, semi-bureaucratic governance aided by democratically elected entities.

As mentioned earlier, the two major reforms instated during the 1960s and 70s were the illegalisation of organised political parties (on the basis of organised extremist violence) and the renewed entrance of the Anemonian State, now as the Second Empire, into geopolitical affairs. Though seemingly innocuous at first, the former not directly influencing the power of elected members of the political institution and the latter a natural development of the Second Empire into a fully-fledged state developed beyond the initial framework of a successor entity to the First Empire, the two acting in conjunction led, in fact, to the single biggest realignment of power experienced during the past century within Anemonian politics, let alone the post-war (1947-) period. It is vital to understand that, though federal level administration was largely dominated in the post-war period by federal entities, and though the democratically elected areas of government were dominated by large, well-funded and constantly combating political parties, a combination of strong centralised leadership (albeit not always by the monarch) and a highly streamlined bureaucracy carried on from the last Empire with institutional know-how preserved almost entirely from the last generation allowed for the retention of high levels of central, Imperial authority through to covert exertion of influence through the role of the Imperial bureaucracy as the single source of technical expertise concerning legislation and as the sole executor of national level legislation, together with the social respect and deference afforded to the monarch and his technical retention of the absolute power enjoyed by his predecessors. As such, though local level politics was indeed shifted radically by the democratic system introduced in 1951 onwards, national level politics was still largely dominated by a centralised government built around a streamlined bureaucracy and monarch. The situation observed during this period could largely be described as ‘deadlock’, as shown by the inability of the monarch to push through the re-entry of Anemos into the field of foreign affairs throughout the early 1960s against the inability of the state legislature to regain control of the bureaucracy (which still operated through Imperial appointments).

However, this state of deadlock was arguably broken in the 1960s-70s period, and this decisive shift of power away from these democratically elected entities is perhaps the single most decisive moment in modern Anemonian politics. With the ban on organised party politics implemented in the aftermath of the 1960s popular unrest initiated by these very organisations, the parties were of course disbanded, but this in turn led to a rapid decline in the power of the state’s democratic institutions, with the power previously exerted by organised, funded entities now split up amongst individual legislators (the volume of laws passed through the legislature following the division of power and the removal of an organised whip system was said to be a quarter of that passed prior to this). Naturally, this led to a power vacuum of sorts on the political stage. Ultimately, it can be argued with little doubt that it was the re-entry of the Anemonian state into foreign affairs through its entry into the Ragnosian Crisis in 1972 that was largely responsible for the realignment of power at this stage; the fact remained that politicians had very little influence over a Ministry of Foreign Affairs still largely controlled by pre-1951 long serving bureaucrats, and this shift in influence towards the Anemonian bureaucracy in a single but key re-explored policy area had a domino effect on the entirety of the Anemonian government and the nature of administration within the nation. This shift in the power balance towards the aristocracy can be observed clearly in the main source of decision making in the 1970-1975 period, when the figure of unofficial ‘implementation orders’ made within the bureaucratic system rose by nearly four hundred percent alongside the decline of formal legislation to nearly a quarter of its previous volume; with the scale and scope of the implementation orders continually increasing as the Anemonian involvement in the Ragnosian crisis dragged on, the influence of bureaucratic decision-making was readily observable throughout the Anemonian government during this period, with the vast majority of decisions being made in small, high level committees centres around the monarch. This system of governance has remained largely intact up to the present day, with similar, small committees meeting on a regular basis, showing a remarkable continuity and health in a system originally ‘shoehorned’ through on the back of already questionable legislation.

The nature of this system of rule has been made readily apparent in this concept of the ‘small committee meeting’; unlike the Imperial Court system of the pre-1951 period, the inclusion of and influence wielded by policy area experts within the system due to the reliance placed upon the bureaucracy as the advisory and implementing body of state, together with the presence of a select number of individuals who are able to wield influence over both the legislatures and the monarch, create a system where a number of individuals (including an active monarch) are present at the top of the political system by exerting authority over a powerful bureaucracy. This is often displayed in the fact that certain powerful figures tend more often than not to have their policy lines implemented in the long run; the influence of Baron Amandyr Sailis, for example, over the monarch has led to the adoption and retention of Keynesian economic policies in the face of staunch opposition for nearly twenty years by the state (as readily admitted to by several members of the implementing bureaucracy in the controversial Heserin Tapes of 2005). However, to call this an entirely monarchical system of rule centred around favour rather than power would be incorrect; those who are present around the monarch are in such a position due to their place as the ‘best and brightest’ (again, a term drawn from the Heserin Tapes) of their bureaucratic branches; in a way, therefore, the system that currently exists in Anemos can be described as a meritocratic oligarchy with democratic input, with a select number of individuals exerting disproportionate influence over the administration and conduct of state at a broad, national level (with federal level jurisdiction still remaining more or less in the hands of locally elected governments).

The assertion that the 1951 reforms were the most significant in recent Anemonian political history can, therefore, be seen to be incorrect. Though their effects were the most outwardly visible, many of the ‘reforms’ seen during that period can actually be proven to have more similarities to ‘rebranding’, with the almost wholesale retention of existing administrative systems under different names in areas. Furthermore, where the reforms did have an effect, they tended to be in line with contemporary global political shifts and not particularly exceptional in its nature or effects. Rather, it was the realignment of powers towards the bureaucracy in the 1960s and 70s under Ilfir Erenthi III that was largely responsible for the unique and surviving system of meritocratic oligarchy observable in Anemonian politics today.

A. Henserin, 2007, Challenging Assertions: A comprehensive study of the modern Anemonian political state.