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So I was watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rStL7niR7gs
About just how much of politics is just about maintaining power. Which made me begin to wonder, how would governments work if the leaders didn't have to worry about having approval, ruling solely through their individual might?

Let's imagine a scenario with dragons; dragons are extremely rare compared to humans, potentially immortal (though they are bound to get taken out after enough millennia) and can't cooperate except with their mate. They can't be poisoned, or otherwise killed through any means other than by another tougher dragon. They dislike subterfuge and given that they will only work with their mate, basically the only important factor in who wins a war is which mate pair is stronger.
They also extremely dislike other dragons generally, so no political structure is possible except one with 2 dragons at the top (or one if a smaller kingdom not worried about attracting other dragons notice)

Effectively the only thing that matters in this system is individual might

So with that in mind how does the government work?
Dragons really like having as much power as possible plus they will take all the gems and precious metals for themselves issuing fiat currency (or gold backed currency you can't legally trade for gold), or currency made of valuable material that isn't appealing to dragons. As thus dragons are incentivized to make the nation economically prosperous to build their hoard and it's not much of an empire if it's in anarchy so they do want their kingdom to thrive. They may take part in non-dragon warfare, but only occasionally in important battles. They can easily melt a castle or torch thousands of soldiers.
Dragons can shapeshift, taking human forms that are still as durable, so as to lie low and watch the humans discretely.

In addition: A third of dragons are pretty indifferent and won't be likely to take any part in all but the most important decisions, a third actually care about human welfare to some extent and another third are tyrants who demand worship, eat princesses the whole villainous shebang. This distribution is independent of power level.
You should expect dragons to get more wise and powerful with age, so the most powerful kingdoms ought to have better leadership than most.

Dragons attitudes to their underlings: All dragons will try to monitor their kingdom to some extent to ensure it's doing well and that they are properly respected and that nobody else is failing to act sufficiently humble. Indifferent dragons only start interfering if the kingdom starts to have major problems/people act uppity. Those underlings with the most power are those that seem to get results.
Friendlies like to spend lots of time in human forms, of course they always pose as important people since dragons can't tolerate anyone treating them as an equal or subordinate; they hate blatant suck ups however and will try to put people with impressive qualities in charge. They may even flirt with letting the government be semi democratic when it comes to things they don't strongly care about.
Tyrants will go publically in dragon form to be worshipped and are prone to randomly rampaging to eat people when it suits them. They are incredibly self absorbed and demand their whole kingdom glorify them. They can be easily manipulated by sycophants though their ability to see through flattery increases with age. Those in power will be those good at flattery and killing off opposition; the dragon likes picking people who seem powerful since having them suck up inflates their ego more. They are likely to never take human form as they find it insulting. They get more competent with age, or at least they stop repeating the dumb mistakes they've made in the past.

To some extent this question can somewhat apply to any situation where there are extremely powerful entities that don't work together, love power and are only in danger from each other.

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    $\begingroup$ Read this as "dracolytics", wondered why you were splitting dragons. $\endgroup$ – Draconis Oct 28 '16 at 18:36
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There are 3 different dimensions to consider:

  1. Dragon on Dragon politics
  2. Dragon on Human politics
  3. Human on Human politics

You seem to have described a number of reasonable possibilities regarding #2, and #3 is a well explored topic. So you're asking after #1?

You provided a few criteria for typical dragon behaviour:

  • They abhor other dragons (except their mate)
  • They desire precious metals and gems
  • They desire control, power, and influence
  • There is no risk of death except from other dragons
  • They dislike subterfuge
  • They are almost infinitely superior to other humans from a military standpoint

This makes "Dragons" extremely one dimensional creatures, and leads to the following conclusions:

  1. There wouldn't be any "government" or "politics" between dragons. It would be straight up territorial.
    • You haven't really defined how Dragons pair up... depending on the nuances it could have some impact.
  2. Despite you mentioning war, there would be no "wars" in any large scale sense between Dragons. I mean, why would there be? They don't cooperate with each other so you don't have "sides", and they dislike subterfuge so there would be no trickery. The largest "war" would be one mate-pair vs another.
  3. Dragons would naturally spread out to avoid each other. This also further reduces the likelihood of any interaction between dragons.
  4. The stronger a dragon or mate-pair, the more quality land they can control.
    • Note: The correlation between size of kingdom and strength of dragon is logarithmic. There are diminishing returns on strength. Even the strongest mate-pair in the world can't realistically control more land than they can physically traverse in a day or two. Their neighbouring dragons could torch towns while they were defending other parts of their kingdom.
  5. Humans are almost inconsequential in your setup.
    • There is some minor interplay that could conceivably happen (i.e. coercing your humans to raid the towns of your dragon-neighbour in order to distract his attention), but for the most part human settlements would be basically like vegetable gardens... Dragons would tend them, mindful only of the yield, unless otherwise interested (i.e. your "tyrant" and "friendly" variants).
    • You imply that there may be human-human wars, but even humna-human war would be discouraged by the looming shadow of the Dragon overseer. This is like nuclear weapons in our world... there are almost no traditional wars anymore since any large scale conflict would involve the nuclear option. You might get rogue agents or insurgency, but nothing like "typical" medieval battles. The Dragon would just swoop down and torch the army to prevent it from ruining his kingdom's economy.
    • There is the additional matter of pride, but it's unlikely any Dragon wouldn't get the respect or fear he desires from humans...

A twist

Things get infinitely more interesting when a Dragon could succumb to a combined assault from a large number of humans. This would force Dragons to be more invested in local human-related politics, and would make a weak Dragon with a strong human contingent fighting alongside him able to challenge a nominally stronger dragon with less human support. Essentially, when "Dragons" are immune to anything other than other-Dragons, they stop honestly caring about the Human element, because they basically have no skin in the game. Humans become like ants to them.

Or, make Dragons willing to work with each other, at least on a "enemy of my enemy is my friend". This is borderline subterfuge, but that also seems like an arbitrary restriction in itself. If all you boil it down to is "might makes right" you end up with a very basic, and boring, system. You need to allow for more drama and geopolitical maneuvering.

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    $\begingroup$ I like your twist, and fits nicely with the old law "Limits make me story betta". All powerful dragons is boring. $\endgroup$ – openend Oct 28 '16 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ I was actually quite curious about about points 2 and 3; I only slightly covered 2 and I don't think I really covered 3 in the question. $\endgroup$ – Vakus Drake Oct 28 '16 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ @VakusDrake I had two numbered lists. Do you mean from the "three dimensions" or from the "conclusions"? $\endgroup$ – mfoy_ Oct 31 '16 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @mfoy_ I meant of the three dimensions you mentioned right at the beginning of your answer. $\endgroup$ – Vakus Drake Oct 31 '16 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ @VakusDrake Ah, your original question wasn't very clear. Anyhow, that's easy. Human on Human politics would be identical to any normal human politics today, except with a strong third party (think how minor nations / factions quibble in the shadow of the U.S. geopolitical machine). Human on Dragon politics would vary as widely as the Dragons do. No special considerations there, really. $\endgroup$ – mfoy_ Nov 1 '16 at 14:16
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While I mainly agree with mfoy's answer, I'd like to try to imagine a scenario where a government of sorts would develop between dragons. I'd like to call it

Infanticidocracy

That is, a government based around killing babies. You see, if the only threat to a dragon is another dragon, the best way for a dragon to be safe is to kill all the baby dragons. That way, none of them can grow up to become a threat.

Now, killing babies isn't as easy as taking candy from them. You probably have to worry about their parents too. You might suggest that killing the parents would effectively kill a bunch of potential babies, but the real problem with that is that the parents can fight back. Even animals know that winning a fight isn't always as beneficial as avoiding it. So if you can kill a baby without fighting the parents, you should do that.

On the other hand, if you want to keep your babies, you need to get good at protecting them. For the most formidable dragons, this shouldn't be much of a problem. For the weaker dragons, though, this is going to be more of a problem. If at all possible, they should make an alliance with a stronger mating pair, essentially saying "please don't kill my babies, and also please help me keep other dragons from killing them".

Why would the stronger dragons agree to this system? I can think of two reasons:

1- Kill more babies. If you have a mating pair that relies on you to protect their babies, you can force them to go out and kill other dragons' babies. You could do it yourself, but this way you stay out of danger and can keep an eye on your own babies.

2- Grandchildren. If you want grandchildren, you'll need someone's babies to get together with your babies. Might as well pick a mating pair you know you can trust/kill and keep them close.

So dragon 'government' in this system would consist of an alpha pair and as many breeding pairs as they think they can handle. You said dragons don't like cooperation, so this is as little cooperation as I can imagine. Essentially everyone is still operating on their own, they just sometimes do things for each other to ensure they and their babies can survive. The only ones who would have any power would be the main breeding pair. Everyone else would have to fall in line or have their babies killed. They can try to leave if they want, but they'd lose the extra protection, and their allies would become their enemies, and their children would have less options for mates.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why do you want your own kids to survive? If you are a greedy and immortal dragon why have the risk they will out grow you and kill you $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Oct 28 '16 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ @sdrawkcabdear The dragon that protects its children will have more children than the one that does not. If dragons ever weren't immortal, then they should have child-rearing instincts. If they have none, then I don't see why they would need a mate. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Oct 28 '16 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ if you have a mate and fight a unmated dragon you have 2 to 1 advantage that is a huge way to boost your survivability. But they could still have child-rearing instincts, but if you can't cooperate with your children at all, odds you will have to fight or drive them off at a very very young age. $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Oct 28 '16 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ @sdrawkcabdear yeah, I admit dragons probably aren't going to care too much about their grandchildren. It just seems like it'd be so much easier for dragons if they did cooperate, so it's hard for me to imagine how they would continually choose not to. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Oct 28 '16 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ Yes it would be a huge advantage to cooperate at least with you kids and maybe one or two other families. And in a few generations cooperating groups would quickly outcompete even much stronger non- cooperating pairs $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Oct 28 '16 at 20:35
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Marry to survive Dragons would fight a lot, if you have a mate and fight a unmated dragon you have 2 to 1 advantage. This is huge since you are unlikely to cooperate with other dragons, so having a mate is a huge tactical advantage.

Gangs

So dragon pairs can't cooperate with anyone out side the mating pair, but can they be intimidated by a stronger dragon?

Say there is a powerful pair strength 30, they go to a weaker pair strength 20 and say help us kill the strongest pair strength 35 or we will kill you. Together the 2 weaker pairs kill the strongest pair no cooperation needed just intimidation.

A dragon that can bring together a gang of weaker dragons to help it in a fight can beat stronger dragons.

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