I have a political science problem in my story.

I reduced this to a simple binary choice to prevent opinions, abiding by the perfect question checklist. If this question is confusing, I am on chat and can work on it. Please let me know how this question may be unfit for political science. I respectfully ask you at least inform what your confusion is before a blind close vote.

I need to create vassal states in the USA, it can generally be done by removing one of two pillars of democracy: Energy and information. I need expert advice on which of my story lines gets me closest to my American feudalism goal. I hope that the problem is clear.

pillars of democracy

In determining the path our world took to a new Superpower, I am looking for the most feasible path a fallen American empire needs to follow to return as a fundamentally feudal society.

The premise

All empires must fall, eventually. The American empire fell, and in its destruction, the liberty of the common man vanished nearly overnight. The American dollar was no longer the global currency, and a new superpower left the United States barely united, and a second world economy. Menial, unskilled labor jobs evaporated to the point where you either had a job by your status, or were a nobody. Names are what we trust. Names, and connections. Why this happened? That is beyond this question. This is the premise in my world. What happened next, during a reformation, is given below, followed by two hypothetical paths to this end: Sequester of public access to information, or sequester of public access to energy.

The result:

The weaker members of powerful families took up residence with their successful relatives, hoping to leverage their name to acquire a bit of freedom. Houses became manors. Manors became castles. Castles became enterprises beyond what a feeble government could secure; so castles raised their own militia armies.

The foundation of every family empire is and will always be supply of resources. The government floundered, and in the gardens and courtyards lay the only proof of your credit that another empire could trust. An empire in disrepair would never secure any contract for fear of default. American Empire family castles formed the economies of entire towns. The American Dream for the commoner became gaining the favor of your Lord; the American nightmare for the wealthy became disavowal by your family name. Family castles went ever further to provide jobs in cooking, turning beds, serving coffee, butlering, maintaining grounds, keeping books, stocking pantries and maintaining vehicles and aircraft and watercraft.

Two possible paths are suggested

Any democracy rests on several essential pillars. Getting from the fall to feudalism, I have knocked out two of them. For reality check:

  1. Sequester of public access to information: For reasons not fully understood, the weakened American government could no longer provide postal service to the country, and it became legally privatized, and then monopolized by a logistics delivery mogul. Powerful lobbying money prevented legal protections, and blocked enforcement of what few laws did protect the rights of individuals to do commerce. Digital media kept a shallow grip on markets, but the failure to protect against highly advanced digital pirates with quantum computers kept electronic correspondence relegated to administrative functions of no importance. Any transaction that went through the air, or over a wire, was a calculated risk. Pen and paper was the only possible secure way to manage large contracts and accounts. But paper moves at the pace that the mail determines, and serves only those who pay its monopolizing overlord.

  2. Sequester of public access to energy: An emergency declaration created an energy police force who monitored thermal output of citizens and corporations, taxing their outputs. An energy credit scheme was invented to promote industries with lower energy costs, where taxes could be paid by energy credits. These credits became a currency, where entrepreneurs created "low energy" industries and collected credits to exchange for currency. Filthier and "hot" industries gave the consumer market what they craved, without regard for the thermal cost. They simply bought energy credits and paid their fines, passing the cost of credits along to a hungry public. As the energy ponzi scheme played out, the middle class evaporated under energy moguls who hoarded all of the market demand and became too big to fail. But empires as large as America are too vast to manage. Regional distribution lords were given power and authority over parcels of the country. Their favor with the corporate energy empire was measured by their ability to keep their region consuming and dependent on products of this empire. Again, powerful lobbying blocked a weak government from enacting laws, and enforcing what protections already existed.

After the fall of the American government, the failures of foreign intervention, and destruction of the middle class, for whatever reason

Which scenario brings the remnants of a fallen America closer to the Feudal Lords of America?

No, this can not be answered with an opinion, or your favorite doomsday scheme. There is a reason postal mail is guaranteed in the United States Constitution, a good answer shows an understanding of why it's there. An energy crisis is the crisis du jour today and seems to have many experts. I don't know which path will get a recovering America closer to the feudal society I am trying to build. If you are new to subjective questions, here is the site policy on how they work. If you do have an opinion, it should share a source or reference to back it up.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 23, 2022 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think you know all that's involved in feudalism the beautifulism you need a lot more than these 2 scenarios to produce it. $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2022 at 6:21

2 Answers 2


The aristocrats got rich adjusting their product to energy shortage

Let's pick your scenario #2

You wish a reality check. I have to split your scenario #2 description in a few separate parts,

Plausible start

80% of your text, actually..

Q: "An emergency declaration created an energy police force who monitored thermal output of citizens and corporations, taxing their outputs. An energy credit scheme was invented to promote industries with lower energy costs, where taxes could be paid by energy credits. These credits became a currency, where entrepreneurs created "low energy" industries and collected credits to exchange for currency."

My comment on this part: this is very plausible, applied today. There's no police but there are authorities that check compliance. And the currency exists. To fight climate change, there are restrictions on CO2 emissions, companies that need to emit CO2 buy emission rights, that is called emission trading. To assure the system works to distribute these scarce rights, authorities must impose rules asserting these rights, set limits and a price will form. Alternative ways to reach the same goal is carbon offsetting. Issue with that is explained in this link, there is no control, or limit set. So all fossile fuel they need will remain available to them and no "CO2 currency" will form.

Q: " Filthier and "hot" industries gave the consumer market what they craved, without regard for the thermal cost. They simply bought energy credits and paid their fines, passing the cost of credits along to a hungry public."

.. and that happens today as well, the authority better keep volume under control, to keep addressing the issue!

Q: "As the energy ponzi scheme played out, .."

Sofar plausibility. A ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors. Ponzi scheme organizers often promise to invest your money and generate high returns with little or no risk. This may fit into a reality check as well: the long term danger of emission rights as they stand now, they could corrupt the market when rules are not applied, or the allowed volume keeps being increased by the government, especially when maintaining the rules gets delegated to corrupt parties.

Implausible end

Q: "the middle class evaporated under energy moguls who hoarded all of the market demand and became too big to fail. But empires as large as America are too vast to manage. Regional distribution lords were given power and authority (..)"

Like with the postal service, you're rather quick jumping to conclusions.. With insufficient energy or insufficient emission rights available, the issue actually starts. The scarsity is not caused by the government, there remains scarsity of energy in your scenario, whether the government likes that or not, and wether your ponzi's like it ot not. The thing I find implausible is your ponzi's will gain so much money and your energy suppliers will remain so powerful.

Why? for an aristocracy to form, you'd need ways to gather unlimited amounts of funds. But in circumstance of economic scarcity of certain goods cq energy, funds won't accumulate in an unlimited way. A consumer market volume cannot be maintained eternally, when supply cannot meet demand, because of scarcity. Suppliers put unlimited costs on consumer's heads, but a higher price will yield lower demand. As a result, a new balance will be reached, consumers and producers having to accept the scarcity of certain resources. Economic laws dictate energy demand will decrease, your energy currency will decrease in value, your ponzi's and would-be energy aristocrats bet on the wrong horse.

There's been a lot of discussion in the opening comment, and no answers, this is the first one. I would have put the question directly, without a worked out preset:

Could a new aristocracy be the result of energy going scarce ?

You'd like something that helps your story connect the dots from situation A to situation B in a realistic way. I think that electric car producer Elon Musk is an example of your "modern aristocracy" that could result from your scenario #2. Middle class is reduced, money accumulates with the rich. But they aren't criminals: you'd get certain producers like Elon Musk who adjust to the new situation, they get very rich. Whether they will become aristocrats depends on the underlying political circumstances in the US. The population may e.g. prefer an autocrat, they'd vote Musk for president? Or the inventor of fusion energy.. a producer of fusion plants.. or fusion plant owners? All these folks will get very rich and prestigious.

  • $\begingroup$ I think this reaches a solution however I did not state that an actual scarcity of energy existed in the scenario, only that an emergency declaration regarding such was made. The reason supply cannot meet demand here is because supply is throttled. Objectively running out of energy is a very unlikely thing to happen, as even you indicated in your closing paragraph. But I didn't state the cause for the emergency declaration, merely the cause for the ponzi scheme, which was the government. So that's my bad. However of your ways the moguls fill their energy tanks, economic scarcity won't happen. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Mar 22, 2022 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Well @VogonPoet you could upvote it.. and supposed this shortage is only temporary, would there be any reason to assume such drastic changes and a complete political makeover ? There would be speculants getting rich.. but would they become so rich they can seize power and impose a feudalist system on the US ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Mar 22, 2022 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ The only thing that would make it temporary would be revolution after the moguls own the sources, and the government-on-a-short-leash can't reign them in. Your closing paragraph actually does eliminate the economic scarcity issue in a way I had not considered, even if the de facto energy carrier runs shy. So, unlimited "energy" funds do exist, and only by dismantling the energy currency (good luck) will the aristocracy fall. It's a great answer even though the implausibility clause seems shaky. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Mar 22, 2022 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ And feudal systems don't get imposed, they form organically when the only means the common man has to provide for themselves is the local Lord. Think of it, if Wal-Mart replaced every single mom and pop shop in a town, everyone would work at Wal-Mart, right? No choice. my goal is to eliminate the opportunity for personal "pursuit of happiness" as guaranteed in our laws. This erases the middle class automatically, and we all become gardeners, cooks, carpenters or book keepers for the only people near you with money. A vassal polity forms. I killed information and energy to kill our freedoms. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Mar 22, 2022 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet your comment #1 your question was about the rise of aristocrats in the first place, not their fall. If this throttling of energy supply is (semi-) permanent, my answer stands, it would be subject to the same economic laws. Scarcity of energy will persist. Your ponzi;s will become rich, but not moguls.. . Merchants and speculators in war time can get rich, but taking over the government and becoming moguls seems implausible. It takes a little more than just investment frauds and energy lobbyists to overturn a political system and set it back to Feudal times.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Mar 22, 2022 at 14:59

Neither but option 2 is better.

Feudalism is ultimately based on scarcity Of raw materials. In the case of the middle ages this was farmland. A limited resource In the control of just a few families Passed down from generation to generation. In something like dune it's the spice. In your scenario 2 it's energy.

Things your Scenarios are missing.

  1. Destruction of the corporate class and Capitalism.

As stated earlier feudalism based on the scarcity of resources. As International trade grew Thanks to new technologies People became wealthier Which means they could spend their money on things and services This led to the rise of the merchant class. They eventually became so rich that they usurped Power from the Landowners. Overtime the merchant class Transformed into the corporate capitalist system of today which is dependent on on the trading of Products and services. For a feudalism to rise again this must end.

Either economic collapse destroys All corporations and business owners or They become dependent on an essential resource that is only in the hands of a few families Who essentially dictate to them what to do.

  1. Decentralization.

Federalism is characterized by being very decentralized. Your local Lord technically holds much more power over you than your king. You are less likely to see yourself as part as France as you are to see yourself as part of Your local community. This is currently the opposite of the system most countries have.

For your Feudalism to rise Something must happen to make centralization impractical. Perhaps your central authority is too interally divided To adequately lead the nation so most of the people look to your local leaders instead.

  1. Clanism And the collapse of institutions.

Another essential characteristic of feudalism is dependence on the family. This is something we just don't have in our culture. Most people see themselves as a part of a larger institutions, Organizations or corporations. This is the opposite of the attitude that was held in feudal societies.

It is for example less important for CEO that his family continue then then his company should continue. A politician is probably more likely to see himself as part of a part of an important political party or movement rather than a family trying to strengthen their influence.

Typically these type of clanish family based societies rise when there aren't institutions, or those institutions can't be trusted Do you want to know what this looks like, Look no further than the mafia.

Since they stand outside of the law they often can't depend on most institutions. The mafia is a very clanish society where people put family 1st and see themselves as part of the particular family above everything else. Your average mafia boss probably probably wouldn't lose any sleep over betraying his country but it would be a totally different situation if he were to betray his family.

  1. Gun control and a Warrior cast

Another reason why Feudalism fell was the gun. The aristocrats and landowners were able to hold on to their monopolies of of farmland because because they had the support of the Warrior cast (the knights) Who had better training and better weapons. Guns changed all that they're cheap and easy to use. Too easy for some wealthy merchant to ally himself with a couple Of peasants with nothing to lose. He provides the guns they provide the soldiers and you can kiss your Feudalistic society goodbye.

So for A return to feudalism you must take away the gun from the average citizen, Restrict it To a Warrior class only. Then Your aristocrats only need to keep the Warrior cast loyal and well paid.

Alternatively Give the Warrior class such advanced weapons that your average pesant has no chance with More traditional weapons.

If you want to skip all that then Let me summarize. You need a lot more than what is in either of your scenarios to make your scenarios make this country a Futilistic society. Perhaps consider changing your goal form making a feudalistic society to just a totalitarian state.

  • $\begingroup$ The corporation falls with the government which grants it legal protections. A corporation is a citizen and has rights in American courts. Without a democracy, and a government for hire, it becomes “No cop, no stop.” There is no money for cops so, no cops. No? Scenario #1 causes the decentralization, disrupting communication and therefore, government coordination. Clanism arises in #1 as the digital ID falls. Your name is everything. I have a new question dealing with guns. Good post. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Mar 24, 2022 at 22:26

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