Steady On Now: Democracy 3 DLC Dabbles In Extremism

By Alice O'Connor on May 14th, 2014 at 10:00 am.

Life's really a chocolate box: some do without, while others have plenty

I couldn’t tell you about the potential effects of tweaking tax by a few percentage points and I don’t know if I’d be interested in exploring them. It’s part of why I haven’t played Democracy 3, I suppose, and why I’m an ill-informed garbage citizen. I’m a blue-sky thinker, me. I work in unconventional ideas. The big ones. Weird ones. The type Positech’s government simulator is starting to dabble in with the release of its Extremism DLC. This arrived in the usual places yesterday at £4.99.

Extremism introduces policies from various extremes of the multi-armed political spectrum for governments to play with when people demand action. Big action. Big weird knee-jerk action which makes a real statement and has consequences we really haven’t thought through. You can curry favour with policies like making schoolchildren and newsreaders sing the national anthem, mega-taxing the rich, forcing the unemployed to work for benefits, doing away with private education, banning divorce, outlawing same-sex marriages, allowing torture, holding secret trials, and so on.

Of course, quite how ‘extreme’ these policies seem will depend a lot on the politics of where you live, the life you’ve led, and your own personal views. Positech one-man studio Cliff Harris has mused:

I look forward to peoples debate and discussion when the expansion gets released. My politics are very fluid. I think a lot about what I think, and my politics change over time. Twenty years ago I was against positive discrimination, but now I have finally changed my mind. Analyzing your opinions on political issues, putting them into context and rationalizing them against the backdrop of your other views is a fascinating thing to do. It’s always good to re-examine what you believe.

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72 Comments »

  1. Germo says:

    Doesn’t “forcing the unemployed to work for benefits” just mean “giving the unemployed jobs”?

    • BobbyDylan says:

      That doesn’t sound fair to me. I mean, having to work for the free money. Next thing you’ll be telling me that they’ll have to pay for their houses, and pay to use public transport.

      • brat-sampson says:

        Ugh, not even touching this one.

        • TekDragon says:

          Not your first time dealing with someone born on rung 99 who has never left suburbia I take it?

    • Pich says:

      Welcome to political talk

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      Cinek says:

      If I’m not mistaken: What they mean is that you need to work in order to receive benefits (so: no benefits for unemployed).

      BTW: Isn’t that what UKIP proposed in UK to prevent people from abusing benefits scheme?

    • sabasNL says:

      No it means the unemployed must do small jobs for their society, e.g. groundkeeping, janitorial work, minor jobs at government institutions or local authorities, aid in the healthcare sector (esp. taking care of the elder).

      These aren’t normal jobs for most of said unemployed: Most of these jobs are what the low-skilled do (I in no way mean disrespect), people refuse to do, or what the judge can sentence you to as a penalty.

      They don’t get paid for it; But it’s mandatory if you want to receive unemployment tax cuts, financial aid, and healthcare. If you don’t do it, you’re either fucked or you have money on a Swiss bank-account, which they will investigate…

      Some European countries have (tried) this. I live in the Netherlands and it’s currently on trial. We have a lack of low-skilled personnel in the healthcare/education/distribution sectors, so this might be one way to solve that.

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        Harlander says:

        Or, in the UK, it’s shelf-stacking at Tesco.

        • sabasNL says:

          That’s not a job the unemployed must do to receive aid from the government, that’s a job the unemployed take to get a (small) income while looking for another job. These things are seperate.

          Unemployment aid stops when you start doing minimum-wage jobs as well (atleast, if you don’t work illegally).

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            Harlander says:

            No, really. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Get_Britain_Working

            Companies can offer ‘jobs’ that people have to take as a condition of getting their benefits.

            Tesco was one of them.

          • BooleanBob says:

            I work at Tesco. We’ve had people on workfare bused in to do shelf-stacking night shifts (10pm-6am). It didn’t last long because, surprise surprise, people who aren’t getting paid fairly for their labour (current UK dole is about a third of the money you would make doing the equivalent hours (30) in an entry level Tesco job) are not incentivised or motivated to work hard and get in the way more than anything else.

            Yes you could argue for stronger incentivisation to be part of the scheme but eventually you’re just going to have to start handing out bullwhips to the managers.

          • battles_atlas says:

            You could also argue that there is something immensely unpleasant about blurring the line between motivating people to get off benefits, and giving free labour to private industry.

        • frightlever says:

          The joke is that when Tesco advertises full time positions hundreds of people apply for them. I don’t mean the jobs are a joke, I mean it’s a joke that these free schemes should include supermarket work. Working for Tescos isn’t a bad gig.

          • sabasNL says:

            Oh, I see haha. Yeah, we have the same over here. If you work there you’re 1. Old 2. Low-skilled 3. Below 25 years old or (don’t want to be racist, but this is true) 4. A non-Western foreigner.

            It’s really becoming a stereotype of it’s own, isn’t it? “The average [put company like Tesco here] worker”

          • Ich Will says:

            You forgot women and the disabled. Tescos shelf stackers: Highlighting the prejudices of British business owners since 1919

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        RedViv says:

        Germany has been doing that for quite a while now, in the last decade and a bit even furthering the scope to prepare for the (inevitable) case of people unable to get into job creation plans (lack of them or lack of ability, whichever), and the cooperation of the “job agencies” (formerly labour bureaus) with businesses providing said job opportunities, as well as usually absolutely lousy training courses in whatever is available, have led to rather bizarre and morally questionable treatment of unemployed people, quite often disregarding their former life to streamline and make benefits “accessible”, somehow.
        Went through that for eight months after university. Being forced to sit through MS Word courses (multiple times!), sessions on first aid for kids (why…) and “diet and expense scheduling” lessons (brought to you by a very tired person from a local supermarket chain) was very surreal.
        Needless to say, if you fail to show up to stuff you are scheduled to listen to for hours, your benefits are cut further and further.

    • frightlever says:

      It’s pretty complicated and quite divisive. Unemployed will say that they can’t look for jobs if they’re picking up litter, for instance. And you have to be careful that the jobs don’t actually impact REAL jobs, so they’ll inevitably just be tedious busywork. I’m kinda in favour of encouraging engagement in benefit’s recipients who have been out of the workplace for a longtime, but armies of litter-pickers seem pointless.

      Compare and contrast with US prisons that can skew certain local employment opportunities because they have a cheaper workforce on tap that always turns up for work.

    • mavis says:

      Not really. Not least because in a job you get paid a certain ammount due to the minimium wage – but that is not the case for this.

      Equally a job is something you choose to do – and your element of choice is missing from this.

      You’ve also removed a real job from existance – because why would a company pay for somebody to do something when they can get somebody free from the state? This also rather undercuts the idea that you are being prepared for a ‘proper job’ because this sort of thing has reduced the number of jobs – and there is always somebody else free to do it…….

      Well he is a bit ranty and rather rude I have to admit I’m a fan of “another angry voice” on this subject.

      http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/letter-fans-workfare-slavery-tory.html

    • Schiraman says:

      As ever, it’s not really that simple. It’s not as if there are jobs out there for everyone, just waiting for the lazy unemployed people to step into – there are more unemployed people than there are job vacancies.

      So in order to make the unemployed work for benefits you’d either have to create new jobs somehow, or you’d actually be displacing people who are currently employed – thus creating more unemployed people.

      It’s also worth noting that the majority of benefits are paid to pensioners and the working poor, rather than those who are unemployed. Raising the minimum wage to the point where working people no longer need to accept benefits from the state would be my preferred method of cutting the benefits bill.

      • frightlever says:

        Regardless of how much you raise the minimum wage there will always be the lowest paid and there will always be people in poverty so long as you define poverty relative to the median. This will never be Lake Wobegon where every child is above average.

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          Harlander says:

          Sure, if you use a relative measure of poverty.

          If you use absolute measures – access to food, water, sanitation, education etc. – these can be definitively reduced, even as the baselines may rise due to other circumstances (you can’t claim that everyone should be able to get Internet access if the Internet doesn’t exist, for example)

    • Ich Will says:

      Well, most schemes of this type don’t give the benefit claimant the same rights that an employee has, and could and has led to blatant abuses of the system by the “employer” to whom the benefit claimant is basically free (forced) labour.

      Like most ideas, if there weren’t people ready to abuse the systems you build, they’d work just fine.

    • Detocroix says:

      Forcing people to work a job they don’t want to do (or even can do) just to earn minimal money to barely live with is slavery. Not the “Work the mines or we will whip you to death” -kind of course, but slavery none the less. Finland does this and EU has warned Finland of this before. If you don’t agree to a full time job offered to you, you lose rights to your benefits (limited time / permanently) and they can offer whatever they want no matter how ill suited to the person. This pays you ~500-750€ per month which doesn’t even pay for housing in most cities here.

      This is different from just “giving jobs to unemployed person”.

      • Synesthesia says:

        I’m sorry to derail this, but holy shit! This has made me realise just how fucked up my local currency is. I by no means have a low income, and if i convert it to euro it’s about 900. I know living costs are different, but shit, that quite undermines any chances i had of an eurotrip.

    • sophof says:

      This is the exact way it is usually phrased, so I guess for a politics simulator it is fine ;-) In general it is a way to undercut minimum wage.

      And at least in Germany leads to job loss of the people working those actual jobs. Guess what they are ‘made’ to do after they try to get benefits. Either the job is useful and could therefore simply be offered to anyone who is unemployed, or it is not and it is just busywork (in which case it would be better to just train people). But I probably shouldn’t get into politics on the internet…

    • RvLeshrac says:

      It worked for Roosevelt, but you actually have to give people meaningful jobs at a fair wage, which Conservative governments don’t want to have to do.

      It was how we built some of the greatest achievements in the US.

      Now, you might think “That just sounds like regular jobs,” and you’re right. But most people are idiots, and you have to trick them into these things.

    • Tachanka says:

      If they can give unemployed people ‘work for their benefits’ via workfare, those are *paid jobs* that people could be doing for a *real wage*. Its sick that they are getting people to work those jobs for ~1/3rd of a proper wage. This drives down wages for everyone else.

    • Sian says:

      I can, from personal experience, give you an example where this is not the case. A while back, I was unemployed for about six months. After three months, I was forced to take part in a work program. Specifically, since I was suited to do a desk job, they put me in a fictional firm that didn’t produce or send anything, but instead we did paperwork that simulated how things would be done in an actual business. We even took part in an exhibition where pseudo-firms like ours from all over Europe presented their fictional products. It was surreal.

      It all felt terribly pointless. Every one of us knew that nothing we were doing there had any sort of value, but we did have to go there and “work” if we wanted to get our benefits. The only good thing was that a certain amount of time each day was set aside to look for jobs and make our CVs more presentable. I did find a job after another three months, and although the pay was bad and the place wasn’t entirely kosher, I was glad to get away from the pretend work.

      • qrter says:

        That sounds utterly bizarre. Which country are we talking about?

      • teije says:

        That reminds of The Prisoner village but without the great costumes – a kind of Potemkin village of business. Or a typical business school course. Both just as surreal, really.

      • Premium User Badge

        soulblur says:

        That didn’t happen in the UK, did it? That sounds far too creative to have happened here. Imagine you’re the person employed to invent pretend but somewhat realistic employment for unemployed people. What a job that would be.

      • P.Funk says:

        Why in god’s name didn’t they just mandate you to work for a fake company that sat you at a desk and had you “sell a product” which happened to be your CV, had a cranky boss make you come in on Saturdays because your last CV was crap, and really push the deadline for you to get a proper interview by the end of the month.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Faint Laughter Heard From Kafka’s Grave.

      • The Random One says:

        It’s like Max Barry’s Company, except they don’t even have the courtesy of keeping the whole thing a secret.

  2. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    I can’t believe every response to this so far is about work-for-benefits schemes.

    These kinds of policies sound more up my alley then a lot of the base ones. I like exceptionally controversial, small effect policies as a way of distracting everyone from the fact I’m taking their money and giving it to people who need it.

    • Dave Tosser says:

      Benefits? You boring people. Let’s talk about human rights abuses! Yeah, torture! No-one actually plays Democracy for the democracy. It’s like how no-one plays Crusader Kings to play as a Christian. We all just want to blot missionaries and merge corporation with state.

  3. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    So is there a “Sell Spokespersons Positions To Murdoch Goons” policy or not?

  4. Gothnak says:

    Wow, brilliant, i can’t comment on this because it thinks i am spam… :(

    • Gothnak says:

      I wish the government would change the benefit system somewhat. The basic amount should be lowered, but at the same time, if anyone earns any money at all (even a 2 day part time job) then for every £1 they earn, they only lose 33p (or whatever) of their benefits up to a certain amount. Therefore if someone has a job of any kind, no matter how poorly it pays, they are better off. Currently there can be situations where people are worse off, or only a small amount better off for having a full time job, which is ridiculous.

      • bstard says:

        Yes it’s strange. It’s the same here in .NL. Income from any source is considered the same for taxation, being it unemployment ‘gifts’ or salary. But then again, unemployment money is mend to compensate income below a set figure. People are expected to earn their own living.

      • Horg says:

        This system already exists. It’s called working tax credits, and it doesn’t really work because the fundamental problem is the minimum wage falling behind inflation, not welfare being too generous.

        • mavis says:

          I think there two different (if connected) issues being talked about here.

          The first is ‘the welfare trap’ – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_trap which is where reduction in benefits make work not actually pay. Interestingly the UK reforms of IDS – the universal credit – on paper are meant to help resolve this problem although as always the devil is in the detail.

          The second is minimium wage not keeping up with costs – which is where you can work full time and not have enough money to live. Which is what working tax credits are supposed to resolve – but it’s a very complicated and burdenonsome system.

          I want to start talking about “the citizen stipend” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income) which I believe can resolve both of those issues – but when I do that people eyes glaze over.

          • derbefrier says:

            Peoples eyes glaze because its just welfare by a different name. Also I am of the belief that this gives a central government to much power. When a population is absolutely dependant on government to survive nfascisim is only just around the corner. My libertarian side hates ideas like this. I just can’t understand how, with all the greed, corruption, and misuse of funds in practically every governemt that people are so willing to give their what amounts to their ecomimic freedom, their livelyhood, over to a faceless government entity that doesn’t give two shits avout your happiness, only the power they aquire. The ruling class is already bad enough and this would only server to tighten their stranglehold.

            The article compares it to social security. I don’t know if you know this but social security is bankrupt( or getting really close here in the US). This isn’t a secret but its a problem no politician wants to tackle because it basically amounts to political suicide. When ever I talk to financial advisors about retirement they all say the same thing. “Don’t count on social security being there”. I just can’t imagine what would happen if 100 percent of the working population was drawing social security. I understand it would be different in some ways but I believe the same basic problen would persist. Too many people taking without enough contributing leads to no money and a bankrupt government.

            Maybe my complete and utter distrust of any form of government makes me unnesisarily scared of programs like this but I just can’t imagine, knowing human nature and how easily power corrupts, that the end result wouldn’t do anything but make things worse.

          • Edgewise says:

            @derbefrier I’m not going to get into a point-by-point on this, because that would be a ridiculous internet debate farce, but I want to point out that the idea that US social security is “bankrupt” is not just a canard but a meaningless phrase. See here for more details: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntharvey/2013/01/07/social-security-rerun/ I’m not grinding an ax, I’m just trying to clear up a sadly common misconception. I suggest you ask yourself what it really means when someone says SS is going “bankrupt”. It’s as impossible as saying the same thing about the military…it’s just not how things work.

  5. Kollega says:

    It’s pretty funny how the DLC basically lets you be a totalitarian nutter to rival Stalin, or a bleeding-heart liberal fighting a battle against corporate influence… and yet all everyone is talking about here are unemployment benefits. I get that unemployment benefits are important and a real problem, but come on! I’m pretty sure that not having secret police that can make you disappear in the night is pretty important and real too…

    • Gothnak says:

      Sure, but that doesn’t affect us on a daily basis and i think everyone is against them. The crux of democracy is that there are lots of ways to attempt to solve one problem, and Unemployment is usually one of the ones that affects us all be it in the tax we pay or the benefits we receive.

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        Harlander says:

        If your government’s doing a workfare scheme that you think is highly dodgy, discussing it in public fora might lead to positive change.

        If your government is dragging dissenters off to a secret prison, I imagine you might be a bit more circumspect..

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          soulblur says:

          “If your government is dragging dissenters off to a secret prison, I imagine you might be a bit more circumspect.”

          Now that’s an extreme way to lower the unemployment rate. Assuming dissenters are unemployed, of course. Which they will be when you’re done with them.

  6. biggergun says:

    Is tax-and-spend leftish democracy still the only way to win? (And in the game)

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      Harlander says:

      Well, you’ve got to get the money to spend from somewhere.

      • Premium User Badge

        soulblur says:

        “Well, you’ve got to get the money to spend from somewhere.”

        From… tax?

      • biggergun says:

        From rich people, of course. Everyone knows rich people have endless amount of money they acquire simply by being rich.

        • Carlos Danger says:

          Nail meets head.

          It is nice that they made a fantasy political game to provide evidence that their ideas will work and it is reality that is wrong.

          • biggergun says:

            I honestly doubt that was their intent. It’s just that an unbiased model is impossible to build, and, well, the world definitely leans to the left these days, so it is only natural that this bias bleeds into games.

        • Josh W says:

          Well, as you probably know, rich people do have money just for being rich, even if it’s not infinite, so you can take a certain amount of money off them without trouble, which turns out to be quite a bit.

  7. JFS says:

    It’s great that same-sex marriage is a given in the game, and outlawing it makes you Chairman Adolf Jong-Un and is only possible via an Extremism DLC :D

    A shame the real world works the other way round. Oh, and by the way, I like that way of supporting social justice much better than the fussbudget noisy HEYLOOKHERE approach that some RPS authors have taken on as of late. I think subtle guerrilla methods work much better than human wave attacks.

    • tormos says:

      Surely though, you agree that doing something is better than doing nothing?

    • The Random One says:

      Which method is better depends on the war you are fighting.

  8. mickygor says:

    Will this expansion allow you to immediately stop funding to things you’d like to stop funding? My first few playthroughs were scuppered by my tax breaks being immediate but my cessation of funds to the NHS taking years to fully kick in.

    • mavis says:

      As a thought exercise I’ve tried to work out how you’d turn off government funding to the NHS in a swift manner without the whole system collapsing and you having a country with no functioning healthcare? – and I’m drawing a blank Even moving to some sort of pure private insurance would take a lot of time time to set up – and implement…..

      • mickygor says:

        You wouldn’t, but then I was trying to do it as a thought exercise also. A party that would take such actions isn’t likely to get re-elected, so I was trying to see how much I could dismantle the state in a single parliament. A lack of control over outgoings when you have it over income just makes it more complicated.

        • mavis says:

          I’ve often wandered if games like this need a set of ‘reality sliders’ so that the players can tweak the game model and ensure that the game they play corresponsd with there own definition of “reality”……

          • mickygor says:

            The game has tenuous links to reality at best. It would just be nice if it has a more consistent ruleset.

  9. P.Funk says:

    I wish that after the third or fourth attempt this game was nearly as entertaining as these comments are.

    No really, not going back for more, DLC be damned. It was just too transparent far too quickly and not the least bit satisfying.

    • The Random One says:

      I think I’d rather get a bunch of people around a table (or in a forum thread) and create a Hidden Agenda PnP RPG.

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        Harlander says:

        If you can figure out a way to make this not turn into something terrible, you should certainly do it.

  10. Moth Bones says:

    Does the game incorporate international trade agreements and reaction to policies, pushback from the civil service/armed forces/secret services/economic elites, and other such factors that in real life would probably make it untenable to, say, ban private schools in many countries no matter how popular a policy it might be?

    • Christian O. says:

      Sort of. It’s been a while since I played it, but you can basically be assissinated by any group of voters and there are different measures each group can take to hinder your politics.

  11. tormos says:

    I would buy this game, but Cliff Harris is a huge jerk so I’ve decided to not buy it instead