Machine Politics
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Basic Information

Machine Politics is the phenomenon whereby a theoretically representative system of government is hijacked by a specific faction for its own interests. Normal methods include vote fraud (e.g. repeated voting, voting by non-citizens or even outright fabrication or miscounting), intimidation or obstruction of opposing voters, vote buying, patronage and outright violence. It is also quite normal for a political machine to suppress opposing viewpoints by all means from monopolisation of media and lawfare to, once again, violence.

A political machine normally possesses a boss - who may or may not be one of the elected representatives - and a great many acolytes at various levels (again, some of whom may well be elected representatives) controlled by varying levels of bribery, patronage and fear. Individual electors may well have quite legitimate reasons for supporting a machine, but at some level the correct relationship between electors and elected has been reversed. Depending on the machine it may also have links to some or all of big business, organised religion, organised crime and organised labour … a true machine could probably manage all of them.


  • Real Life: New York's Tammany Hall is probably the most famous "textbook" example.
  • Real Life: Allegedly, this was, de facto, the way that Benito Mussolini's Fascisti ran Italy.
  • Real Life: "Allegedly" behind the systemic problems of places like Chicago and Detroit.
  • Real Life: Arguably, it was pretty damned common as the way the Roman Senate operated.
  • Comics/Cinema: Frank Miller's Sin City is run on a more or less machine basis by the Roark family.
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • This makes an ideal government for a dystopic city.
  • Infiltrating or cleaning up a machine could be the basis for a campaign.
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