The government remains as large as always. It employs vast numbers of bureaucrats. It collects taxes (lots and lots of taxes). It issues rules and regulations (they like these even more than taxes). It runs the courts and throws people in jail (their favorite of all). It does not deliver any services; those (very profitable) governmental functions have been contracted out to UCE and The Companies.

The system, corrupt though it is, does manage to provide the basic necessities of life to the Citizens. For example, the Food Company is required to maintain a system of public dining halls at nominal cost to their patrons. The food is simple, but plentiful. In similar fashion, the Housing Company is required to put a roof over everyone’s heads. Other necessities are provided directly by UCE Relief Services. They run the work centers, hand out the ubiquitous drab-gray coveralls worn by most laborers, and provide medical care through their network of charity wards. The government reimburses both UCE and The Companies handsomely for these services.


The government has the usual branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. By far the largest is the executive, with its burgeoning bureaucracy. The legislature has no power whatsoever; its functions were long ago usurped by the executive and judicial branches which are, in turn, captive organs of UCE and The Companies. Rumor has it that they continue to debate and sometimes even pass pointless laws, for which they are handsomely compensated. The judiciary is the only branch of government which has any real power; the black-robed Judges are feared by one and all, and have the ability to imprison almost anyone except for the highest-ranking executives and members of The Hierarchy.

The ancient Constitution of the United States remains in force, at least theoretically, but has no effect on the course of events. There continue to be elections, the winners of which are determined in advance in a complicated process which guarantees everyone gets their equitable share of the spoils.

None of this is of any significance.

The Bureaucracy

The primary activity of the bureaucracy is issuing regulations so complex that only the Companies can afford to comply. In the pedicab industry, for example, detailed records must be kept of every trip, along with calculations of wildlife impact, noise impact, traffic impact, climate impact, direct and indirect economic impact, impact on Unity, impact on the Community, and impact on Equality. Maintenance records must be maintained in detail; one cannot tighten a spoke or repair a flat without the proper documentation. The rules are so complex that no human can possibly understand them, and the automatons that know how fill out the paperwork are all owned by The Pedicab Company.

In theory, you are permitted to buy a pedicab and go into business for yourself; there is no law against doing so, but your life as a rogue pedicab operator is fraught with peril. You live in constant fear of being investigated, fined, and put out of business for regulatory violations. There is no way you can fill out all the paperwork.

This pattern is repeated throughout the economy.

Public Safety

The government’s copbots are programmed to enforce the law as it existed in the late 21st century. They refuse to make an arrest unless they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, or they receive an arrest warrant signed by a judge; even UCE can’t tell the copbots what to do. The copbots do, however, have broad discretion to apply their stunners to quell public disturbances, and do so at the slightest provocation. Human police officers are considerably more pliable and are utilized in all politically sensitive situations.

If you are arrested and charged with a crime, you will be taken to the dreaded Halls of Justice for a show trial; public humiliation will be as much a part of your punishment as jail time and fines. There are significant social merit bonuses for watching the coverage, and the commentators and analysts are superb actors, able to take an accusation of jaywalking and turn it into an act of terrorism that endangered thousands. The trials are hugely popular, particularly in the Middle and Outer Districts. If hauled before a judge, you will plead guilty, recite the customary Words of Shame, beg for mercy, and be severely punished. No one is every acquitted.

If your infraction is severe, or you refuse to confess, you will be given jail time, in which case you will be handed over to The Prison Company, which runs a vast network of forced labor camps. It gets its revenue by leasing out ‘workers’ for labor-intensive activities such as agriculture and manufacturing. Slavery is as profitable as ever.

For the most serious crimes, such as treason against humanity, there are rumored to be punishments worse than prison, worse even than death.

The Government does not maintain armed forces, with security being delegated to The People’s Guard. There are no external military threats, and their only purpose is to put down rebellion and intimidate The Hierarchy’s enemies. As the official militia of the state, they are immune to prosecution.

The Government also runs the civil courts. These are used to settle business disputes among The Companies and are one of the few institutions that could be considered honest and principled. Relief by the courts is not available to private citizens; corporations have rights, people don’t.


The Government maintains the public roadways and bridges. Outside of the core urban areas, they are in rough shape, barely passable in places. They are open to all and are heavily used, especially by participants in the underground economy. The copbots provide security and operate numerous checkpoints, but do not check your paperwork or ask what you are carrying. A quick scan of the wrist, and you’re on your way.