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Supreme Executive Authority
[04/03/2002] [Randall]

If thereís something Iíve noticed in my travels throughout Amtgard, itís that people run their lands in weird ways. Some have actual political debates before the populace, and others run their elections as tickets. Iíve seen lands where the sheriff is elected and then chooses a regent from the qualified candidates. And in the Burning Lands, the winners are announced two months before the elections and the voting itself is a mere formality. But the thing that bugs me the most is the way power is shared among the monarch, regent, and champion. Power to the People fans may wish to brace themselves -- I am about to say something bad.

The monarch should have the final say.

This may seem like a simple concept. After all, the monarch in any land, be he a sheriff, a baron, a duke or a king, is the highest-ranking executive officer. The corpora is pretty clear that the monarch presides over everything. The essential problem isnít anything thatís actually in the corpora, though. Itís just that weíre too damned American for our own good.

You see, in America, we have something called the balance of powers. Checks and balances are an important part of our real government, so most people naturally assume that the division of labor among the top three offices is a way of balancing power in the Amtgard. They equate division of labor with division of authority. While this works pretty well on a grand scale, and probably would work decently in a large, confederation-style kingdom, it fails miserably when applied to most lands. Hereís why.

Say youíre the sheriff or king in a park with fifteen guys, and you want to hold a certain kind of feast. You stroll across the field and tell the regent about your idea, making sure to mention all the important details but leave the rest up to him. Thatís when he hits you with it Ė he says no, he wonít do it that way, and thereís nothing you can do about it because heís the regent. Regents get to do the feasts, he says, and if you donít like it, tough. He was elected, and will do the feast however he pleases.

It gets worse. You go over to your champion after the regent gets rowdy, and tell him youíre having problems and need some help keeping the situation under control. The champion, who has a responsibility to keep the field safe, tells you he doesnít think anything needs to be done. In fact, he tells you youíre out of line and throws you off the field! The regent and his six buddies start yelling at you and your six buddies about whether or not to hold your feast in a hall or at the park. Eventually, you both storm off, your land in danger of splitting in two.

Such a situation could easily be avoided if everyone knew from the beginning that the monarch is in charge and the other officers enforce his will.

The early Roman Republic would choose a dictator and give him vast authority with the understanding that he would relinquish his power when his job was complete. We enter into the same social contract with our monarchs. The corpora, our governing document, states that the monarch presides over and conducts all ceremonies and functions. Is it your land's event? Is the monarch the highest-ranking officer? Heís in charge. Itís that simple.

What about field security? The corpora has an answer for that, too. The monarch, of course, presides over the field so he can toss anyone off if he chooses. The champion doesnít have final say... in fact, the corpora states that the Captain of the Guard and the champion share responsibility in carrying out the policies of the crown. Not the policies of the regent, or themselves, but the crown. That means the champion canít throw the monarch off the field, and nor can the guard. They can recommend he take a break, but they canít remove him. After all, the monarch, and not anyone else, presides over all functions and ceremonies Ė including the battlefield.

The corpora is less clear on what actual authority the regent has, but itís still pretty firm that the monarch is in charge. The implied authority of the regent is pretty slim when the Corpora doesnít even demand that the regent be elected... and when compared to the clear and concise presidential power of the monarch, itís obvious that the regent is responsible for running a crown feast according to whatever specifications their monarch gives Ďem.

The Guildmaster of Reeves isnít immune, either. If he bans zulu spears and the monarch wants to use them, guess what? Zulu spears get used. This one isnít even a contest in the Corpora, which says that the Guildmaster of Reeves is the monarchís advisor on the rules. He advises; he doesnít command.

By now, any democracy-loviní folks reading this will be foaming at the mouth about their beloved checks and balances. Donít get me wrong Ė I like checks and balances too, and the Corpora does have them. The check against the authority of the monarch is the Prime Minister. His election at midreign ensures that you canít make a clean sweep of all four offices, and his powers in the Corpora are many and varied. Most of the monarchís powers to issue decrees, remove titles or sack officers require the approval of the Prime Minister. No other officer is granted this kind of authority; the Prime Minister is the only one with any actual or implied mandate to defy the monarch. This doesn't mean the Prime Minister can make up rules or handle the books any way he chooses, though. He should still conduct business according to the wishes of the monarch.

And then thereís the ultimate check Ė the Althing. If your elected tyrant is too tyrannical, you can remove him with a 2/3 vote, provided the Prime Minister agrees.

The monarch is the ultimate authority in the land. The regent exists to carry out feasts according to the monarch's desires; the champion exists to enforce safety standards that the monarch sets; the Guildmaster of Reeves exists to interpret the rules at the instruction of the monarch. Not the champion, nor the reeves, nor the captain of the guard can take the monarch off the field. Only an Althing has that power.

This system of elected dictatorship works because itís elected and itís just for six months. If the people donít like it, they can vote for a new monarch when the reign is over. And if they really donít like it, they can vote to remove the one they have.

But even that new monarch will still be a dictator -- organizations such as ours need someone to have a clear final say. And as long as the people have the power to choose their dictator, no other checks and balances are needed.

[An interesting aside to this is that a loose reading of the Wetlands Corpora gives the monarch the power to veto the Wetlands Knightís Circle. Section gives the Wetlands King the ceremonial power to preside over and conduct all kingdom-level ceremonies and functions. A knighting is a kingdom-level ceremony and a kingdom-level function. Presidential power Ė the power to preside Ė is defined as having authority and control over something. This means a king could refuse to allow a knighting ceremony and function to occur. Only the explicit power of the circle to knight and the note that the kingís presidential power is ceremonial weaken his authority in this area.]

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