This question has to do with the same storyline I proposed in How would government change if everyone died by the age of 25? (although now that I've written a few short chapters, the name of the land has changed, as have other things). Basically, a virus killed every over the age of 25, and whenever someone reaches 25, they die suddenly. At this point in time, things have descended to a tribal hierarchy as warriors-in-training took command, although there may be a push to socialism, as suggested by James.

What I'm exploring is the fate of another group of people who were unaffected by the virus. I'm not yet finished with the details, but here's what I have so far:

  • They were highly dependent on the Xenquans (my old name for the main group), who were somewhere between overlords and governors (as in the colonial sense).
  • Their infrastructure and economy were inextricably linked with the Xenquan economy.
  • Their tech level was a bit worse than the Xenquans, who had medieval-level tech.
  • Their self-government was minimal; local leaders reported to Xenquan governors.
  • The land of the people is about . . . say, half the size of Switzerland. It is mainly forests and fields. The population was about several hundred thousand people.

After most of the Xenquans die, these people have to start society anew. This will first entail forming a government. Given that they only have experience governing locally, what is the most likely (and effective) form of government for them?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wait, so this is a medieval setting in which people die at 25? Sounds like regular life for the bronze and iron ages. According to wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy Look at societies during this time. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon The difference here is that 1) The tech levels are way better, and 2) Just years before my story takes place, the society was normal and thriving. That means that the setting is much different. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ Why would they start to govern themselves globally and unite ? Each local leader may want to keep his little bit of power for himself. $\endgroup$
    – Kolaru
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Kolaru I haven't yet ruled that out; that's currently one of the ideas I'm playing around with. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 22:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon There's a huge difference between having an average life expectancy of 30 because a lot of child-death etc and everybody just dying at 25 $\endgroup$
    – Fl.pf.
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 13:28

7 Answers 7


Given the fairly low tech level, and the familiarity with local governing, I suggest that something like a city state would be the first logical step.

Basically each city would control itself and everything within a days march, maybe a little more for larger cities or if the terrain is favorable.
Each city would likely have a community of villages around it to make better use of resources: Farmers would want to be close to their fields, miners to their mines, etc, and having to commute from the city would not be practical.
The villages would rely on the city for defense if needed.

Cities would trade and have alliances, and over time a central government could be formed to control the land between them and to help coordinate armies.
Or one of the cities might become powerful enough to force control over the others.


Relationship with the Xenquans

It really depends on the feelings that your "Swiss" had towards the Xenquans:

  • was it a colonial relationship as we have seen in the first part of the 20th Century: some of the indigenous participate in the colonial system, but the majority are not much more than slaves?
  • was it a somehow protective relationship, where the colonees are feeling relatively well in general?
  • was it a purely commercial relationhsip, where the "Swiss" have a relative feeling of political independence?

In the last two cases, it is likely that the political structure will continue, with a stronger independence from the Xenquans, or even a reverse relationship will establish itself.

Weaken Colonial Powers in Modern Times

I will now concentrate on the first case from before. Seeing a weaken Xenquans, it is likely that members of the overall populations, bitter from the difficulties with the colonial power, seize the opportunity to get rid of them completely. Some members of the colonial structure will also jump in to try to seize the power for themselves.

Of course, due to the effect of the virus, the Xenquans can't oppose anything. So it would not turn into some form of independence war as was seen, e.g. in Vietnam or Algeria. But most probably there will be three groups to oppose:

  1. those close to the power circles of the colonial administration, who want to seize the power for themselves, but otherwise leave the global organisation unchanged.
  2. those not close to that power circles, who want to change the system entirely (revolutionary circles)
  3. those who don't want to throw down the complete system, but want to make a transition to a better human/economical/etc. situation.

and a large majority of people just wanting to live their lifes and get some food every day.

Then again, it really depends on the relative power of each groups and the culture of the country. Let us consider the following possibilities.

  • 1 >> 2: possibly by being linked to the army, the people in power during the colonial administration keep it, and prevent any attempt at organizing a revolution. This would probably lead to some form of dictatorship as the power is controlled by the army force. A number of African regimes, or possibly Argentina or Chile's dictatorships come to mind. It does not have to be extremely harsh, it might be "just" extremely corrupt.
  • 2 >> 1: there, you get a proletarian revolution. The population arms itself, parts of the military/police join them. The people of the first group, flee or are arrested and often executed. Examples stem from the already cited Vietnam, or Algeria, but as well as the Russian and French revolutions. The outcomes may vary as much as the revolutions presented here. It can eventually lead to new Emperor (even if somewhat sympathetic of the "base" population) or to a proletariat dictatorship. But it can be a bloody business.
  • 1 $\sim$ 2 you might get into a civil war. And that could be a very bloody business. It can lead to the total destruction of the political and law enforcement systems, economy, and a high number of victims. What comes later is hard to predict. If it goes on badly enough, you might see some form of tribal groups appearing. Where locally people unite, with as many forms of political organisation as there are tribes.

Case of early medieval world

I just wrote the previous part forgetting you have a medieval setting. And thought it could just stay in as illustration of how modern political ideas would be.

Considering that your "Swiss" are in an early medieval tech and culture (?), back then the military power was the almost direct source of political power. There are many possiblities, but I will explain the most likely ones.

The "Swiss" have a King or some form of leader, who was dependent on the Xenquans power.

  • He was responsible for the inequality of the relationship with their overlord. And a member of his family profit from the weakness of his relative support to make an attempt for the throne. The perceived weakness and surprise makes the plot successful. The new leader gets crown, and make sure the protests against the coup get somewhat limited.
  • He was born in that system but was himself unhappy at having a liege lord above him. When the Xenquans disappear he takes a firmer control of the power and establishes himself as independent ruler.

Either way, when their positions get secured they get on reforming the economy (which might entail trying to conquer parts of the Xenquans lands).

Note on Post-Apo. Due to the fact that they aren't affected by the virus, there does not necessarily occur an apocalyptic desaster throughout their land. So the political system is likely to be some transition from the previous situation.


It seems (in the relative short term) that a totalitarian "Big Brother is watching" government would be the best. By exercising such absolute control, crime can be reduced (also temporarily) and production increased. Now, it's true that in the long term this (conventionally) would not work out and would end in revolution, but the fact that you can only stay alive for a very short time means that that probably won't happen. If you set the minimum age to be elected at 22, the leaders would only stay in power (and live) for 3 years. Because of that, there would be a regime change every few years, so nobody could start taking advantage of their absolute power. This will also prompt the leadership to prioritize the cure. Also, short term benefit will be extremely important in this scenario, as the society needs to rebuild and become richer.

  • $\begingroup$ I perhaps should have emphasized this more, but these people are not affected by the disease that kills people at 25. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ Then in that case it would make sense for them to revolt from the unaffected people or convince them to allow the other group to self-govern. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 22:27

The most probable outcome may be some free for all wars, followed by a theocratic gerontocracy.

When the domination of the Xenquians collapse, the local leaders will want to keep they (limited) power, and probably to extend it. This will most likely results in wars, but this also means that the local governments will mainly remain the same.

However it will not last too long before the information that Xenequians now all dies young spreads (economic links means exchanges, also exchanges of informations). So the people will connect the dots : Xenequians die young, but they don't, and it is what make the Xenequian domination end.

It must be a divine intervention !

Somebody at some point will have this reasoning, and conclude that the gods are in favour of them, that they are some king of chosen people. Since it is an easy reasoning and that it is seducing, the idea will spread.

All local leaders will be united around the idea that they are all part of a chosen group of people gifted with long lives. The religious people will use that belief to pacify the region and extend they powers.

The next step follows quickly : they are gifted with long lives, but that also means that they are gifted with old people capable of accumulating experience. Thus older people will gain a new respect, since they are missing to the Xenequians.

Even more, as soon as Xenequians lost their old people, they were unable to keep their domination (of course the immediate and massive deaths also count, but it will be easily shadowed). Old people are the key to success, and only us are gifted by the gods with them !

Now all ingredients are there. Religion strengthened, increased respect for the old ones and some efforts to unite the local leaders... well this results likely in some sort of council of the oldest local leaders under the supervision of religion.

  • $\begingroup$ Without religion, though, this would kind of fall apart (I don't yet know if I'll make the people religious of not). There wouldn't be much to encourage them to unify. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 23:30

In the historical period associated with your technology level almost everyone had some form of absolute government. Usually hereditary monarchy.

Despotism has its advantages. The key one here is that things can be done quickly, there's no bouncing around between two elected houses who care primarily about being re-elected, something is said and it is done. Life in this period was nasty brutish and short, there wasn't time to drag a decision out for 5 years.

The advantage of hereditary monarchy is that when the leader for life inevitably dies, there's theoretically no doubt about who is the next leader.

Disadvantages You're very dependent on how good the leader is. A bad leader can get the whole country into a lot of trouble and lead to civil war, some thing that almost never happens to a democracy. A democracy also filters out most of the worst decisions that an individual could make. The worst comes when a leader dies and there's doubt over the next incumbent, this is almost inevitable civil war.

Theocracy or Who died and made you king?

King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king.
Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

Kings were appointed by god and ruled in gods name. There were no atheist kingdoms, they're almost impossible without constant military suppression of the population. It's much easier to suppress the rebellion in their minds by saying that god appoints kings and they rule by right.

If you're careful, you'll be able to create small elected councils at local level, probably based in a small town, this sense of local democracy can be culturally inbuilt as it is in Britain. Cities can also be republics though they're often subject to military conquest by (someone who wants to be) a prince (see Machiavelli).


Surprisingly some sort of military construct might be needed.

To maintain civilization, the people should constantly be teaching their offspring everything they know. Probably some sort of hierarchical society would be suitable with something like military ranks that signify levels of knowledge. Also, because of the short lifespan, there is no time to sit in schools, you'd have to be doing what you can for the society as soon as possible.

Learning would probably be much like in the military, where the time between theory and practice could be really short. The first assignments would be easier and more forgiving in sense of errors than those you'd get to do with higher rank.

Government would be some sort of decentralized construct, because there would be no time to establish a 'heavy' government before the terminal age. Continuous changes in central government would cause instability if the power is not distributed to several persons. Politics would probably be more impulsive than those in today's world, because of the lifespan issue. Ambitious persons would be quite ruthless, like in the ancient times. Foul play would be common among the high-rank citizens.

In all it wouldn't be easy to maintain a government. People would have barely survived the onslaught of teen hormones when they reach the terminal age. But probably that would make a good story.


If everyone died at age 25 (or was killed when the jewel in their hand turns black), that would put the world in the hands of people at best in their early 20's. When I was in my early 20's, there was only one thing I was interested in, and it wasn't government.

Assuming this virus hit in the current day, one can assume that the current knowledge base would not be wiped out. As such, any governments would probably not be based on theocracy, as the need to explain the unexplained with religion doesn't exist today, to the degree it did in pre-scientific times.

If you're writing a story about this, it would be interesting to not follow a formula on older adult ideas on government (which is what we have today) or modeling it after pre industrial/dark ages ideas on government (with a limited scientific knowledge) but a simpler, more idealistic, and probably more hedonistic ethos. That approach would have the added benefit of seeming to be more realistic, because it didn't follow existing formulas.

After all, if you're going to die at 25, you may as well have fun while you can.


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