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My friend created this world that's exactly like the real world, except with a new nation occupying Greenland. He made it so that the nation is ran by a "communistic oligarchy" where a small group (1000 or so) people called "the Grey" gather pretty much the entirety of political power and share a common pool of money and resources, including weapons and automated combatants (in case human soldiers are too hard to control).

When I asked him what keeps the oligarchy from splitting into small subgroups that try to seize complete, dictatorial control, he just said that the oligarchy practice some austere religion and only take members from the practitioners of that religion, which means the Grey are all ideologically processed to have no motivation of seizing power.

I don't see how the system he set up isn't going to be infiltrated by people who just want power and passed the religion exam, or how a small group of ideological extremists can monitor one another's ideology, not to mention that a nation controlled by an explicitly oligarchical group of rulers may not be possible in the first place.

I suspect that extreme ideology is just a lazy explanation for complex human behavior not explicable otherwise. So I am interested to know if this kind of hand-wave had appeared elsewhere in works of fiction and whether or not it is inherently deleterious to the quality of a fictional world.

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  • $\begingroup$ I suspect that your friend is using it in a hand wavey way, but it isn't overall and this can be seen in politics today and in the past. It always ends up falling in the long run, it also is successful for a while. I suggest reading "Animal Farm", "1984", "A strange new World" etc... $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Oct 19, 2016 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ question is vague, it all depends on the grey structure and power balance. they may have anti totalitarian controls like a constitution, or a vote system in the midsts. if they are communist they may function as a group like the chinese reds who are similar to your proposition. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2016 at 3:15

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The short answer is yes. It's easy to see places where a theocracy's laws are intensely entwined with its religion. Your argument about infiltration is a complicated one. You could make that argument about any religion, but you see very few religions derailed by an infiltrator. When was the last time you saw a non-devout pope? While it's hard to make any hard and fast proofs that infiltrators don't occur, you have to admit that nearly all religions do an incredibly good job of keeping them out.

However, your friend should be aware of Sanderson's First Law of Magic:

Sanderson’s First Law of Magics: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.

As it turns out, Sanderson's law also applies very neatly to all sorts of not-quite-magical-yet-still-fantastic situations. Your friend's "austere religion" behave remarkably like magic in a book. Thus, it is wise to apply Sanderson's First Law. The more conflict your friend resolves with this religion, the more readers are going to have to understand it. He's going to need to flesh out the kind of questions you are asking, like how they avoid infiltrators. In the end, the act of framing that religion properly may actually provide a great deal of insight into the human condition, and be a valid reason to explore this world on its own.

Also, your friend may need to explain how those 1000 people avoid political gridlock. If the answer is religion again, that becomes another example of conflict that he's resolving with it, so it will call for an even more in depth understanding.

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The answer to your question is yes. As for examples they’re too numerous to count but extreme ideology is pretty much a method an author uses to explain some that about society that otherwise wouldn't make sense. This doesn't mean that this method is a bad thing. All fiction require some level of hand waving in order to make sense and it is based some what on real life, so as long as your friend doesn't over do it every thing is fine.

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Even if there is a way of ensuring that the people who are put on the leader track are truly faithful (which is hand-wavy enough as it is), there is still the problem of making sure that the people who pass this test don't lose the faith as they go along.

Remember that if the leadership has been practicing any deception of the plebes, at any point in its history, people moving up in the ranks will have to be let in on the secret. The ones who were in it for power all along will happily move on with their lives and schemes. The ones motivated by genuine faith will retire. The others will become cynical and decide to stay in power and keep the perks.

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