I'm trying to create a world that has a strong military and good citizenship even in times of peace. I'm kind of stuck at the moment, but I have done some research already, so here is a brief case study I have been putting together. I used evidence from a world called: "Earth."

Case Study: Earth

A famous Earthling named Machiavelli once said:

War should be the only study of a prince. He should consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes as ability to execute, military plans.

Machiavelli puts it so eloquently that it sounds self-evident. However, Joe Klein, a political columnist of Time Magazine, submits that even a country as economically developed and militarily powerful as the US actually falls short of the mark:

Since WWII, yes we have had some problems, but [America] has not had any existential wars in which all of our young people have to go out and fight. In the interim, I think that we have lost a lot of the habits of citizenship. In contrast to the men and women in the military, we do not feel as if we are part of something that is larger than ourselves. We have re-tribalized our society.

What is good citizenship?

What exactly constitutes "good citizenship" is subjective to a degree. Whether you agree or not, to keep the scope of the question within reason, consider "good citizenship" & "rigorousness" here to mean:

  • sense of basic unity. Putting the good of the government over the good of the tribe (to use Klein's framework). Thus creating a "rigorous" state, in which citizens weight heavily how their actions impact the government, because of a presumed sense of basic unity.

Optional Musings

Notably, in the post-Vietnam era, it has become fashionable to be skeptic of the government. Hollywood often portrays government or deep-state villains. There is an anti-establishment vibe that pervades everywhere from off-shore banking on wall street to the Malthusian moral hazards of exploiting welfare.


If America fails to keep society from being fragmented and tribalized, as per the earlier definition of "good citizenship", how can a fictional state that is similar to America learn from any potential mistakes and do better? Or would any such state be doomed to fail to stay "rigorous" in times of peace? Why or why not?

Further Clarifications and Assumptions:

  • You do not need to encompass all the definitions of good citizenship in your answer. That is to say you can make it as broad or as narrow as you feel comfortable with. Just state which one(s) you choose and how it factors in to your answer. For example, maybe your solution focuses on political literacy and voter turn out. Or maybe you approach things from the military/veteran care angle.
  • For the sake of simplicity, all solutions should adopt the organic view of government -- the individual only has significance as part of the community. Mechanistic (where government is for the benefit of the people) views I feel will distract answers from the heart of my question.
  • I do not wish to create a state of brain-washed people who all drink the koolaid. Rather, I want a healthy degree of skepticism that does not take away from the good of the country.
  • Not that we could every truly have such knowledge, but just for robustness, assume the government is relatively benevolent. Maybe there are inefficiencies or cases of corruption, but the government is not trying to murder its own people or something extreme like that.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Renan, JBH, bilbo_pingouin, Mołot, Alex2006 Jan 14 at 12:31

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I have no idea what you're asking for. Do you mean "good citizenship" in terms of being constantly ready for war? What does that mean? How is the U.S. (or any country sporting a military) not exhibiting "good citizenship?" Does encouraging a strong economy, a storng manufacturing base, a strong R&D base, and a continuously trained military not fulfil your needs? Does sticking your nose into everybody's international business so your troops have something to do not keep them prepared for war? This is one of the most unclear questions I've read in a long time. What is it you want and why? $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 14 at 6:10
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Those answers can all be found in my clarfications and assumptions section. I also have an entire section with the heading "what is good citizenship" There is a bullet point list of possible ways to quantify it. In the clarifications, I explicitly said the answer doesn't need to address all of them. The list is there to clue readers in on how to conceptualize "good citizenship." Is there a different format you would prefer me to highlight this information? Just glancing at it, it seems clear to me, but that might just be my bias. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Jan 14 at 6:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with @JBH here. I have no idea what this question is actually looking for. The first half feels like a philosophical argument about war and what is good citizenship, and the actual question feels like you assume that we know what good citizenship is. Its not like you have actually given us your definition, only a bunch of theoretical musings. Maybe you should look into the views of some other countries. In particular South Korea and maybe Switzerland who both have mandatory conscription? Or maybe china where a good citizen is a drone? $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Jan 14 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ Arash... none of the answers I need are in anything you wrote. That's why I wrote my comment. What seems completely clear to you is utter nonsense to me. There's something missing. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 14 at 6:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH I have noted your concerns and did my best to modify the post. I chose the terms "good citizenship" and "rigorous" because it is alternatively quite a mouthful to do justice to those terms. I think I'm just a sucker for being too robust, I tried to encapsulate every possible view of the term: "good citizenship", but now I have focused on the most direct connection between "good citizenship" and the dilemma that Machiavelli and Klein wrote on. That being sense of basic unity. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Jan 14 at 6:41

The problem with the Machiavellian point of view in the modern world is that it was stated in a feudal environment, where it was the role of the serf to defend the state under the leadership of the lord when directed to do so. In all other cases, the serf had domestic duties (farming, smithing, pottery, etc.) that promoted the prosperity of the state instead of the security of the state. In such a world, waging war isn't anywhere near as expensive as it is when you have a standing professional army and the far more sophisticated engines of war such as drones, tanks, aircraft (and their carriers), to name just a few.

In a modern state, war is expensive and only the richest countries can afford to supply their defence forces with all the engines of war that exist; most nations pick and choose according to a strict set of priorities which weapons give them the best chance of defending themselves, based on their strategic geography, resources, and command tactics.

The defence of the state works as a motivator and uniting force within a country because of the sense of purpose that it generates. It makes things clear in the mind of the people. We know who the enemy is. We know what we must do to protect ourselves and defeat that enemy. Black and white, good and bad; there's no room for grey in the country if it wants to survive.

You actually see the same thing happening in countries where massive natural disasters have occurred. Australians (and Americans) all rally behind their firefighters when those terrible firestorms happen over summer. I've seen Australians unite behind their farmers in times of great drought, and in many Asian countries people just pull together when tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters strike. Even the rescue of the miners in Chile several years back generated some sense of national purpose and to a lesser degree, pride.

I'm not suggesting that in order to keep your people invested in the state you need to have a good old-fashioned natural disaster once every 18 months, but the examples above do show that it's not all about the power of war to unite, it's the sense of purpose underlying it that really counts.

So the real question becomes; How do you maintain the sense of purpose without existential threats?

Arguably, the most compelling case of a positive sense of purpose being generated in recent history was the Apollo missions out of the USA. Forget the reasons why it was done; that's not as important as the fact that it was a chance to focus the nation on something that was going to drive scientific learning and engineering know-how for at least one more generation after it was done. The tax increases were significant for the average American at the time to do it, but everyone did it just the same. The sense of purpose behind doing it was there and once it was done, the USA could justifiably lead the world celebrations in achieving it.

After it was achieved though, the need to keep doing it seemed to collapse.

The point being, people will find it easier to invest their time, energy and hearts in the state if they have a reason to do so; a sense of purpose that they can't achieve by themselves and if they see the benefit to themselves as a member of that state in doing so. Making these goals sustainable over a long period; that's the real trick.

To summarise, I think that war is probably one of the worst reasons behind which a nation unites, especially wars of conquest, like those of Rome back in the day. Disasters should be minimised, but when they do occur they provide incentive for the people to get behind their nation and support their fellow citizens however they can.

Ideally, have a series of goals lined up that the people can get behind that generate a sense of pride within the citizenry. Don't make the cost prohibitive, but make them impressive enough that people don't get distracted with daily squabbles in order to achieve them.

Moon Landings. Basilicas. Pyramids.

There are enough examples out there. So long as your populace can see the benefit to being a part of a nation that does this grand thing, you'll find that material and emotional investment in the state will increase. Just make sure that you don't overwork them in the process, that they have enough to feed their families and keep them in good health, and the focus will stay on what you put in front of them if you're a good enough leader.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That was a long comment and didn't answer Arash's question - but it was what he needed to hear, so +1. There's a fundamental problem with his basis that hasn't been worked out. I especially liked the statement promoting the prosperity of the state instead of the security of the state because in times of peace, you are promoting the security of the state by promoting its prosperity. That's what pays for the next war. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 14 at 6:23

The querent has presented a case study, which, in their opinion, illustrates a failure to adopt an "organic view of government" where "the individual only has significance as part of the community". Let me present another case study, where this organic view of government was elevated to the rank of guiding ideology.

Another case study: Italian Fascism

The Italian term fascismo is derived from fascio meaning a bundle of rods, ultimately from the Latin word fasces. The symbolism of the fasces suggested strength through unity: a single rod is easily broken, while the bundle is difficult to break. (Wikipedia)

The bundle of rods with a embedded axe head symbolized a Roman magistrate's imperium, the power to command. It was widely used symbolically, from France to the U.S.A., to denote strength through unity. The (oficious) national emblem of France uses it to this day.

"Fascism is for the only liberty which can be a serious thing, the liberty of the state and of the individual in the state. Therefore for the fascist, everything is in the state, and no human or spiritual thing exists, or has any sort of value, outside the state. In this sense fascism is totalitarian, and the fascist state which is the synthesis and unity of every value, interprets, develops and strengthens the entire life of the people."

Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile, The Doctrine of Fascism (1932), as quoted by Wikipedia.

The basic idelogical underpinnings of classical Fascism are nationalism, totalitarianism, corporatist economics, traditional gender roles, and a warped respect for tradition.

  • Note: the term "corporatist economics" comes from Latin "corpus" meaning "body"; the idea is that the components economy should function in harmony as the organs of the human body. In Italian fascist practice, this implied the construction of corporative associations by economic sector, linking employers and employee unions into collectives representing economic producers.

The fascist organization of the state was supported by heavy use of propaganda, directed by a specially constituted Ministry of Popular Culture (comparable with the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in National-Socialst Germany).

Italy abroad

Italian Fascist propaganda cartoon. Title: Italy [as seen] abroad. Left, labelled "some time ago": Italy shown as a woman dressed in rags and barefoot, sitting alone while the foreigners discuss a the table ignoring her. Right, labelled "today": Italy shown as a richly dressed woman with the Fascist bundle of rods ("fasces"), while the foreigners turn to salute her. Published in the French news magazine L'Illustration in 1924. Public domain. Available on Wikimedia.

Fascist propagnda made heavy use of militaristic images, with ordinary economic issues being presented in a heroic and miliaristic fashion ("Battle of the Wheat"). Fascist propaganda emphasized the importance of political myths, which *"were true not as empirical facts, but as ‘metareality’" (Wikipedia, quoting Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, 1996). (Compare with the modern "post-truth" social environment.)

Fascists opposed both international socialism and free market capitalism, arguing that their views represented a third position. They claimed to provide a realistic economic alternative that was neither laissez-faire capitalism nor communism. They favored corporatism and class collaboration, believing that the existence of inequality and social hierarchy was beneficial (contrary to the views of socialists), while also arguing that the state had a role in mediating relations between classes (contrary to the views of liberal capitalists). (Wikipedia, quoting Calvin B. Hoover, "The Paths of Economic Change: Contrasting Tendencies in the Modern World", 1935.)

In most cases, fascists discouraged or banned foreign trade, supporting protectionism. Fascists believed that too much international trade would make the national economy dependent on international capital and therefore vulnerable to international economic sanctions. Under Fascist leadership, Italy embarked on massive public works programs, such as the draining of the Pontine Marshes, hydroelectricity development, railway improvement and rearmament. A special state organization, the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction was set up to rescue, restructure and finance banks and private companies. (Italy kept it operating after the war; it was dissolved in 2002.)


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.