A tasty civics lesson

My son plays a game with a card called the Bureaucrat. He wanted to know what a bureaucracy was.

We tried to explain, but after three days and three repetitions of the same explanation and answer, we hadn’t gotten through. So last night, my Patient Husband said, “Anything that ends with -cracy” is a kind of government. Democracy, autocracy, bureaucracy, aristocracy — they’re all a type of government.”

Kiddo#1 asked what they all were, and we tried to explain, but again, it was getting tough. (“Bureaucracy is a kind of government, and you’ll notice it’s never used in a positive way.”)  

So I said, “Let’s say you want a snack. In an autocracy, you would come to me, and I would say yes or no, you could or could not have a snack. That’s rule by the one.”

He got that. I said, “Meritocracy is rule by merit. You would go to your father to ask for a snack, and he’d think, Your mother knows what you had for lunch, and when she’s planning on serving dinner, and how likely you are to eat that dinner, so she’s more qualified to make that decision, and then he’d tell you to come to me.”

My Patient Husband said, “In an Aristocracy, both of us would decide whether you could have a snack. And in a theocracy, we would pray to figure out whether God wanted you to have a snack.”

Kiddos#1 and 2 were laughing like crazy by now, so I said, “Okay, now it’s a bureaucracy. You come to me for a snack, and I say, ‘Have you filled out the non-meal consumable procurement form?’ So you fill out a form, come back to me, and I say, ‘This is the wrong form. You have the non-meal consumable requisition, which is the request that I should purchase a box of snacks. You want the one to actually eat a snack.’ You then go fill out the correct form, which I stamp and give back to you to bring to your father. He double-checks to make sure it’s filled out properly, enters your snack request into the database, and hands you a snack, which you log in your personal snack log and then eat.”

Kiddo#1 admitted through tears of laughter that this was not a very flexible system. (For the record, the bureaucrat card slows down the game and hoards money.)

My Patient Husband said, “Also, you’ll need to hand over proof that you live in this house and are entitled to a snack.”

“Which brings up another issue.” I said, “Now, what if your friend Jonathan comes over? He wants a snack, so he hands me his form, but it’s not the form we use. I give him a new form, and he fills it out, but then I have to contact his parents to make sure it complies with their regulations. We then sign an agreement that we will accept one another’s forms, and I can give him a snack.”

My Patient Husband said, “Then once a month, I audit all the snack paperwork to make sure the number of snacks you’ve self-reported as eating is the same number of snacks your mother has logged as disbursed.”

The conversation continued from there: in an aristocracy, Kiddo#1 could ask for a snack, and then his father and I would eat it instead. In a democracy, we could all vote on whether we had a snack. 

Kiddo#2 said, “In a PAW-tocracy, we ask the cats whether we have a snack!”

It was a fitting conclusion to our lesson, knowing that if the cats were in charge, we all could haz cheezburger.


  1. Ivy

    You’d have a problem with a geniocracy at your place–too many leaders. 😉

  2. pamcee

    LOL! I love your recap of this conversation. The last line, especially, just killed it. And now I want to be a part of your family! Which form is that again?

  3. AnotherFaceInTheCrowd

    I love it! 🙂

    It’s a lot like my current job, actually, but since what we’re passing or failing has the potential to harm or kill people, there’s some method to our paper-trail madness….

  4. philangelus

    Pamcee, you can fill out the Familial Membership Nomination Survey on page 47 of your Handbook For Philangelus Family Participation And Procedure. Applications will be processed in the order received. Be sure to staple your essay to the back of the third page, and have pages seven and nine notarized.

    Dei, your job shows that yes, there’s a reason to have very tight control sometimes. Granola bars aren’t quite in the same category, of course. 😉

  5. Capt Cardor

    In “Plutocracy: the world is run by Disney dogs.

    In “Gerontocracyy” it is run by Gerontosaurus’. You can’t get older than that.

    By the way, you forgot to disclaim to Pamcee that “your family is an Equal Opportunity bureaucracy”.